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Summoned: Frances Perkins And The General Welfare

Frances Perkins at work.

Maine Public TV Air Time:
Sat., October 10 at 2:00 pm

As Americans struggled during the Great Depression, the federal government had a few systems in place to help its citizens. In response to the economic crisis, despite many dissenting voices, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Frances Perkins to create a social safety net — establishing a system that continues to shape the lives of Americans today.

The first female cabinet member, Perkins served 12 years as U.S. Labor Secretary. She created unemployment compensation, a federal minimum wage, a 40 -hour work week and the Social Security program, while also ending the legal use of child labor. During a difficult period in American history, when the social contract had frayed and people had lost faith in their government, the programs and regulations put forth by Perkins and the New Deal bridged political and cultural differences and galvanized the country to collective action.

Through rare archival recordings and never-before-seen footage this film tells the story of Perkins' life through her own voice, from her early work in the settlement and suffragette movements to her influential relationship with Roosevelt and her role in developing the social work profession.

Interviews with journalists David Brooks and Lawrence O'Donnell, and Democratic lawmakers Nancy Pelosi, Amy Klobuchar and George Mitchell further explore Perkins' impact and legacy.

Produced by Mick Caouette of South Hill Films.