Written by summer intern Sichu Mali
On June 26, the Frances Perkins Center 1st Annual Garden Party was held at The Brick House, the Perkins homestead. The theme of this year’s Garden Party was “Maine Women Leaders: Past, present and future.”
Frances Perkins's grandson, Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall, looks on as executive director Barbara Burt reads congratulations to honorees Shenna Bellows, Selma Botman, Laura Fortman, and Elaine Tuttle Hansen.
Five Maine women leaders were honored at the event. The honorees were Maine Civil Liberties Union (MCLU) Director Shenna Bellows; Commissioner of Labor Laura Fortman; Bates College President Elaine Tuttle Hansen; University of Southern Maine (USM) President Selma Botman; President of Maine Senate Elizabeth Mitchell; and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree.
While Senate President Mitchell and Congresswoman Pingree were not able to attend the event, a representative of Congresswoman Pingree received the honor on her behalf. Congresswoman Pingree sent a letter in which she celebrated the Frances Perkins Center and said she was joining us at this event in spirit. In her letter, she acknowledged that Frances brought a deep commitment to improving lives of all Americans by playing an instrumental role in creating Social Security, unemployment insurance and a federal minimum wage. She emphasized the importance of an organization such as the Frances Perkins Center that is dedicated to furthering her legacy of commitment to working people. Congresswoman Pingree also reminded the garden party attendees that universal healthcare is the one unfinished piece of Frances Perkins’s agenda for social and economic justice.
Senator Olympia Snowe sent her best wishes to the Frances Perkins Center and congratulated the six women leaders. She described Frances Perkins as exemplifying Maine’s legendary work-ethic, can-do spirit, and hallmark independence. Senator Snowe envisioned the center as a vibrant epicenter for research and the thoughtful interactions and deliberations among students, scholars, and policy makers whose common inspiration is founded on the magnificent life of Secretary Perkins.
Besides MCLU Director Bellows, Commissioner of Labor Fortman, Bates President Hansen and USM President Botman, the other distinguished guests at this event were New Deal historians Dr. Christopher Breiseth and Neil Rolde as well as Kirstin Downey, author of The Woman Behind the New Deal and Karenna Gore Schiff, author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America.