Today the church remembers Frances Perkins, Public Servant and Prophetic Witness, 1965.Born in Boston in 1880 with roots in Maine, Frances Perkins studied at Mount Holyoke College and completed as master"s degree in economics and sociology at Columbia University. While working as a young woman in Chicago, she was drawn to the Episcopal Church and confirmed in 1905. At age thirty-one, while working for the Factory Investigation Commission in New York City, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist fire that resulted in the death of 146 primarily young women. Perkins often said later, “The New Deal was born on March 25, 1911.” That experience galvanized her career as an advocate for workers. At a time when few women enjoyed a professional career after marriage and children, Perkins was spurred on by the emergence of her husband"s mental illness and his inability to earn an income. In 1918, New York Governor Al Smith invited her serve in his administration and, with the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to governor in 1928, she was named Commissioner of Labor. When he was elected president in 1932, Roosevelt asked Perkins to serve as his Secretary of Labor, the first woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. Throughout her twelve years as Secretary she took a monthly retreat with the All Saints" Sisters of the Poor, with whom she was a lay associate. Roosevelt called her “the cornerstone of his administration” for her tireless work in establishing the Social Security Act of 1935 and other labor reforms of the New Deal. “I came to Washington to serve God, FDR, and millions of forgotten, plain, common workingmen,” she said. Her theology of generosity informed her professional life and, in turn, transformed the lives of millions of Americans. Perkins remained active in teaching, social justice advocacy, and in the mission of the Episcopal Church until her death in 1965. Loving and just God, help us to follow the example set by your faithful servant Frances Perkins to advocate tirelessly for justice and care for those in need, as Jesus taught us and in his Name. Amen.
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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.