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.
Meet Penni Martorell FP’05, who found a lifelong community of friends when she began at Mount Holyoke as a Frances Perkins Scholar. An art history major, Penni’s education gave her the opportunity to work in libraries and museums, opening up doors to a profession with which she fell in love. She still calls the Pioneer Valley home and is grateful for the confidence that her time at Mount Holyoke instilled in her.
Meet Julie Ogg FP’22, who lives with her family in Belchertown, Massachusetts. An anthropology major, Julie has worked at Mount Holyoke for more than 15 years - first in the Alumnae Association and now in the Office of Advancement. She calls her experience as a Frances Perkins Scholar "transformative" and draws inspiration not just from her professors, but also from the strength and intellect of her fellow classmates. Through her coursework, she has discovered a passion for women's health and looks forward to completing her training as a certified doula this summer.
Meet Tatiana Staco FP'18, who came to Mount Holyoke from Brooklyn, New York. A psychology and speech pathology major, Tatiana uses her skills to support others as the chair of Hope of Haiti, a student organization that provides awareness of the Haitian culture to the Mount Holyoke and Pioneer Valley communities and provides support to a school in Pernier, Haiti. Tatiana has taken full advantage of her Mount Holyoke education as a Frances Perkins scholarship recipient. She was able to use Lynk funding to pursue an internship at the University of Toledo, Ohio working with patients with aphasia, a language disorder affecting people with brain damage. Inspired by this work, Tatiana created a self-designed major to pursue her passion in speech pathology. When she graduates in December, Tatiana looks to continue her studies and plans to earn a doctorate in speech pathology.
Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, and a call for gender parity in the world. International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century, beginning in 1908, where 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Then, on February 28, 1909, the first National Woman's Day was observed across the United States. (Coincidentally, February 28 is also Mary Lyon’s birthday, whose contributions to women’s education and empowerment are certainly well known!)
Frances Perkins found her purpose by asking not "what do I want from my own life?" but instead, "what does life want from me?"
Frances Perkins 1902 is one of Mount Holyoke's most celebrated alumnae. This month we're celebrating Frances Perkinsin honor of her 136th birthday anniversary April 10. As the first female Cabinet member in US history, and Roosevelt's trusted adviser, Frances Perkins was an inspirational trailblazer who dramatically changed the plight of laborers in America. The crowning achievements of her life and career are succinctly summed up by former Secretary of Labor, Willard Wirtz, who pays tribute to Frances in this statement: "Every man and woman who works at a living wage, under safe conditions, for reasonable hours, or who is protected by unemployment insurance or social security, is her debtor."
"Perkins was one of only two top aides to stay with Roosevelt for his entire term as president. She became one of the tireless champions of the New Deal. She was central to the creation of the Social Security system. She was a major force behind many of the New Deal jobs programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps,the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Works Administration.
About.com recently named Mount Holyoke among a few "women's colleges that have educated some of the finest minds."
What an incredible year it's been! Over 10,000 in the MHC community have joined our movement, strengthening the global impact of an MHC education. Throughout the year, we've celebrated those who are making change in their communities and beyond, sharing stories of the power of women (and one chicken) here on campus and around the world.
Earlier this year, Women On 20s campaigned for a woman to replace Jackson on the $20 bill, with MHC alum Frances Perkins as one of the nominees. The US Treasury recently announced that a woman will be put on a new $10 bill, set to be unveiled in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote.