Even if Frances Perkins hadn’t been the first woman ever to serve in a US presidential cabinet, or the longest-serving Secretary of Labor ever (12 years), she would still deserve a shining place in 20th-century history. She was a suffragist who retained her own last name when she married, worked with Jane Addams as a Hull House volunteer in her youth, advocated passionately for female workers after witnessing the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, became the highest-paid woman in New York State government as Industrial Commissioner, taught Sociology at Adelphi University, fought against child labor and for unemployment and a minimum wage – all before she even joined the FDR administration.
As Secretary of Labor, Perkins was the author of key New Deal legislation, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Social Security Act of 1935. As chair of the President’s Committee on Economic Security, she helped created back-to-work programs including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration, the Federal Works Agency and the National Industrial Recovery Act.
On Sunday, November 3 at 2 p.m., Perkins’ legacy will be highlighted in an exclusive pre-broadcast screening and discussion of a new national public television documentary titled Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare, to be held at the FDR Library’s Wallace Center. Featuring compelling interviews with David Brooks, Nancy Pelosi, Amy Klobuchar, Lawrence O’Donnell and others, the film tells Perkins’s heroic story and explores the history of women in politics, Social Security, our attitudes toward immigration, poverty, socialism and the role of government.
A panel discussion will follow, including the filmmaker, Mick Caouette; Christopher Breiseth, board treasurer of the Frances Perkins Center and former president and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute; and Perkins’ grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall. This is a free public event, but registration at www.fdrlibrary.org is required.
Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare
Sunday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m.
Henry A. Wallace Center, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum
4079 Albany Post Rd. (Rt. 9), Hyde Park