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FSM, labor administrator and official, was born at La Crosse, Wisconsin, on April 16, 1889. Her parents, James Gordon, a lawyer, and Erna Segelke, died when FSM was small, leaving Frieda and her younger sister Elsie to be reared by their grandmother, Augusta (Mrs. Charles) Segelke of La Crosse. FSM received her BA from Milwaukee-Downer College (later Lawrence University), Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1911; she then spent four years doing graduate work in economics, sociology, political science, and law at the University of Chicago, but did not complete a degree.

FSM spent the next several years at a variety of jobs, including secretary to the Philadelphia branch of the Women's Trade Union League (1918-1923) where she met her lifelong friend Pauline Newman. In 1929 Frances Perkins appointed FSM director of the Division of Women in Industry and Minimum Wage at the New York State Department of Labor; she was instrumental in the passage of New York's Minimum Wage Law for Women and Minors in 1933. In 1938 Governor Herbert Lehman appointed FSM Industrial Commissioner of New York, a post she held until 1943 when she left to become special assistant for labor to John C. Winant, U. S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Late in 1944 FSM became director of the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor. Her major responsibility was the reintegration of women into the economy after their displacement by veterans returning to their pre-war jobs. She conducted studies to examine labor laws and vocational improvements in the conditions of women in the labor force. A Roosevelt appointee, FSM left the Women's Bureau in 1953 at the request of President Eisenhower.

During the 1950s and 1960s FSM focused on international labor issues. As early as 1936 she had begun representing the U.S. at International Labor Organization conferences; after leaving the Women's Bureau she went to work full-time for the ILO and conducted several major surveys in Asia and the Middle East of working conditions and opportunities for women and children. For a short period (1957-1958) she also represented the International Alliance of Women at the United Nations.

In the early 1960s FSM became UN representative for the European organization the International Union for Child welfare, conducting an International Child Welfare Survey (#227) and participating in various UNICEF projects. She left the UN in 1967 at the age of 78.

During her long professional life FSM was affiliated with a number of other organizations concerned with women's role in the economy, including the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the International Council of Women, the Women's Trade Union League, and the International Ladies Garment Worker's Union. She was much in demand both as a speaker and a writer and maintained an international reputation in her field. Her contributions to women and labor were recognized in 1940 when she was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters by Russell Sage College.

FSM never married, but in 1923 while in Germany she adopted a daughter, Elisabeth. For most of her life she lived in New York, maintaining a summer home in Connecticut and later one in Pennsylvania; she spent the last four years of her life in a New York City nursing home where she died on July 21, 1973.

From the guide to the Papers, (invlusive), (bulk), 1909-1973, 1929-1967, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Additional papers, (scattered), 1948-1963 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers of Frieda S. Miller, 1909-1973 (inclusive), 1929-1967 (bulk) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbott, Grace, 1878-1939 person
associatedWith Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971 person
associatedWith American Association of University Women corporateBody
correspondedWith Armstrong, George Alexander person
associatedWith Beyer, Clara, 1892- person
correspondedWith Bondfield, Margaret person
associatedWith Bondfield, Margaret G. person
associatedWith Brandeis, Louis, 1856-1941 person
correspondedWith Buchanan, Lucille person
associatedWith Bunche, Ralph, 1904-1971 person
associatedWith Burlingham, Charles C., 1858-1959 person
associatedWith Byrnes, James F., 1906-1972 person
associatedWith Christman, Elisabeth, ? -1975 person
associatedWith Clara Williams de Junge person
associatedWith Cohn, Fannia, 1888-1962 person
associatedWith Cripps, Isobel person
correspondedWith Dan Q. R. Mulock Houwer person
associatedWith Dingman, Mary A., 1875-1961 person
correspondedWith Dju Yu Bao person
associatedWith Dodd, Alvin E. person
associatedWith Douglas, William O., 1898- person
associatedWith Dreier, Mary Elisabeth, 1875-1963 person
correspondedWith Drew, Jane B. person
associatedWith Dubinsky, David, 1892- person
associatedWith Edwards, India person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D., 1890-1972 person
correspondedWith Eleanor M. Hinder person
associatedWith Electrical Association for Women corporateBody
associatedWith Elliot, Katherine, 1905- person
correspondedWith Fabian Society corporateBody
associatedWith Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith Frank, Walter, 1882-1969 person
associatedWith Goldmark, Josephine, 1877-1950 person
associatedWith Goodrich, Carter, 1897- person
correspondedWith Greenberg, Leonard person
correspondedWith Hamilton, Mary Agnes person
correspondedWith Hartley, Harold person
associatedWith Haslett, Caroline person
associatedWith Herrick, Elinore M., 1895-1964 person
associatedWith Hillman, Sidney, 1887-1946 person
associatedWith Hoffman, Anna M Rosenberg, 1902-1983 person
associatedWith International Alliance of Women corporateBody
associatedWith International Confederation of Trade Unions corporateBody
associatedWith International Council of Women corporateBody
associatedWith International Labor Organization corporateBody
associatedWith International Ladies Garment Workers' Union corporateBody
associatedWith International Union of Child Welfare corporateBody
associatedWith Jeffrey, Mildred, 1911- person
associatedWith Johnson, Ethel M., 18?? - person
associatedWith Keller, Helen, 1880-1968 person
associatedWith Kenyon, Dorothy, 1888-1972 person
associatedWith Keyserling, Mary Dublin, 1910- person
associatedWith La Guardia, Fiorello H., 1882-1947 person
associatedWith Lehman, Herbert H., 1878-1963 person
associatedWith Lenroot, Katherine F., 1891- person
associatedWith L. F. Nettlefold person
correspondedWith Marconnier, Emily Sims person
associatedWith Mayo, Leonard W., 1899- person
correspondedWith Mazumdar, Shudha person
correspondedWith Moser, Audrey person
correspondedWith Nagler, Isadore person
correspondedWith N. A. Howell-Everson person
associatedWith National Association of Business and Professional Women's Clubs corporateBody
associatedWith National Committee on Household Employment corporateBody
associatedWith National Institute of Houseworkers Ltd. corporateBody
associatedWith National Women's Trade Union League of America corporateBody
associatedWith Newman, Pauline, ca. 1895- person
associatedWith New York Department of Labor corporateBody
associatedWith New York Women's Trade Union League corporateBody
correspondedWith Paul, R. B. person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965 person
associatedWith Peterson, Esther, 1906- person
correspondedWith Petronella M. Hage person
associatedWith Pickett, Clarence E., 1884-1965 person
associatedWith Poletti, Charles, 1903- person
associatedWith Polier, Justine, 1903- person
correspondedWith Reading, Stella person
correspondedWith Reed, Phillip person
associatedWith Reuther, Walter, 1907-1970 person
correspondedWith Rich, Ruby person
correspondedWith Riegelman, Carol person
correspondedWith Rogers, Lindsay person
correspondedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin Delano jr., 1914- person
correspondedWith Russell Sage College corporateBody
associatedWith Schneiderman, Rose person
associatedWith Sichrova, Elizabeth person
correspondedWith Smith, Viola person
correspondedWith Stebbins, Henry person
associatedWith Stewart, Maxwell, 1900- person
associatedWith Strauss, Anna Lord, 1899- person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1973 person
associatedWith United States. Department of Labor. Women's Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith US Department of State corporateBody
associatedWith Wagner, Robert F., 1910- person
correspondedWith Walpole, Stanely person
associatedWith Winant, John C., 1899-1947 person
associatedWith Wood, Ethel Mary person
correspondedWith Wright, Ralph person
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Carrie Chapman Catt Memorial Fund


Birth 1889

Death 1973

Related Descriptions


Ark ID: w6qs965d

SNAC ID: 76613300