Although she majored in both chemistry and physics, Perkins was always fascinated by her economics electives and began developing the necessary tools that she later would need as Secretary of Labor.
Her mother, Susan E. Bean, came from Bethel, and her father Frederick Perkins, was born and raised in Newcastle, on land along the Damariscotta River his ancestors first settled in the s. After the Civil War, economic times became more difficult in rural Maine, and the brickyard began to falter.
Frederick and his younger brother moved to Massachusetts for better prospects, while the oldest son remained in Newcastle to manage the farm. InFrederick Perkins moved his young family from Boston to Worcester, where he opened a paper goods business — a business that remains successful to this day.
He maintained close ties to Newcastle, however, and Fanny, as she was known to the family, spent her childhood summers with her grandmother on the farm in Newcastle.
Frequently in winters, her grandmother and uncle would stay with the Perkins family in Worcester. It was at the Brick House, built in as a wedding gift for her grandparents, that Fanny heard stories about the French and Indian War, when the Perkins family maintained a garrison by the river to shelter the community in case of trouble.
Because Howard had lost his right arm in the war, Fanny was enlisted as his secretary. Thus, Fanny 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 that were the core of that heritage — 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 sought and were willing to work for them.
Her life would take her far beyond the humble Maine farm, but it is there that she returned year after year for rest and renewal. Fanny and her sister Ethel, four years her junior, were restricted largely to the people and events within their house and the nearby Plymouth Congregational Church.
It was only when Fanny entered school that she encountered poverty.
When she asked her parents why nice people could be poor, they gave her the accepted answers of the day: Frederick Perkins read to the family in Greek and gave Fanny lessons in Greek grammar when she was only eight. He also taught her to read at an early age and encouraged her interest in classical literature.
Although it was unusual for young women to attend college at that time, it was always assumed that Fanny would do so. Its founder, Mary Lyon, believed that women should be educated, but with education came responsibility.
This sense of purpose clearly foretold the remarkable career that Fanny Perkins would eventually pursue. Fanny majored in physics, with minors in chemistry and biology.
She was a popular student, became class president her senior year and permanent class president upon graduation. It was in her final semester, however, that she took a course in American economic history that would have the most profound impact on her life.
Taught by historian Annah May Soule, the course concerned the growth of industrialism in England and America. Professor Soule required her students to visit the mills along the Connecticut River in neighboring Holyoke to observe working conditions there. There were absolutely no effective laws that regulated the number of hours they were permitted to work.
There were no provisions which guarded their health nor adequately looked after their compensation in case of injury. Those things seemed very wrong. I was young and was inspired with the idea of reforming, or at east doing what I could, to help change those abuses.Aug 21, · Frances Perkins () achieved historic gains as U.S.
secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After graduating from Mount . It looks like you've lost connection to our server.
Please check your internet connection or reload this page. Frances Perkins () achieved historic gains as U.S. secretary of labor under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After graduating from Mount Holyoke College, she was a teacher before becoming.
Frances Perkins. In , SSA staff wrote a brief biography of Frances Perkins, along with a selection of quotation from her career. Social Security Commissioner Stanford G.
Ross sent a copy of this bio to Department of Health, Education and Welfare Patricia Harris on 10/25/79, because she had expressed an interest in the life of Miss Perkins. Frances Perkins was secretary of labor for the 12 years of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency and the first woman to hold a Cabinet post.
She brought to her office a deep commitment to improving the lives of workers and creating a legitimate role for labor unions in American society, succeeding.
In , Frances Perkins accepted a position as general secretary of the Philadelphia Research and Protective Association, a new organization whose goal was to thwart the diversion of newly arrived immigrant girls, including black women from the South, into prostitution.