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South Hill Films and Arcola Mills Presents:
SUMMONED: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare
Producer Mick Caouette will be in attendance to introduce the film and take questions in an exclusive viewing opportunity before the film is broadcast nationwide!
SUMMONED: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare is a one-hour film biography of FDR Labor Secretary Perkins, who was the longest serving Labor Secretary in U.S. history. Ms Perkins was born in Boston and raised in Worcester Massachusetts, but she spent much of her childhood at the family home on the Damariscotta River in Newcastle, Maine. Throughout her life she returned often to this quiet and contemplative retreat.
The film will explore her dramatic life through the diverse voices of those who knew her, as well as those who know most about her. Interviews began in the spring of 2012, and continued in a number of cities, including Boston, New York, and Washington. Research was conducted at Columbia University, The Frances Perkins Center, The National Archive and various archives throughout the country.
Producer Mick Caouette
Mr. Caouette is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who began his career in 1996, as an Associate Producer for two Court TV films, The Scottsboro Boys and The Capture and Trial of Adolph Eichmann. He later produced Restore America with Bob Villa on HGTV.
Since 1999, Mick has produced four independent films, including Hubert H Humphrey: The Art of the Possible and Mr Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP – both of which are currently appearing nationally on PBS.
Mick’s current film, a biography of Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, entitled Summoned: Frances Perkins and the General Welfare, is scheduled to be released to public television stations nationwide on March 5th 2020.
At a difficult period, when the social contract had become frayed and Americans had lost all faith in the viability of their government, Frances Perkins and the New Deal overcame political and cultural differences and galvanized the country to collective action. Her legacy could not be more relevant to the issues that surround us in contemporary times.
Who was this woman and how was she able to aspire to this position and navigate the old boy’s club of the 1930s and ’40s? Where did her ideas originate and how have they profoundly affected the last 60 or 70 years of American history? What do her ideas mean to us now, in the light of our recent recession and labor struggles? These are a few of the questions that immediately come to mind, but there are many more concerning our political system and the rules by which we govern ourselves. This film will attempt to answer the most important of these questions.
One of the main reasons that I want to tell this story is that I believe that the history has been lost in our current dialogue about unions, Social Security and the social net for American labor. It is easier to dismiss organized labor and worker’s rights when we fail to acknowledge how and why those rights needed to be advocated in the first place. I believe that by exploring the past events that led to current labor law, we provide a context for people that will enlighten their decisions going into the future. The story of this remarkable woman is obviously significant to women’s history in America and provides inspiration and context to any viewer interested in women’s rights and gender equality.
Ms. Perkins life cuts a wide swath through the Humanities. History, Sociology, race and gender, jurisprudence, philosophy, language, religion, ethics, and art are just a few of the themes that run through the Perkins story. While gender and history are more obvious, some of the other humanities are not. For instance, Ms. Perkin’s advocacy for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany crossed all cultural lines as she fought to adapt immigration rules and save lives. She advocated for anyone in need — regardless of age, sex, gender, race or nationality.
Her difficult marriage with her husband Paul, who spent most of his life institutionalized because of debilitating manic depression, forced her to deal with the psychology and treatment of his disease. That relationship continued through her entire life and combined with another difficult relationship with their daughter, she had little support at home. Her religion carried her through and she found spiritual strength during her darkest moments.
The programs of the New Deal widened her experience as she helped African-Americans and other minorities struggle through the Great Depression. She joined with others to advocate for the inclusion of artists, performers, musicians, and writers in the Works Progress Administration — an idea that President Roosevelt also strongly supported; out of that advocacy the Federal Art Project was born. It created jobs for more than 5,000 artists and more than 225,000 works of art, including murals in public places. These were scenes of local history and people in their day-to-day lives meant to honor the work of the nation — from factory to farm.
Frances Perkins envisioned a government whose role would have a positive sociological impact on people’s lives, and then through their extraordinary relationship she helped FDR overcome intractable political opposition to find consensus and bring people together to find collective and inclusive solutions.
From her early years as an activist for women and children’s rights through her settlement work and labor advocacy and through the creation of the New Deal, she never lost sight of those who needed help the most. Even in her later years, Ms. Perkins maintained a philosophy that remained alive and vital.