“Frances Perkins: Fire and Ice”

Cj Posk, Mick Caouette, Ann Marie Shea

Last spring, WWHP President Ann Marie Shea and members Mary Oroszko, CJ Posk, and Fran Langille traveled to Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA to view recently discovered rare footage of Frances Perkins and hear film maker Mick Caouette discuss plans for an APT/PBS documentary in process with the working title “Frances Perkins: Fire and Ice.” 

Mt. Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella introduced Mr. Caouette and his exciting project, which has gained support from Mt. Holyoke in recognition of the college’s outstanding alumna who graduated in 1902 and went on to become the first woman Secretary of Labor (1933-1945) under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of course, the documentary is of interest to WWHP as well since Frances Perkins grew up in Worcester and graduated from Classical High School before attending Mt. Holyoke. This was a wonderful opportunity to hear of Mr. Caouette’s progress and to meet Tomlin Coggeshall, Ms. Perkins’ grandson (for those who had not met him when he participated in the WWHP event honoring her in May, 2015). Mr. Christopher Breiseth was also introduced and spoke of his first-hand experiences with Ms. Perkins. He was a student at Cornell University in 1960 and President of Telluride House when he invited her to live at Telluride while she was teaching at Cornell’s School Industrial and Labor Relations. He shared some interesting and humorous personal stories of times he shared with this special woman. 

Frances Perkins championed several causes that improved the welfare of the American people, including the New Deal, which reduced work week hours, introduced minimum wage and unemployment insurance, and initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps. This documentary is intended to “provide historical context for the de-bate over the myriad of labor and social welfare issues that are pervasive in our contemporary conversation,” according to Caouette’s website. The film will combine Perkins’ own voice with that of her biographers and those who knew her or knew of her, including Senator Nancy Pelosi, Journalist David Brooks, Lawrence O’ Donnell of MSNBC and Senator George Mitchell of Maine. 

According to the Mt. Holyoke website, Mr. Caouette also stated that “the film also is intended to shed light on pertinent contemporary issues such as the Affordable Care Act, workplace fire safety rules, unemployment insurance, and Federal Employee Compensation legislation, all of which stem from policies that Perkins fought for.” 

More information about “Frances Perkins: Fire and Ice” is available at: http://www.southhillfilms.com/frances-perkins-fire-and-ice/ 

This event was part of the fundraising campaign to raise funds to complete the film, finish editing, and to conduct several more interviews, including activist, Gloria Steinem. 

If you are interested in funding the film, you will find more information at: http://www.southhillfilms.com.customers.tigertech.net/support/

Caouette has created other notable documentaries, including films on Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Published Date: 
September 18, 2016