Frances Perkin's Ancestry (April 1998)


Query From Juileanne Phillips phillipj@erinet.com 23 April 1998

Dear List Members,
I am researching an encyclopedia article on Frances Perkins and have found conflicting sources on her heritage. after researching on this point, I can see why this why this became a controversy for Perkins. First, Perkins claimed she was born in Boston on April 10, 1882. There is no record of her birth on that day in Boston. (Perkins caused the confusion herself by giving the wrong birth year. She later said she was born in 1880. However, the only proof of this was her own testimony and that of her sister.) Her husband's name was given as Paul Wilson and the only Paul Wilson that married in Newton, Mass in 1910 ( when and where she said she was married) was Mildred Watski. (she also later said this was an innacurate date.) Perkins said there were no Jews in her ancestry.

I see why there is suspicion around this incident because of the half-truths and the question of: what was Perkins trying to hide by giving innacurate information? Conclusion: Is there actual proof (birth and marriage certificates verifying her New England heritage)? The accounts I read used Perkins herself and her sister as sources for this information. Thanks.

Responses from Theresa McBride tmcbride@holycross.edu and Lisa Connelly Cook lcc11@aol.com 23 April 1998

Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor under FDR, is claimed as a native daughter by Worcester, Massachusetts. A branch of the city's public library is named for her. Call or write the Worcester Historical Museum for sources of information on Perkins: 30 Elm Street, Worcester, MA 01608; 508-753-8278.

Standard bios mention birthplace as Boston and note her graduation from Mount Holyoke.

[Ed. Note: Perkin's personal papers are housed at Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College; the Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library at Hyde Park, NY; and at Columbia University]