Anglican Notables – Frances Perkins – 14 May


[This is a series of biographical sketches of Anglican men and women whose lives have been exemplary in virtue and/or have made significant contributions to Anglicanism’s expression of the Gospel.  Written from the perspective of full communion with the See of St. Peter, including such papal statements as St. John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, this series will occasionally acknowledge differences between Anglicans and Catholics where they exist and will do so in a spirit of charity and respect.  However, the intent is to focus less on differences than on opportunities for mutual enrichment between the Anglican and Catholic traditions and on shared spiritual treasures that already unite us.]

Frances Perkins

Born 10 April 1880 (Damariscotta, Maine) – Died 14 May 1965 (New York, New York)

Associate of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor; First Woman Appointed to the U.S. Cabinet (Secretary of Labor).

[The following is adapted from a post on the Facebook page of the Guild of All Souls.]

Frances Perkins, the longest serving United States Secretary of Labor, was also an Anglo-Catholic and an associate of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Maryland.

Born 10 April 1880, Frances Coralie Perkins was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet.  After serving in various New York state labor and industrial offices and the National Consumers League, it was with the election to the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt that her goals for social justice were able to be taken to a national level when he appointed her Secretary of Labor.

From childhood at the beautiful St Andrew’s, Damariscotta, Maine, her family’s church and one of a long Anglo-Catholic tradition, she embraced Anglo-Catholicism fully and enthusiastically and attended, during her life, Grace & Holy Innocents’, Albany; S. Clement’s, Philadelphia; St James’, Capitol Hill, Washington; and for the longest period, Resurrection in New York. She was also an associate and close friend of the All Saints Sisters, in Catonsville, Maryland and made monthly retreats there during her years in Washington. The Reverend Mother Virginia of All Saints, who died in 2019 at 103, was one of her close friends and spiritual advisors.

Perkins was admitted to the Guild of All Souls in 1907 at S. Clement’s, Philadelphia, and became a life member in 1938. She had first joined the Church of the Resurrection, New York in 1925, and attended it regularly until she went to Washington in 1933. On her retirement from the Cabinet and her return to New York in 1945, she attended Sunday and weekday Masses at the Resurrection regularly.

Frances Perkins died on 14 May 1965, and was buried from the Church of the Resurrection a few days later at a Solemn Requiem Mass attended by a crowd which overflowed onto East 74th Street, including many government officials. Her old friend and parish priest, Bishop Chambers, now Bishop of Springfield, pontificated from the throne and officiated at the Absolution at the Catafalque. Several of the evening news correspondents covered the funeral for their television networks.

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