President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 1935 Social Security Act into law at 3:30pm in the afternoon on August 14, 1935.
Above is a composite photo of the signing. Of special note in the photo is Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, first woman to hold a cabinet position in the United States and a major force behind what became the Social Security Act of 1935.
Social Security benefits, then just Federal old-age benefits limited to the person working and not family members, was only one part (Title II) of the legislation. Other sections of the 1935 Social Security Act included separate state grants for unemployment compensation, aid to dependent children, maternal and child welfare, state old-age assistance and state aid to the blind. Another section was to establish public health services.
President Roosevelt’s remarks at the time referred to this large achievement. In part he said:
“Today a hope of many years’ standing is in large part fulfilled. The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, has tended more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with a job has wondered how long the job would last.
This social security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.
We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”
Interested in learning more about the historic background of social insurance leading to Social Security? Watch the video, A Hope of Many Years in the Social Security website history section.