Today, April 10, marks the 139th birthday anniversary of Frances Perkins, class of 1902. Long before women's liberation was a part of our vocabulary, Frances was a trailblazer for generations of women who would follow her. As the first female Cabinet member in the nation's history, this remarkable woman tussled with politicians, industrial management and labor leaders in her capacity as Secretary of Labor, fighting for the rights of working people everywhere.
It is fitting that Mount Holyoke's program for nontraditional-age students is named in her honor. The Frances Perkins Program celebrates women over 25 who follow unconventional paths to the College in their pursuit of knowledge. These fierce, phenomenal, fabulous phoenixes carry on the legacy of Frances Perkins through their tenacious spirit, quest for knowledge and support of one another both as scholars and individuals.
Each year, around Frances Perkins’ birthday, the Frances Perkins Scholars Association (FPSA) hosts the FP Monologues, an event where past and current Frances Perkins scholars share stories of the journeys that brought them to campus. This performance serves as a pivotal moment of community building, when members of the campus community come together in support of each other — to listen and understand.
This year’s event was also part of Mount Holyoke’s BOOM! (Building on Our Momentum) Learning Conference. As the final event of the conference, the FP Monologues featured narratives from eleven FPs, who shared tales of early hardships in their lives that they later overcame. These emotional and moving stories were told to a packed Gamble auditorium, where students, faculty and community members gathered to listen.
The stories shared common themes: many monologues touched upon the feeling of belonging and how the FPs sometimes struggled to find their place on campus among a younger student body. They also shared a theme of love and community, with many scholars finding their homes and chosen families on the Mount Holyoke campus, describing the College as the first place where they felt accepted, free and valued. Through both humorous and somber moments, they shared their wisdom and life lessons to the enraptured audience, often eliciting cheers and standing ovations.
Today, as we remember Frances Perkins, we also celebrate the remarkable women that follow in her footsteps:
Are you an FP who would like to share your Purple Phoenix pride? Download, print and fill out this sign, take a selfie with it and post it to social media using the hashtag #MHCFPForever or send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.