A replica of the mural that was removed from the Maine Department of Labor office by former Gov. Paul LePage is now on display at the Museums of the Bethel Historical Society. MBHS

An exhibit on the life and career of Frances Perkins, who was Secretary of Labor under President Franklin Roosevelt, on display at the Bethel Historical Society. MBHS

BETHEL — A full-size replica of a mural made famous by its removal from the Maine Department of Labor office by former Gov. Paul LePage is now on display at the Bethel Historical Society’s Robinson House.

The now-famous Maine Labor History Mural by Judy Taylor will be on view through Oct. 18, according to a BHS press release. Several programs are planned in conjunction with the mural’s appearance in Bethel, including a film showing about the life and career of Frances Perkins (1880-1965), an American sociologist and workers-rights advocate who served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945 — the longest serving in that position, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. (Frances Perkins’ mother was a native of West Bethel.)

In March 2011, the original mural was removed from the lobby of the Maine Department of Labor at the order of then-Governor Paul LePage. The artist and the curator Nancy Nesvet produced life-size reproductions of the eleven panels of the mural for the traveling exhibit.

The mural replica will be on display in the Valentine Gallery at Robinson House, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the Robinson House is by donation. FMI: 207-824-2908

Life, legacy of Perkins 

A traveling Frances Perkins exhibit from the Frances Perkins Center in Damariscotta is also on display at BHS, according to the release. It presents highlights of Perkins’ life. As a loyal supporter of her friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition. She and Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes were the only original members of the Roosevelt cabinet to remain in office for his entire presidency.

During her term as Secretary of Labor, Perkins executed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor, the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With the Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard forty-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service. Perkins dealt with many labor questions during World War II, when skilled labor was vital and women were moving into formerly male jobs.

The Frances Perkins Center honors the legacy of Frances Perkins by sharing her commitment to the principle that government should provide all its people with the best possible life, and by preserving the place that shaped her character. The center convenes leaders and future leaders in public policy, labor and related fields to generate creative solutions to today’s social and economic problems and teaches students of all ages about a remarkable woman whose work continues to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. The Center is currently undertaking a major capital campaign to acquire Perkins’ beloved Newcastle home — the Frances Perkins Homestead National Historic Landmark.

There will also be a showing of a 30-minute documentary film on the life of Perkins, followed by a question & answer session with Frances Perkins Center Director Michael Chaney, on Oct. 10 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Bethel Historical Society.

 


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