May 16, 2010
A Celebration ofthe
Life and Work of frances “Perkins
May 16, 2010
St Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Born April 10, 1880 in Boston, Frances Perkins spent much of her childhood and most of her summers in New-
castle at the family homestead built on the Damariscotta River in the early 18th century as a wedding present for
his son by Perkins’ great-grandfather, a prominent brick manufacturer whose products may still be seen all over
downtown Damariscotta and as far away as Boston. Though she always thought of Maine as home, her parents
moved when she was a child to Worcester, Massachusetts, where she attended Classical High School before go-
ing on to Mount Holyoke College.
The young Fannie Perkins was transformed at Mount Holyoke, where perhaps the most important person she
encountered was a visiting lecturer, Florence Kelley, executive secretary of the National Consumers League,
who would become her first mentor. Upon graduation in 1902, with a burning motivation to help the poor, Fan-
nie applied to work for the Charity Organization Society in New York but was rejected as too young, naive, and
inexperienced. After several teaching posts in Massachusetts, she took a job teaching science (her college ma-
jor) at Ferry Hall, a women’s college north of Chicago.
Working as a volunteer with Jane Addams at Hull House in downtown Chicago, Frances Perkins began to ma-
ture as a social worker, distributing food to needy families and seeing first-hand the devastating results of unre-
mitting poverty. By 1907, ready to work full-time in the field, she became general secretary of the Philadelphia
Research and Protective Association, an organization that sought to assist immigrant women trapped in sexual
slavery. In this same period, Perkins joined the Episcopal Church, bringing spiritual reflection to bear on her
It was in 1910, as she lobbied the New York legislature for better wages and working hours as head of the New
York Consumers League that Frances first achieved public notice. Shortly thereafter, she was an accidental wit-
ness to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, a scene that haunted her ever after and spurred her to spend the rest of her
life seeking safe as well as fair working conditions for all laborers.
After her marriage to Paul Wilson in 1913, Perkins joined him in the New York mayoral administration of John
Mitchel before working for the labor department of Governor A1 Smith in Albany. In 1929, in what would be
the beginning of one of his longest and must successful collaborations, Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt ap-
pointed her as state industrial commissioner, a position she used to investigate factory conditions, reduce
women’s work-week to 48 hours, and push for unemployment insurance and a minimum wage.
In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first woman cabinet officer in history when she accepted President Roose-
velt’s invitation to be his secretary of labor. She became one of only two members of the Roosevelt administra-
tion to remain throughout his 12-year tenure. During that time, she was the spirit of the New Deal, writing or
helping write legislation for the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, prohibition of child labor, maximum
working hours, and the Works Progress Administration, among others. Perhaps her signal achievement was the
establishment in 1935 of Social Security, of which she was the prime mover.
Few were aware that, throughout her time in Washington, Frances Perkins regularly traveled to Baltimore for
personal retreats at All Saints Sisters of the Poor. She was deeply though somewhat privately religious and her
faith informed her public policy at every turn.
After Roosevelt’s death, President Truman named Perkins to the United States Civil Service Commission, where
she served until 1952. Subsequently she taught at the New York School of Industrial and Labor Relations at
Cornell, becoming a beloved resident fellow at Telluride House, where she became a mentor to many future la-
bor economists. She died in 1965 at age 85, leaving a daughter, Susanna Coggeshall, whose son, Tomlin, and
his partner, Christopher Rice, remain members of St. Andrew’s and live at the Perkins homestead, the site today
of the Frances Perkins Center.
Kirsten Downey, The Woman Behind the New Deal
Adam Cohen, Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America
In the long and storied history of this parish, St. Andrew’s has welcomed a number of great men and women—bishops,
scholars, leaders of business and industry, artists, authors, and political leaders, among others—as well as that multi-
tude whom few remember by name but whose acts of love and faith have carved lasting furrows in the sands of time. Sel-
dom, however, does a parish have the opportunity to celebrate a fellow worshiper who has been designated a “Holy
Person of the Church. ” While the Episcopal Church doesn ‘t require evidence of stigmata or extraordinary healings for
such distinction, what is required is a life “dedicated to Christ. ” Our communion of prophetic witnesses throughout the
ages is a gathering of often rather ordinary yet distinctly courageous people who, in the words of the commission that
commended Frances Perkins to General Convention, “for the love of the Gospel addressed the injustices of their cul-
tures. ” That Frances Perkins has been so honored and will be remembered throughout the Episcopal Church on her
feast day, May 13, calls forth from this generation at St. Andrew’s renewed recognition of her singular life of faith and
service, inextricably bound. That she worshiped here for most of her life leaves with us who follow a living presence and
a legacy of inspired responsibility.
-The Reverend Frank C. Strasburger, Interim Rector
Schedule of Events
Tomlin Coggeshall, director of the Frances Perkins Center and grandson of Frances Perkins
“Frances Perkins: Heart and Soul of the New Deal”, by Donn Mitchell
Donn Mitchell is the Editor and publisher of The Anglican Examiner; adjunct professor at
Princeton Theological Seminary; chair of the Frances Perkins Memorial Conference on
the Church and Labor in 1995 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine commemorating the
60 h anniversary of the Social Security Act; and author of the forthcoming book The Gra-
cious Society: Frances Perkins and the Religious Dimension of the New Deal
An Order of Worship for the Evening
in Thanksgiving for
The Life and Witness of Frances Perkins,
Public Servant and Prophetic Witness
Sunday, May 16, 2010
4 0’clock in the afternoon
Collect for Labor Day
Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good
or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but
for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful
of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of
work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect for Social Justice
Almighty God, who created us in your own image: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend
against every evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may reverently use
our freedom, help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our communities and
among the nations, to the glory of your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for Frances Perkins
Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the spe-
Cial vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be main-
tained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for jus-
tice 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.
Give thanks for Frances Perkins
and her prophetic stand,
that gained social security
for people of this land.
An advocate for justice,
by Christian faith inspired,
she fought for human dignity
with zeal that never tired.
All things come from you, O Lord.
And from your own gifts do we give to you.
Prosper the work of our hands.
Prosper our handiwork.
Show your servant your works.
And your splendor to your children.
Let us pray.
Bless this commemorative plaque, that it may ever inspire those who worship here with the faith-
ful witness of Frances Perkins. May her faith-driven dedication to humanity and justice urge in us the
compassion to perceive pain wherever it exists; the determination to act effectively to ameliorate it; and
the vision, will, and courage to seek transformation when nothing less will do. Amen.
Gracious God, as we commemorate the faith, life, and work of your servant Frances Perkins, may
her witness be a present reminder to us of your call to public service. As she was a light to the world, so
may her light continue to shine in our hearts, that we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips,
but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and right-
eousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor
and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
The bishop blesses the people.
May God, to whose glory we celebrate this festival of Frances Perkins, be now
and evermore your guide and companion in the way. Amen.
May God, who has bound us together in the company of the elect, in this age and
the age to come, attend to the prayers of his faithful servants on your behalf, as
he hears your prayers for them. Amen.
May God, who has given us, in the lives of the saints, patterns of holy living and
holy dying, strengthen your faith and devotion, and enable you to bear witness to
the truth against all adversity. Amen.
And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be
upon you and remain with you for ever. Amen.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.
Postlude on Sine Nomine