The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Please join us!

In Events on March 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm


Click the image above to register.

Happy Birthday, Social Security!

In Events, New Deal Legislation on August 15, 2010 at 10:27 am

We had a great day yesterday celebrating the 75th anniversary of Social Security at our Frances Perkins Center 2nd Annual Garden Party . We’ll post more pictures and details later, but for now, here are a couple of photos as a preview:

Here's the birthday cake

We had two New Deal grandchildren on hand to cut the cake. Professor June Hopkins is the granddaughter of Harry Hopkins and Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall is Frances Perkins grandson. Perkins was the chair and Hopkins was a member of the Committee on Economic Security, which created the Social Security Act.

Please join us…

In Events on July 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm

You’re invited to the Frances Perkins Center’s 2010 Garden Party

Saturday, August 14, from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

It’s a once-a-year event! This year, we’re celebrating the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. Frances Perkins considered the passage of Social Security her greatest accomplishment. We’ve been commemorating her achievement all year with our Social Security Stories Project. At the garden party, you’ll have the opportunity to add to our collection by telling your own Social Security story on camera.

And, continuing our tradition of honoring exceptional women who epitomize Frances Perkins’s leadership, we are very excited to announce the recipients of our three awards: Brooksley Born, Nancy Altman, and Megan Williams, all three of whom will be at the Garden Party. Read all about them below…

Tickets for the Garden Party are $35 per person. If you’d like to be part of the Host Committee, the cost is $75 per person (in appreciation, you’ll receive a very small, very special thank-you gift). Please order your tickets today — we want to be sure that you’re coming!

Order your tickets today!

Intelligence and Courage Award — Brooksley Born

Brooksley Born is the former chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Recognizing the dangers of unregulated derivatives trading, she warned about the potential collapse of the financial system but her warnings were not heeded. Her attempt to save the country from economic disaster is the subject of a PBS Frontline documentary, “The Warning.” Brooksley was honored by the JFK Library last year with a “Profile in Courage Award.” Learn more here.

Steadfast Award — Nancy Altman

Nancy Altman has been working on Social Security policy since the 1980s, when she worked on the 1983 Greenspan Commission on Social Security as Alan Greenspan’s assistant. She has taught at both Harvard’s Kennedy School and Law School and is a founder of the National Academy of Social Insurance, on the board of the Pension Rights Center, and co-founder of She has testified before Congress on Social Security policy on numerous occasions and is the author of The Battle for Social Security: From FDR’s Vision to Bush’s Gamble. (Books will be available for purchase and can be autographed.)

Open Door Award — Megan Williams

Megan Williams is the executive director of Hardy Girls Healthy Women. Named one of the ten people shaping the future of Maine’s economy by MaineBiz last year, Megan was hired to lead Hardy Girls in 2005, a year after her graduation from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She has nurtured the ten-year-old nonprofit from its local roots into a flourishing organization with programs featuring mentoring, an emphasis on strength and activism, and national workshops and curricula. This year, Hardy Girls Healthy Women was given the Governor’s award for nonprofit excellence. For more information, visit Hardy Girls Healthy Women.

And You’ll Be the Recipient — of Fine Food & Drink and Great Conversation

Refreshments will feature food and wine from local establishments including Weeks End Lobster Bakes, Newcastle Publick House, Damariscotta River Grill, Rising Tide Community Market, Weatherbird, and others. Our sponsors include The Flying Cloud B&B and Bath Savings Bank.

Don’t delay! Order your tickets today! (To ensure delivery, please order by August 7th.)

Tickets may also be purchased by mail by sending a check to FPC Garden Party, PO Box 281, Newcastle, ME 04553.

Frances Perkins and the “politics of generosity”

In Biography, Events on May 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Today marks the first annual celebration of the life of Frances Perkins by the Episcopal Church, which named her a Holy Woman this year.

On her blog, Christianity for the Rest of Us, Diana Butler Bass says

I can’t imagine a more important saint to remember today. May we live in her example and renew a politics of generosity for our own day.

Frances Perkins’s local church here in Newcastle, Maine, is holding a special service this coming Sunday at 4:00 PM. The Bishop will conduct the service, the choir will sing a newly commissioned anthem, and a plaque in her honor will be unveiled in the sanctuary. Before the service, at 2:00, Donn Mitchell will speak about Frances Perkins and her Anglican colleagues, about whom he coined the phrase, “politics of generosity.”

Here is the Episcopal prayer for Frances Perkins on her feast day:

Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

A year ago

In Events on April 22, 2010 at 7:20 am

On April 21, 2009, the Frances Perkins Center held a national launch event in the Great Hall of the Department of Labor in Washington, DC (in the Frances Perkins Building). Here’s a photo of some of our board members who attended the event standing on the plaza of the Frances Perkins Building:

Board members Christopher Rice, Gretel Porter, Kirstin Downey, Betty Wilson, and Tomlin Coggeshall. Not included in the photo were board members Leah Sprague, Susan Feiner, Sarah Peskin and Chris Breiseth (photo by Marsha Sprague)

For more on the Washington event, go to and

Kirstin Downey wows Boston audience

In Biography, Events on March 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

[Written by Frances Perkins Center board member Sarah Peskin.]

Perkins Center board member Kirstin Downey addressed a standing room only crowd at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston on Wednesday March 10, 2010 for a public lecture on The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience.  In his introductory comments, MHS president Dennis Fiore gave a nice plug for the Center and invited our Maine contingent to identify ourselves — thus giving Barb Burt and me a chance to work the crowd later, to give out brochures, answer questions, and invite audience members to sign the guestbook and peruse our website.  We set FPC bookmarks at the book signing table and they were snapped up by eager buyers who quickly exhausted the full supply of newly-released paperbacks delivered for the occasion.

Downey asked participants if they had known about Frances Perkins before coming to the lecture, and praised them for being relatively well-informed when most of the hands were raised in the affirmative.  She went on to cite Perkins’s many landmark achievements, noting that FP “wasn’t looking for fame” and was more interested in getting things done than in taking credit.  Reminding us that 52 million Americans now receive Social Security benefits and another 10 million unemployment compensation thanks to FP’s direct personal efforts, Downey posed the question:  How did she do so much?

Other topics highlighted in the talk included Perkins’s key role in establishing the WPA which in turn created so much of the physical infrastructure (bridges, dams, tunnels, highways) that allowed the US economy to boom in the 1950s and 60s, and the Civilian Conservation Corps that made lasting improvements to state and national parks while putting young people to work in the 1930s.

Downey also spoke about her use of a collection of letters from the “brilliant young lawyer Charles Wyzanski, the department’s new solicitor of labor” describing his alarm as early as 1933 when he travelled to Germany and saw persecution of trade unionists, Jews, and intellectuals in many fields. These eyewitness reports prompted Perkins to devote considerable energies, along with other FDR advisors, to quietly easing immigration restrictions so that thousands needing refuge could enter the US.  This little known but fascinating history was pieced together by Downey by following clues triggered by the Massachusetts Historical Society Wyzanski letters, several of which were displayed in a case in the lecture room for the event.

Barb and I greeted old and new friends and made several contacts worth pursuing.  I was so proud to be associated with this thoughtful and well-presented event.  Thanks go to Jayne Gordon of the MHS for planning and coordinating the evening.  It was a great success. Kirstin spoke the next day at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and is scheduled to address the Organization of American Historians on April 9, 2010 in DC.  Go to her website for other stops on what looks like a very tiring book tour.

Remarks and Stories from January 14th Event

In Biography, Events on February 3, 2010 at 10:02 am
Remarks after the reception on January 14th

Please click on the image to open the video. Then look for the "play" arrow to start the video.

This video includes remarks made after the reception and before the showing of the film at our Jan. 14th event in New York City. Speakers are Christopher Breiseth, friend of Frances Perkins, former president of the Roosevelt Institute, and advisor to the Frances Perkins Center; Brian Kennedy, friend of Frances Perkins and Chris Breiseth; Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, chair of the board of the Frances Perkins Center; Barbara Burt, executive director of the Frances Perkins Center; Ruth Acker, president of the Women’s City Club of New York; Rob Shetterly, artist and creator of a new portrait of Frances Perkins; and Karenna Gore Schiff and Catherine Corman, discussing their film, Lighting the Way: Frances Perkins.

Panel Discussion from Jan. 14: “Strengthening Social Security in the 21st Century”

In Events, Legislation Today on February 3, 2010 at 9:49 am
Panel 2: Strengthening Social Security in the 21st Century

Please click on the image to open the video. Then look for the "play" arrow to start the video.

From our January 14th event in New York City, the 2nd panel and wrap-up comments.

“Strengthening Social Security in the 21st Century”
Moderator: Professor Susan Feiner of the University of Southern Maine and member of the Frances Perkins Center board.

Panelists: Nancy Altman, author of The Battle for Social Security; Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, CEO of the Global Policy Solutions and co-editor of Strengthening Community: Social Insurance in a Diverse America; and Professor Eric Kingson from Syracuse University, and co-editor of Social Security in the 21st Century.

Closing comments are by Dr. Lynn Parramore of the Roosevelt Institute and editor of New Deal 2.0.

Panel Discussion from Jan. 14: “The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America”

In Biography, Events, Legislation on February 3, 2010 at 9:30 am
Panel 1: The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America

Please click on the image to play the video. Look for the arrow in the lower left corner to start the video.

The 1st panel from our January 14th event in New York City, “The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America”

Moderator: Dr. Christopher Breiseth, former president of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute and current member of the Advisory Committee of the Frances Perkins Center

Panelists: Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal and board member at the Frances Perkins Center; Adam Cohen of the New York Times and author of Nothing to Fear; and Larry DeWitt, public historian at the Social Security Administration and principal editor of Social Security: A Documentary History.

Personal account of our New York City event on January 14th

In Events, Legislation, Programs on January 31, 2010 at 9:17 pm

[Written by Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, the board chair of the Frances Perkins Center. For more information about the event, along with photos and videos, go to:]

Well, it all started last summer at the Frances Perkins Center’s first annual garden party at The Brick House in Newcastle, Maine (home of the Frances Perkins Center). We had invited friends from far and wide and were delighted and happily surprised when Karenna Gore Schiff and her friend Catherine Ann Corman turned out to be among them! Karenna had mentioned that she was working on a film about FP (based on the story in her biography, Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America) with Catherine. Karenna said that she and Catherine planned to have their new film ready around the turn of the year and one thing led to another as soon as they got to talking with Barb Burt, the Center’s executive director.

Very soon, we had a major event planned for January 14th, in New York at the Harvard Club, which evolved into an afternoon and evening consisting of two panel discussions, a reception, remarks, and the premiere of the new film on FP. You can see a PDF of the program here: Jan14_Program Front.

The months passed quickly and we soon became aware, with mounting trepidation, that we had planned an event in the middle of the winter in New York City, a place where winter can mean business! We all prayed and FP may have been pulling strings again because the weather could not have been nicer. About 160 people came, including a very special surprise guest, Karenna’s father, Vice President Al Gore. His presence was a huge honor for all involved and gave the entire affair a good helping of extra excitement and all-around buzz.

After a perfect simple lunch at the club, the event swat team consisting of Barb Burt, Tomlin Coggeshall, board members Christopher Rice, Betty Wilson, and Sarah Peskin, and some great volunteers, Casey Maliszewski and Emily Wazlak, both Mount Holyoke students, and Heidi Overbeck and Jorge Ruiz from the Women’s City Club of New York, began final preparations for people to begin arriving and registering. Name badges were assembled, programs were collated, seats were set up, video people were testing and adjusting the projection equipment, other video people were setting up to record the panel discussions which turned out to be extremely relevant and incisive. All was coming together very well, a testament in no small part to expert management of the whole affair by Barb Burt, the Center’s executive director, par excellance.

Two rooms were used, one for the “theater” where the panel discussions would take place and a second room, separated from the first by to gigantic mahogany pocket doors at the back of the “theater” room. They opened onto a somewhat smaller room where there were low tables with chairs for authors to sign books, high cocktail tables for guests to talk around, and a cash bar for those who wanted a little fortification. All of it steeped in Harvard Club ambiance and crimson, plenty of old world charm and elegance.

Thanks to Barb’s foresight in having the panel discussions taped, we can share those with anyone interested. Both panels were on Social Security, the first on “The Birth of Social Security and the Transformation of America” and the second on “Strengthening Social Security in the 21st Century.”

After the panel discussions ended, we opened those great doors and had a very nice party. A new portrait of FP was set up on an easel in this room for guests to admire. It had been painted and brought down by car from Maine by artist Rob Shetterly, who has a series he calls “American Who Tell the Truth” and has added FP’s portrait to his series. During the reception, quite unexpectedly, Vice President Gore strode into the room and began chatting with people who he met or who came up to say hello. It was wonderful to see him there and truly was an honor for all.

The reception ended about 7:30pm and the group migrated back through those mahogany doors to settle back into their seats for the premiere of Karenna and Catherine’s new film. Tomlin Coggeshall, FP’s grandson, offered a few words of welcome then invited Christopher Breiseth to share a memory or two of FP which he obligingly did in his delightful way, Chris, in turn, introduced Brian Kennedy (a Telluride House resident for four of the five years that FP lived so happily and comfortably there being so lovingly taken care of). Brian gladly shared some fond memories, and then Barb Burt gave us an overview of the Center’s accomplishments and plans as she introduced Ruth Acker, president of the Women’s City Club of New York, and Rob Shetterly, the Maine artist who brought his portrait of FP down from Maine.

After Rob finished speaking, Barb introduced Karenna and Catherine, who gave us a good understanding of the process and background on their film. They mentioned that their film was in a draft form and and invited comment from the audience. The film imparted a clear sense of FP’s complicated and varied life and career through narration by Karenna with chapter titles and a series of wonderful black and white photos.

So, to recap a recap, on January 14, 2010, we enjoyed wonderful afternoon and evening of…

Panel discussions, a reception with many friends, old and new, some remarks by some, viewing a new portrait of FP by Maine artist Rob Shetterly, and the premiere public showing of a new film on FP by Karenna Gore Schiff and Catherine Ann Corman.