Center News

Frances Perkins served FDR as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945, the first woman cabinet secretary and founder of Social Security.  Her family homestead in Newcastle, Maine was a source of reflection and rejuvenation for her throughout her life.  We were pleased to join with our friends at the College of the Atlantic to celebrate the legacy of Frances Perkins and share with guests the perspectives of contemporary leaders who have committed themselves to social justice and economic security for all.

This past summer we were pleased to announce the inaugural Betta Ehrenfeld Public Policy Forum.  It is to be an annual event hosted by the Center to highlight the principles that guided the life and work of Frances Perkins and to apply those principles to today’s economic and social problems.  The event is named in honor of Betta Ehrenfeld, whose generosity has enabled the Center to grow and thrive in its formative years.

cheneyThe Frances Perkins Center is pleased to announce the appointment of Michael P. Chaney as its Executive Director, effective April 1, 2014. A native of Alna, Maine, Chaney earned a B.A. in History from the University of Maine in 1979 and an M.A. in History, with a Certificate in Public History and Archival Management, from the University of Connecticut in 1985.   Chaney brings to the Frances Perkins Center many years of experience in non-profit management and public history in Vermont and New Hampshire.  Early in his career, Chaney served as an archivist at the University of Vermont Library where his responsibilities included organizing the papers of the late Senator George Aiken.  He has also served as Associate Director of the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Chief Operating Officer of the New Hampshire Historical Society, and, from 2001 to 2009, President and CEO of the New Hampshire Political Library, a non-profit educational organization founded to preserve New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary.  In 2004, he helped merge the Political Library with the Pierce Brigade in operating and interpreting the Concord, New Hampshire, home and career of President Franklin Pierce.  He is the author of several publications, including White Pine on the Saco River: An Oral History of River Driving in Southern Maine, and did fieldwork photography in a publication dealing with Herb Ellis and Rangeley Boat Building, The Rangeley and Its Region: The Famous Boat and Lakes of Western Maine.  Since returning to Maine in 2010, Chaney has been the Executive Director of the Yarmouth Historical Society in Yarmouth.  He lives in Alna with his wife, Laura Cooper Chaney.

Dear Friends and Supporters,  Frances Perkins was born Fannie Coralie Perkins in Boston in 1880, but her roots were firmly at the family farm here in Newcastle, Maine.  Through stories passed down through her great-grandmother Thankful Otis, Fanny (as she was known to the family) was raised with a deep appreciation of history and pride in her patriot ancestry.  She came of age understanding her New England heritage and adopting the Yankee values of her family: frugality, ingenuity, tenacity and self-reliance - as well as a belief that the new nation, only a century old at her birth, held opportunities for all who were willing to work for them.  As a student at Mount Holyoke College and in her first work in the settlement houses of Chicago, she realized that those opportunities were not readily available to all, and she dedicated herself to an ideal: that we as a nation have a responsibility to remedy economic inequities so that all citizens can reach their highest potential.
Shining a light on Frances Perkins' legacyFinally getting her due