This blog has been silent for a little over six months, for that I apologize. My absence from this space can be attributed to writing my Master’s thesis, securing a new teaching assignment, and moving across the country, more on the latter in a soon to be written blog post.
Many readers of this space are aware that my Master’s thesis explored Frances Perkins struggle to reconcile her public image as lead American feminist in her role as Secretary of Labor with her personal aversion for the tenets of the feminist movement. As I ease back into this space and the routine of writing on a regular basis I realize the best place to begin is where I left off the last time I sat down to write.
Frances Perkins US Secretary of Labor 1933-1945
“The door might
not be opened to a woman again for a long, long time, and I had a kind of duty
to other women to walk in and sit down on the chair that was offered, and so
establish the right of others long hence and far distant in geography to sit in
the high seats.”
Frances Perkins
So here is the final paragraph of “Frances Perkins: The Unrealized Hope for Women’s Rights”
“The complexity of the views held and professed by Perkins makes it difficult to label her as the country’s leading feminist. She worked for suffrage but not fervently so, retained her maiden name but not for ideological reasons, and provided women with opportunities to work but neglected the work of the Women’s Bureau. She passed legislation to protect women in the workforce and opposed the Equal Rights Amendment because she subscribed to a notion of women as weaker than men. She advocated a woman’s right to work but perpetuated stereotypes of the traditional mother and wife. She valued merit over gender in hiring but abandoned her personal philosophy in the hiring of the Mount Holyoke president. Finally, she needed to be coached by fellow feminists to see how importance it was to women that she was appointed Secretary of Labor. These contradictions reveal that Perkins was a woman who was not internally driven to embody the feminist movement, but because of the nature of her professional career, it was impossible for her either to escape or embrace the women’s rights movement.”
As a new school year begins, I see real value in taking time to consider the degree in which our personal conception of self matches or contradicts public perception.
Featured image: http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/portraits/frances-perkins

 

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