I traveled to South Hadley, Massachusetts, earlier this week to participate in a lecture about Frances Perkins at her alma mater, Mt. Holyoke College. The lecture was sponsored by the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts as part of the Body Politic(s) series.
Frances Perkins was the president of her senior class, graduating in 1902. She later served as a trustee, and visited the campus many times, including attending her 60th reunion.
At a lovely dinner the college held before the lecture, Marjorie Kaufman, who was Mt. Holyoke during the latter occasion, recalled seeing Frances stalk back and forth in front of her seated 80-something classmates, exhorting them to stand up, stand up!
Mt. Holyoke College has a program for non-traditional students called the Frances Perkins Program, under the capable leadership of Kay Altoff and Carolyn Dietel. (The Frances Perkins Program also co-sponsored the lecture.) A number of Frances Perkins Scholars, as they are known, attended the dinner. I think Frances would have enjoyed meeting them — a spirited group with a passion for learning. One of the Frances Perkins Scholars said to me that, while reading The Woman Behind the New Deal, she kept thinking how perfect an embodiment of the Mt. Holyoke ideal Frances Perkins was — dedicated to making the world a better place without tooting her own horn, collaborating, bringing people together for a common cause, searching out the best in others and inspiring them to higher accomplishments.
The lecture was introduced by Professor Lois Brown, director of the Weissman Center, and it mainly consisted of a compelling presentation by Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal. I joined Kirstin at the front during the question and answer session.
You can hear the lecture here (click on the links below):