Labor, Women & the New Deal's Legacies to be Explored at Frances Perkins's Alma Mater March 8 & 9

For immediate release
February 15, 2001


Mount Holyoke College Symposium Pays Tribute to Perkins,
First Woman Cabinet Member and Creator Of Social Security

SOUTH HADLEY, Massachusetts--A hundred years ago, Frances Perkins was just another undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. But by 1933, she had become an American "first." With her appointment by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as head the Department of Labor, Perkins made history as the first woman member of a President's Cabinet.

"Through the New Deal, Perkins was a major player in the transformation of the American landscape for working men and women. She was the principal architect of Social Security and was instrumental in the creation of the National Labor Relations Act, which became the legal and administrative basis for collective bargaining," notes Mount Holyoke historian Daniel Czitrom.

On March 8 and 9 at Perkins's alma mater, this great historical figure--arguably one of the last century's most influential woman leaders--will be the focus of a two-day symposium. Gathering on the campus of the leading liberal arts college will be such noted historians, writers, and social scientists as Barbara Ehrenreich and Gwendolyn Mink, who will discuss the impact of Frances Perkins and her legacies on current debates about working women, Social Security, welfare reform, and health care. The two-day event will include seven lectures.

The Mount Holyoke College event launches March 8 with a keynote evening lecture. Following the kick-off talk by Linda Gordon, a professor of history at New York University, a reception for International Women's Day will be held at the new home of the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, a collaboration of the Five College consortium.

The special event will celebrate the centenary of Frances Perkins's graduation from Mount Holyoke College, albeit a year ahead of Perkins's graduation in 1902. This January, almost a century after Perkins's graduation from Mount Holyoke, Elaine L. Chao, also an alumna from the prestigious institution, was confirmed as Secretary of Labor. Chao graduated from Mount Holyoke in 1975.