The mission of the Frances Perkins Center is to fulfill the legacy of Frances Perkins, principal architect of the New Deal, by continuing her work for social and economic justice and preserving for future generations her nationally significant family homestead.
In October of 2011, Laura became our second executive director. Laura Fortman has dedicated the past two decades leading efforts to provide economic equity and social justice for Maine people. As Governor John Baldacci's Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor from 2003-2010, she administered the very laws and regulations protecting Maine workers that Frances Perkins had set in place during the New Deal. Her agency was responsible for providing unemployment benefits, labor market information, employment services, labor law enforcement, and services to people with disabilities during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. During that time she served in leadership roles with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies and the National Governor's Association and testified before the U.S. Senate Health Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety.
Prior to becoming Commissioner, Fortman was the executive director of the Maine Women's Policy Center/Maine Women's Lobby leading advocacy efforts to improve opportunities for women and girls through state legislation. For ten years, her work focused on the full array of circumstances affecting women, including health care, reproductive rights, economic security, discrimination, and education.
Fortman has received numerous awards for public service and earned a B.A. in History from the University of New Hampshire, a Master's degree in Leadership from Northeastern University and has completed the Harvard / Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government. She is recognized as a leader on women's rights, labor and employment issues and currently serves on the board of the National Employment Law Project.
Dr. Christopher N. Breiseth is the immediate
past president and CEO of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute,
located at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New
York, serving in that position from 2001 to 2008. He was president
of Deep Springs College in California from 1980 to 1983 and of Wilkes
University from 1984 to 2001. He earned his B.A. in history at UCLA,
a Masters of Literature in Modern British History from Oxford and
a Ph.D. in European History from Cornell. While at Cornell, he lived
at the Telluride House where Frances Perkins was a guest for the last
five years of her life while she was teaching at the School of Industrial
and Labor Relations. Together, Breiseth and Miss Perkins organized
two seminars for house members, one with Henry A. Wallace, the other
with James Farley. Following Miss Perkins's death in 1965, Breiseth
wrote an article, "The
Frances Perkins I Knew," which provides some of the material on
Frances Perkins's life at Telluride House for Kirstin Downey's book,
"The Woman Behind the New Deal." The article is available on line.
He also served for a year and a half in 1967 and 1968 as Chief of
Policy Guidance for the Community Action Program which was part of
the Office of Economic Opportunity, President Lyndon Johnson's War
on Poverty. He is married to Jane Morhouse Breiseth and they have
three daughters and two grandchildren.
David has practiced at Warren, Currier & Buchanan (or its predecessor) as a principal since 1988. Before that he was an associate at the Portland firm of Murray, Plumb & Murray.
David received his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1982. He was an editor of the Harvard Law Review from 1980-1982. He received his A.B. in Mathematics, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 1979.
David is currently chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Freeport Student Aspirations Partnership. He served on the board of directors of The Iris Network from 1996-2005 and served as chairperson of that board from 2002-2003. He also served on the board of directors of the Maine Civil Liberties Union from 1990-96, and was president from 1993-1994.
David is a member of the bar of Maine and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court.
He lives in Freeport with his wife Laura Kargul and son Gabriel.
Kirstin Downey, an award-winning journalist at the
Washington Post from 1988 to 2008, is a business reporter whose work
has focused on illuminating the human implications of important financial
trends, particularly boom and bust cycles in the modern economy.
Downey's coverage of the aftermath of the savings and loan debacle
of the late 1980s won her several regional press association awards.
In 1990, she was named a finalist for the Livingston prize for outstanding
young journalist in America for her coverage of the abuse of government
housing programs. In the mid-1990s, her articles on sexual harassment
in workplaces across America, including in the Mesabi Iron Range
in Minnesota and at auto plants in the Midwest, caused a paradigm
shift in how people viewed a problem that had been trivialized.
From 2005 to 2007, Downey led the country in reporting on a worrisome
but unrecognized phenomenon -- the dangerous growth of risky new
kinds of mortgages that threatened to bankrupt borrowers and the
financial institutions making the loans. These loans have contributed
to a downward economic spiral worldwide. Her reporting went unheeded
by the Bush Administration.
Downey left the Washington Post in 2008 to finish The Woman
Behind the New Deal, a book she had spent nine years researching.
Her goal was to look to history to see how a heroine of the past,
Frances Perkins, had helped the country deal with financial calamity
and how, exactly, Perkins had created the social safety net that
will minimize the damage to Americans today.
Susan F. Feiner holds a joint position at the University
of Southern Maine in the departments of Women and Gender Studies and
Economics. She was a founding member of the International Association
of Feminist Economics and a member of the original editorial board
of the award-winning journal Feminist Economics. Her research
interests include feminist political economy, critical perspectives
in economic education, and the ideological functions of economics.
From 1985 through 1998 Feiner directed numerous content-based curriculum
development projects aimed at improving the treatment of diversity
in economics education. This work, funded by the National Science
Foundation and the Ford Foundation, created an international movement
to better integrate questions of race and gender into economics education.
Her most recent book, Liberating Economics: feminist perspectives
on families, work, and globalization was published by the University
of Michigan Press in 2004. It was named an "Outstanding Academic
Title" by the American Library Association.
Ned McCann has a long history of progressive advocacy and leadership in Maine, with an emphasis on labor-related work. McCann worked for the Maine AFL-CIO for 17 years, ten as Legislative Director and seven as Secretary-Treasurer, a full time elected leadership position in the state labor federation. Prior to joining the Maine AFL-CIO, McCann was a political organizer, truck driver, and worked for several years as Special Assistant to the President of the Maine Senate.
McCann also served in the administration of Governor John Baldacci, first as the Director of Employment Services at the Maine Department of Labor, and later as Deputy Commissioner of the Department. He has served on the boards of several organizations in Maine, and has been appointed to a number of Boards and Commissions for the State of Maine, including the Dirigo Health Agency, the Maine Jobs Council, and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Hunger and Food Security.
McCann holds a B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of Southern Maine, and an M.A. in Labor Studies/Leadership and Administration from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst. He and his wife Domna Giatas reside in the fair city of Portland, Maine.
Former chief of planning and legislation for the National
Park Service north atlantic region, Sarah Peskin has guided the preservation
and interpretation of many nationally significant historic places
and managed major new facility projects from concept to operation.
A graduate of Smith College, she holds a master s degree in urban
planning from New York University and was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard
From 1979-90 she was planning director of the Lowell Historic Preservation
Commission, the public/private entity that helped develop Lowell
National Historical Park. From 1990-2009 she did feasibility studies
and worked on legislation to establish new areas such as Weir Farm
National Historic Site, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical
Park, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Erie Canalway
National Heritage Corridor, New Bedford Whaling National Historical
Park and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum National Historic Site.
She led the recent planning effort for the Schoodic section of Acadia
National Park where a navy base was transformed into an educational
campus to serve multiple audiences. Award-winning projects she managed
include the Mogan Cultural Center, Boarding House Park, and the
Lowell Park Trolley System. She wrote Cultural Tourism: Where Culture
and Economy Meet (Boston Foundation, 2004) and America s Special
Landscapes: The Heritage Area Phenomenon (Ferrara, 2001). She has
recently retired from the National Park Service to spend most of
her time at her home in Walpole, Maine, just across the Damariscotta
River from the Perkins Homestead.
Educated at Northfield School and Barnard College,
Gretel Porter spent six years living in West Bengal, India, raising
her family. She returned to the United States in 1969 and worked as
a labor organizer, becoming a fierce advocate for Health & Safety
while working eight years in the coke ovens at U.S. Steel in Gary,
Indiana. In 1985 she developed Odyssey Tours, a deluxe outbound travel
company based in Los Angeles, California that focused on cultural
immersion at unusual destinations throughout Asia. This led to Porter's
work with the Center for Responsible Tourism and international campaigns
to end child-sex tourism and the trafficking of women and children.
More recently as a resident of Maine, Porter served as personal secretary
to Susanna Wilson Coggeshall, Frances Perkins' daughter, from 1998
to 2003 assisting with much of the ongoing correspondence that dealt
with Frances Perkins' history and legacy.
Leah W. Sprague is a retired justice of the Massachusetts
Trial Court. She is a graduate of Brown University and Boston University
School of Law, and completed the program for Senior Executives in
Massachusetts State Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University. She has been in legal practice for 36 years,
specializing in litigation and health law. She previously served as
a Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General and was Assistant Commissioner
and General Counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare
during the administration of Governor Michael S. Dukakis. In that
latter period, she served on the Executive Board of the American Association
of Public Welfare Attorneys. She currently resides in Newcastle, Maine,
where she is writing a book on women in the judiciary.
Tomlin is Frances Perkins' grandson, son of her daughter Susanna and Calvert Coggeshall, an abstract expressionist and designer. Tomlin attended Middlesex School in Concord Massachusetts and then studied biology and botany, graduating with a B.S. in Botany and Biology from the University of Maine. Since then, he has worked in publishing and marketing, mostly in the alternative energy field, focused on hydrogen and clean energy. Tomlin is currently promoting IT research and consulting for a firm in Cambridge, Massachusetts and lives with his partner Christopher Rice in Newcastle at The Brick House, the Perkins family homestead. Tomlin is not currently a Board member of the Center.
Dr. Allen is a geologist with over 30
years of experience in the energy industry and academia. After beginning
her career at Shell Oil Company as an exploration geologist, she established
her own company, Methane Resources Group, in 1981 engaging in both
domestic and international petroleum project development. Since 2000,
Dr. Wilson has redirected her interests towards education. She currently
teaches academic courses and lectures to organizations and community
groups in both geology and in the broader field of global energy,
generating interest and understanding, across disciplines, in energy
issues, environmental concerns and economic growth in a world of diverse
cultures, emerging markets, and economic disparity. She has served
on a variety of profit and non-profit boards including Mount Holyoke
College and The Boppy Company. In Maine she is currently a member
of the Advisory Council of The Camden Conference in Camden and a board
member of the Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle.
Joyce M. Clements currently serves as a
Senior Principal Investigator, Historical Archaeology, for Gray &
Pape, Providence, Rhode Island. Her research interests include women's
history, archaeological theory, feminist methods and theories, New
England archaeology, and the history and archaeology of Native American
women. Clements also is interested in connections between health and
the environment, and served as the President of the Maine Breast Cancer
Coalition during her brief residence in Maine. She has taught anthropology,
archaeology, and women's studies and frequently presents her research
at local, national, and international conferences. Clements' support
for the Frances Perkins center is a natural outgrowth of her interest
in justice and equity, and the outstanding woman who brought those
issues to American consciousness.
Tracy Cooley has been working on the behalf
of at risk families for over 30 years. She has worked in the early
care and education and domestic violence fields as an administrator,
practitioner, trainer, and consultant. Ms.Cooley was the Director
of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence from 1990-2001. From
2001- 2006 she was a Policy Associate at the Muskie School of Public
Service, Institute for Child and Family Policy at the University of
Southern Maine where she co-authored the Safe Families Safe Homes
Since 1990, she has maintained a private consulting practice, T.Cooley
and Associates, offering the implementation of the Safe Families
Safe Homes Project across the country. She provides technical assistance
to practitioners, state domestic violence coalitions, state and
federal agencies, and national organizations. Cooley recently joined
the staff at Maine Kids-Kin, a statewide program that supports grandparents
who are raising their grandchildren.
Ms. Cooley has been an activist for social justice since her youth.
During her college years she started the first women's center at
Nasson College. She served for ten years on the board of the National
Network to End Domestic Violence. Her recent board tenure is with
Maine Initiatives, a foundation for social change.
Carla Dickstein is Senior Vice-President
at Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Community Development Finance
Institution (CDFI) based in Wiscasset, Maine. For the past 15 years
she has overseen CEI's work on research and policy development, including
green industries and employment opportunities, rural development and
entrepreneurship and predatory mortgage lending and foreclosures.
In 2006 Carla coauthored a study of subprime mortgages and predatory
lending, which led to Maine passing a strong antipredatory lending
law in 2007. Prior to coming to CEI she was on the faculty at West
Virginia University's Regional Research Institute and the West Virginia
University Extension Service. Carla sits on a number of nonprofit
and government boards and committees including Maine's Citizen Trade
Commission, the Engage Maine steering committee, and the Research
Advisory Board to the Community Affairs Department at the Federal
Reserve Bank of Boston. She holds a B.A. from Smith College, a Masters
in Planning from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in City
and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
Historian June Hopkins received her Ph.
D. from Georgetown in 1997. Her biographical study of her grandfather's
social work career from 1912 through the Great Depression, Harry
Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer, was published by St. Martin's
Press in 1999 and Jewish first wife, divorced: The Selected Letters
and Papers of Ethel Gross and Harry Hopkins, co-edited with Allison
Giffen was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2003. Hopkins has
been a professor of American history at Armstrong Atlantic State University
in Savannah, Georgia, since 1998 and has been head of the history
department for the past four years. She is now working on a history
of World War II and the relationship between Winston Churchill and
Mark A. Peterson, with a Ph.D. in political science
from The University of Michigan, is Professor of Public Policy and
Political Science, and former department chair, in the Department
of Public Policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. His previous
faculty appointments were in Government at Harvard University and
Public Affairs, Political Science, and Public Health at the University
of Pittsburgh. Peterson is a scholar of American national institutions,
focusing on the interactions among the presidency, Congress, and interest
groups, as well as on national health care policy making and Medicare
reform. His publications include Legislating Together: The White House
and Capital Hill from Eisenhower to Reagan (Harvard). As a participant
in the Annenberg Institutions of American Democracy Project, he co-chaired
the Commission on the Executive Branch and co-edited the volume it
produced on the politics and performance of the presidency and bureaucracy,
Institutions of American Democracy: The Executive Branch (Oxford),
which won the Richard E. Neustadt Award for the best reference on
the presidency. He was also a co-author of the Annenberg's project
book exploring public and elite opinion on the performance of American
institutions, Institutions of American Democracy: A Republic Divided
(Oxford). Peterson is on the Council of the American Political Science
Association, serves on four national advisory committees (chairing
one) for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is past editor of the
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, and has been a guest scholar
at The Brookings Institution. As an American Political Science Association
Congressional Fellow he served as a legislative assistant for Health
Policy to Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD). He is a founding member of the
core team of the Blue Sky Health Initiative, which seeks to transform
the health and health care system in the United States. An elected
member of the National Academy of Social Insurance, he served on its
Study Panel on Medicare and Markets, and he is a recipient of an Investigator
Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Chellie Pingree is from North Haven, Maine,
an island town of 350 people twelve miles off the coast, where she
worked as a farmer and a small business owner. She was elected to
the Maine State Senate in 1992 and, in 1996, was chosen by her peers
to be the Maine Senate Majority Leader.
As a state senator, she fought for economic and social justice,
taking on powerful adversaries--most notably the pharmaceutical
lobby. Pingree sponsored one of the nation's first prescription
drug pricing bills, MaineRx. After a legal fight that led all the
way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the bill became law, and has since
been a model for states around the country working to lower prescription
drug prices. Pingree also sponsored the successful "Parents as Scholars"
program, a national model for welfare reform, which continues to
help working Maine parents gain access to education to help them
achieve a better life for their families. She led successful efforts
to protect Maine's environment, for corporate accountability, to
protect workers, to promote a women's right to choose, and in support
of Maine's small businesses. As a state senator, Pingree was also
a founding member of the Maine Economic Growth Council. Pingree's
leadership in Maine politics led to numerous international appointments.
She traveled to Hungary as an Eisenhower Exchange Fellow, served
as a member of the White House delegation to observe elections in
Bosnia, and was a member of a U.S. delegation to Northern Ireland,
working with women political leaders there.
From 2003 to 2007, Pingree served as the National President and
CEO of Common Cause, a non-partisan citizen activist group with
nearly 300,000 members and 35 state chapters. Common Cause's mission
is to help citizens make their voices heard in the political process
and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.
In 2008, Pingree was elected to Congress from Maine's 1st Congressional
District--the first woman elected to Congress from that District.
It also marks the first time in American history that women make
up the majority of a state's Congressional Delegation.
Pingree has three grown children. Her eldest, Hannah Pingree, is
the Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives.
Robert B. Reich is Professor of Public
Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author
of twelve books, among them the best-sellers The Work of Nations
and Locked in the Cabinet, and, his most recent, Supercapitalism.
He has served in three national administrations, most recently as
Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton. In that capacity
he shepherded the Family and Medical Act through Congress, as well
as the Pension Protection Act and the School-to-Work Act, and he laid
the groundwork for the Workforce Development Act. He also led a national
campaign against sweatshops, secured safer workplaces, and expanded
opportunities for job retraining to millions of American workers.
Christopher Irvine Rice is principal designer for Designs for Native Landscapes. He holds a Master of Arts degree from the Conway School of Landscape Design and a BA in Journalism from the University of Maine at Orono. Inspired by the complexity and random beauty found in environmentally sound landscapes which are native to a region, Christopher has worked developing landscapes for non-profits and residential clients while living in midcoast Maine with his partner, Tomlin Coggeshall, since 1995. Formerly a commercial interior designer and conservation commissioner in Massachusetts, he's currently treasurer of his local historical society in Newcastle and pleased to be a founding member of the Frances Perkins Center.
Born in Boston, in 1931, Neil was educated in Brookline
schools and was graduated from Phillips Academy Andover, then Yale
with a BA, then Coulmbia Journalism with an MS. Highlights of work
experience, 6 years as a Special Assistant to Governor Kenneth M.
Curtis, then 16 years as a Democratic State Representative in Maine.
Neil has authored some 14 books and he has won several awards, including
the Neal W. Allen Award for History writing from the Maine Historical
Society, the Constance Carlson Award of the Maine Humanities Council
and a Maine Writers and Publishers award for the best non-fiction.
Neil has been on the boards of various organizations, both in Maine
and in other parts of the country, including chairman of the Maine
Public Broadcasting Network, the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences,
the Seacoast Shipyard Association (supporting the Portsmouth Naval
Shipyard, the Lighthouse Corporation of Bar Harbor, the Katahdin Institute,
and chair of the Development Committee of the National Tropical Botanical
Garden of Hawaii and one-time vice-chairman of the board of the University
of New England and board member of the Heller School of Social work
at Brandeis University.
Nancy Teel is Professor of English and Interim Dean
of Liberal Arts at Roxbury
Community College in Boston. She has taught composition and literature
for more than
twenty years and has been a college administrator for two years. She
undergraduate degree in English literature from Saint Mary's College
and a Ph.D. in
Linguistics from Cornell University. Beyond the classroom, her interests
human rights, world peace and globalization. In her spare time she
time with family, gardening, boating and working on old houses.