Student and Teacher Guide

Student and Teacher Guide


Listed below are some reading materials and websites for more information about Frances Perkins and the Frances Perkins Center.  They were selected especially for use by teachers and students — probably best for ages 10 and up.  Some of these publications are available for use or for sale at our administrative offices, 170A Main Street, Damariscotta, Maine, where you will find an exhibit about the life of Frances Perkins, secretary of labor from 1933-45 in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first woman cabinet member in U.S. history, and the driving force behind Social Security and other landmark achievements of the New Deal.  Ask us about borrowing the traveling version of the exhibit.

Our website contains useful information and online publications related to Frances Perkins and her legacy. Make sure to consult it and look especially under menus labeled Frances Perkins; Learning Resources; and The Center/Publications. Our website is also a good source for news and upcoming events, as well as for links to other organizations and libraries with related information.

Please note that the Frances Perkins Homestead National Landmark – also known as the Brick House — is open to the public only for scheduled events or by appointment.  For questions, contact us at: or call 207-563-3374. Our mailing address is:  Frances Perkins Center, PO Box 281, Newcastle, ME 04553.

Enjoy and share a Virtual Tour of the Homestead.


Books By or About Frances Perkins

Breiseth, Christopher and Kirstin Downey, editors.
A Promise to all Generations:  Stories & Essays about Social Security & Frances Perkins.
Newcastle, Maine: Frances Perkins Center, 2011.

Colman, Penny.
A Woman Unafraid:  The Achievements of Frances Perkins
New York: Athenaeum, 1993.

Downey, Kirstin.
The Woman Behind the New Deal:  The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience.  
New York: Random House, 2009.

Martin, George.
Madam Secretary: Frances Perkins.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

Pasachoff, Naomi.
Frances Perkins:  Champion of the New Deal. 
New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Perkins, Frances.
The Roosevelt I Knew
New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
A reprint in paperback of the 1946 edition with a new forward by Adam Cohen. 

Perkins, Frances.
People at Work. 
New York: John Day Co., 1934.

Severn, Bill.
Frances Perkins: A Member of the Cabinet.
New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1976.

Books About the New Deal Era

Cohen, Adam.
Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America
New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

National New Deal Preservation Association, Frances Perkins Center, Living New Deal (co-authors).
Women and the Spirit of the New Deal
Santa Fe: NNDPA, 2019.

Flynn, Kathryn A.
The New Deal:  A 75th Anniversary Celebration.
Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith, 2008.

Galbraith, John Kenneth.
The Great Crash 1929.
New York: Mariner2009.

Kennedy, David M.
Freedom From FearThe American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945.
New York, Oxford University Press, 1999.

Leuchtenburg, William E.
The FDR Years: On Roosevelt and His Legacy.
New York:  Columbia University Press, 1997.

Schlenker, Jon A.
In the Public Interest:  The Civilian Conservation Corps in Maine, A Pictorial History
Augusta: University of Maine at Augusta Press, 1988.


There are many websites with general information about Frances Perkins that can be found easily through web searches.  The sites listed here were chosen specifically for teachers and students who wish to gain a deeper understanding of Frances Perkins and the New Deal era.

This reader’s guide to Downey’s 2009 biography of Frances Perkins has fifteen thoughtful discussion questions suitable for readers of all ages. The site’s introduction states:  “Frances Perkins is no longer a household name, yet she was one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. As the first female cabinet secretary, she spearheaded the fight to improve the lives of America’s working people while juggling her own complex family responsibilities. Perkins’s ideas became the cornerstones of the most important social welfare and legislation in the nation’s history, including unemployment compensation, child labor laws, and the forty-hour work week.”

This website of the Social Security Administration has a biographical statement about Frances Perkins and audio clips and transcripts of some of her speeches.

This interactive curriculum teaches the fundamentals of social and political history through the events of the Great Depression using the stories of real people, real experiences, and real places of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

This website was developed by educators at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York.  It has curriculum guides and information about teacher workshops and onsite school programs.  See especially the curriculum guide titled “Our Plain Duty:  FDR and America’s Social Security.”

This online exhibit titled “Frances Perkins: The Woman Behind the New Deal” features correspondence, manuscripts, notes, drafts of speeches, photographs, and memorabilia from Columbia University’s extensive collection of Frances Perkins’ papers housed at the Rare Books and Manuscript Library.

This site contains an extensive oral history of Frances Perkins recorded from 1951-55 by Dean Albertson of Columbia University.  It includes full transcripts of the interviews as well as audio clips of selected segments.