Frances Perkins: Who’s that?


  • A potrayal of Frances Perkins. CONTRIBUTED/JARICE HANSON

Published: 9/22/2022 9:12:29 PM

Rarely does one get a chance to see a great historical figure up close and personal. On Wednesday, Sept. 28, you could have a chance to do the next best thing as educator and actress Jarice Hanson brings her to life in a dramatic monologue, Frances Perkins: A Woman’s Work. The program, the first of six presentations by Greenfield Community College’s Senior Symposia this fall, will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the John Zon Community Center in Greenfield. Registration with a $10 fee is available only on line at Attendance is limited to 60 people. 

You may not have heard of Frances Perkins but, whoever you are, it’s a sure thing that she has touched your life. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, she became a social worker dedicated to improving the lives of the working class, including the challenges faced by immigrants. She went on to become the first woman Cabinet Secretary and the longest serving Secretary of Labor. In that role she played a key role under FDR in establishing the 40-hour work week, child labor laws, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, work place safety, an extended immigration policy and, most importantly, Social Security. JFK, at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Department of Labor, said, “… Madam Perkins … who looked so quiet and peaceful and sweet … was also one of the most controversial, dangerous figures that roamed the United States in the 1930s.” Following the presentation, first “Frances Perkins” and then her portrayer will answer questions from the audience.

Future Symposium programs include Valerie Abramson speaking on the role of “Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Women in the Roman Empire on Thursday, Oct 13, from 2 to 4 p.m.; “Top Hat: A Classic Movie and a Conversation VI,” a screening of the film featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, with a discussion led by Carolyn Anderson on Wednesday, Oct. 19 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. (Note extended time), at the Garden Cinema; the Greenfield Recorder photographer Paul Franz’s “Capturing Nature,” images of natural beauty and wildlife from the Quabbin to the Berkshires on Tuesday, Nov. 1 at the Garden Cinema,; Ray LaRaja asks “What Happened on November 8 and What Does It Mean to Us?” on Tuesday, Nov. 15 and finally, on December 1, Daniel Bullen corrects the record on the protests known as “Shay’s Rebellion” when he discusses “Honorable Rebellion.” The last three programs are all scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. 

All programs are at the John Zon Community Center unless otherwise noted. Registration for any or all of these events is available only on-line at

Helen von Schmidt



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