Frances Perkins documentary at Mount Holyoke College

Frances Perkins, class of 1902 and subject of a new PBS documentary

By Christian Feuerstein

In March 2020, an election year energized by women candidates and the centennial celebration of women’s suffrage, PBS will premiere the story of the first woman Cabinet member, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins. 

Four months before the national broadcast, Mount Holyoke College will host an East Coast premiere of “Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare,” in honor of both Perkins, a Mount Holyoke alumna from the class of 1902, and the 20th anniversary of the Weissman Center for Leadership. 

The screening is November 7, 2019, in Chapin Auditorium in Mary Woolley Hall on the Mount Holyoke campus. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the film will begin at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will feature a post-screening panel discussion with: 

  • Naomi Barry-Perez ’96, director of Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Labor

  • Sarita Gupta ‘96, director of the Future of Work(ers) program at The Ford Foundation

  • Maria Mossaides ’73, the Child Advocate for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the president of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association

There will also be remarks by film producer Mick Caouette of South Hill Films. For more information, visit

About the Film

In the depths of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt named Frances Perkins the first woman on a U.S. Cabinet. Against overwhelming odds, Perkins became the driving force behind Social Security, the 40-hour work week, the eight‐hour day, minimum wage and unemployment compensation.

“Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare” features compelling interviews with David Brooks, Nancy Pelosi, Amy Klobuchar, Lawrence O’Donnell and others, while telling Perkins’ heroic story. The film explores the history of women in politics, Social Security, and American attitudes toward immigration, poverty, socialism and the role of government.

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