Frances Perkins led a very long, very active, and very productive life as a social worker and workers’ rights advocate, and as the first woman ever appointed to a United States Federal Cabinet position. One episode just won’t cover it all, and, trust us, you need to hear it all!
Fannie Coralie Perkins was born on April, 10, 1880 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of two daughters of Frederick and Susan Perkins. In this episode we’ll take you first through her early life, mostly based in Worcester (it’s pronounce “wus-ter,” trust us) Massachusetts and at the Perkins family homestead in Newcastle, Maine, where her very wise and influential Grandma Cynthia lived.
Next we talk about her college years at Mount Holyoke College where she really had the ultimate college experience. Educated, driven, and brave, she went forth to a life as a social worker…only to be turned away. She wasn’t done learning yet!
We’ll take you through her teaching days in Chicago where her mind was blown by all the amazing work done at Chicago Commons and Hull House, two settlement houses, where she volunteered her time and cut her social working teeth. We’ll follow her to her first paid social work gigs in Philidelphia and New York City, her post-graduate education, her first experience in worker’s rights advocacy and up to the tragedy that not only changed her life, but laser focused her work.
We leave you as she has built her experience to know what she doesn’t know, know how to learn what she doesn’t know, and who to work with to turn her ideas for social change into law. She’s fueled and empowered to go ahead and build her vision of a better country, enacting reforms that affect each of us, even today.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
We referenced several former podcast subjects during this, but the two episodes that we would like to point you to right now are our coverage of Jane Addams, and The Bowery Boys episode and article about the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.
The rest of the links and media recommendations with be on the shownotes for Part Two of Frances’ story!
In honor of both Native American Heritage Month and American Thanksgiving, we are taking a look back at the life of this woman who did save lives, but not the one the (very popular animated) movie wants you to think. For the shownotes to this episode, please click on over to 2017 HERE For information and activities focused on Native American Heritage Month, here is a great one.
In October of 2022, 44 travelers (and a flock of Seagulls) set off to head back in time to autumnal New England. These are their stories (and mini-history lessons, heartwarming life moments, trivia, and societal observations)
The leaves were peaking in golds and reds; the air was crisp (or cold if you were from a warmer climate) when Boston and Newport opened their doors for us. From our intro dinner at America’s oldest tavern, Bell in Hand, to a sailboat cruise of Newport Harbor, to our final dinner together at Ristorante Fiore in Boston we gobbled up history with each step.
So much history! So many travel tales!
What follows is a (mostly) pictoral essay of our trip, all images relate to something in the episode.
First off, please know that this episode contains a very loud LITTLE EARS warning, so we do ask that adults preview it to decide if it’s appropriate for the kids in their life. Nell was a woman who grew up in poverty, learned how to charm people from a very young age, and found success in the culture in which she lived as an actress and a mistress to King Charles II of England. (There is a lot of sex and quotes have words in them that we don’t ordinarily use but it’s impossible to tell her story without these elements.)
Nell’s early history is a little fuzzy, she was most likely born on February 2, 1650, in Oxford, England. She was named Eleanor after her mother, but everyone called her “Nell.” She was definitely the second daughter of Eleanor Gwynn, and her father was Thomas Gwynn, perhaps a military man who fought for the King on the losing side of a war that ended with that king’s head…off, and his son and heir, Charles, on the run and in exile. There are a couple of theories as to who, exactly, this Thomas was but what really matters is that he was out of the picture, imprisoned, and dead when Nell was a tiny child.
Nell grew up in London, England, during a time of Puritanical rule but her community in the aptly named, Coal Yard Alley, was a seedy part of town where people didn’t care much for the “NO” laws. Nell’s school wasn’t academic- it was survival; it was street smarts and reading people. She was very good at her lessons.
King Charles II by John Michael Wright circa 1663
When she was 10, King Charles II came back into power, Hello, Restoration Era! She worked her way from selling oysters to selling oranges at the newly opened theaters, and after women were allowed on stage (thanks, King Charles!) she stepped into the life of an actress…a very popular actress. Very.
King Charles II, like everyone who saw her, was drawn to and mesmerized by Nell. Yes, he was married and very devoted to his wife, and yes he had many other mistresses in his lifetime. Nell possessed qualities that the other women in Charles’ life didn’t, as a diarist of the time (Samuel Pepys) described her she was, “pretty and witty.” She gave birth to two of Charles’ sons and, most importantly, was loyal to him and unapologetically herself, for the rest of her life.
Showing a little nipple was a visual indication that the woman was the mistress of a powerful man.
Don’t get us wrong, she was human and made some really poor Mean Girl decisions along the way. She had tragedy and loss and life setbacks. For the most part, though, she was happy and made others happy, too, with a big, good-natured, and playful personality.
Nell only outlived Charles by only two years and was survived by only one of her sons. She died on November 14, 1687, at the age of 37.
We took a tour via Google and lo! The modern-day location of the tavern/bawdy house where Nell’s Mom worked (and they lived..maybe, like we said, details are a bit fuzzy.) Sugar Sin, indeed.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
The big’un by Charles Beauclerk
by Bryan Beven
(The one that Beckett’s husband had given her for Christmas) by Eleanor Herman
by HRH Princess Michael of Kent
by Bee Wilson
by Ian Mortimer (this whole series is excellent)
To read the…colorful diary of Samuel Pepys (as well as other things related to the man) online: Diary of Samuel Pepys