by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security,
National Women's Law Center
This Saturday, August 14, is the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. It was President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the bill into law, but it was Frances Perkins, the first woman in the Cabinet, who made it happen. If you have a couple of minutes this weekend, you can mark the occasion by reading (or listening to) her speech in 1960 commemorating the 25th anniversary. She reminisced about heading the Committee on Economic Security that worked to design Social Security in the depths of the Great Depression, without a budget, computers—or air conditioning, in sweltering Washington, D.C.
The creation of Social Security in 1935 was an extraordinary achievement—and over the years, it's gotten even better for women and their families. Today, Social Security provides at least half of the income of a majority of women 65 and older. For three out of ten elderly single women and women of color, Social Security is virtually their only source of income. And Social Security isn't just a retirement program; it provides disability and life insurance benefits for young families and does more to alleviate child poverty than any other federal program.
And the really good news is that Social Security can keep going strong and do even more to provide economic security for women and their families for the next 75 years. But policy makers must reject cuts to vital Social Security benefits.