May 13: Frances Perkins, Public Servant and Prophetic Witness, 1965
May 13, 2011 22 Comments
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Frances Perkins was the ﬁrst woman to serve a President of the United States as a member of the cabinet.
Born in Boston in 1880 and educated at Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University, Perkins was passionate about the social problems occasioned by the continuing effects of industrialization and urbanization.
As a young adult she discovered the Episcopal Church and was conﬁrmed at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest, Illinois, on June 11, 1905, and was a faithful and active Episcopalian for the remainder of her life.
After moving to New York, she became an advocate for industrial safety and persistent voice for the reform of what she believed were unjust labor laws. This work got the attention of two of New York’s governor’s, Al Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt, in whose state administrations she took part.
President Roosevelt appointed her to a cabinet post as Secretary of Labor, a position she would hold for twelve years. As Secretary of Labor, Perkins would have a major role in shaping the “New Deal” legislation signed into law by President Roosevelt and which had great impact upon the nation as it emerged from the Great Depression of the early 1930’s.
During her years of public service, Frances Perkins depended upon her faith, her life of prayer, and the guidance of her church for the support she needed to assist the United States and its leadership to face the enormous problems of the time. During her time as Secretary of Labor, she would take time away from her duties on a monthly basis and make a retreat with the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor in nearby Catonsville, Maryland.
Following her public service she became a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell University. She remained active in teaching, social justice advocacy, and in the mission of the Episcopal Church until her death in 1965.
I. Loving God, whose Name is blest for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency: Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II. Loving God, we bless your Name for Frances Perkins, who lived out her belief that the special vocation of the laity is to conduct the secular affairs of society that all may be maintained in health and decency. Help us, following her example, to contend tirelessly for justice and for the protection of all in need, that we may be faithful followers of Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Preface of Baptism
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?
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