Frances’ Perkins’ summer parish was St. Andrew’s Church. Though born in Boston in 1880, Frances Perkins was strongly connected to Newcastle throughout her life. From summers spent at the Brick House on River Road, built in 1837 as a wedding gift for her grandparents, to her final resting place next to her husband Paul Wilson in Glidden Cemetery, evidence abounds that she regarded Maine as her home.
Of her national significance, former New York Times and Time magazine journalist Adam Cohen says: “If American history textbooks accurately reflected the past, Frances Perkins would be recognized as one of the nation’s greatest heroes–as iconic as Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine.”
Why did Frances Perkins accept President Franklin Roosevelt’s invitation to serve as Secretary of Labor? “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen,” she said.
In response to how she lived out her vocation, the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church established May 13 as a feast day commemorating Frances Perkins as a Public Servant and Prophetic Witness. Her life and work are recognized in the public prayer of the Episcopal Church and her example of holiness serves as an effective model for others to follow.
“Based on ancient practice, the Episcopal Church process of thus adding a name to the calendar does not require evidence that the saint has performed a miracle. However, Social Security and other New Deal programs have touched so many lives in such gracious ways that I for one see Frances Perkins as a worker of wonders and a prophet calling society to justice and mercy.”–Charles Hoffacker, Frances and Faith, 2018.
On May 16, 2010, Frances’ summer parish, St. Andrew’s Newcastle, Maine held its first celebration of her feast day. Donn Mitchell, editor of the Anglican Examiner, spoke on “Frances Perkins: Heart and Soul of the New Deal,” exploring how the focus of her work was based on her faith and on the teachings of the Anglican tradition and its commitment to social justice.
Later that day, the Right Reverend Stephen T. Lane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, officiated and preached at Evensong. (Click here to access his message.) “By all your saints still striving,” a hymn sung at that service, included a new stanza about Frances Perkins written by the Revered Byron Stuhlman, a retired priest, who is a member of St. Andrew’s. An anthem based on Micah 6:8 commissioned in honor of Frances Perkins and composed by Richard Francis, a member of the congregation, was premiered by the parish choir.
Newcastle is also the home of the Frances Perkins Center. For more information about Frances Perkins and how the Center honors and advances her legacy, please visit francesperkinscenter.org.