Remember The Triangle Fire Coalition

Triangle Fire Open Archive

Politics + Activism

The President of Mount Holyoke to the Governor of Maine

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Contributed by : Rose Imperato

Object # 1786

March 29, 2011

The President of Mount Holyoke College (where Frances Perkins – one of this country’s most important figures – went to school) wrote this letter to protest the governor of Maine’s decision to remove a mural that depicted Perkins & scenes from Maine labor history. Why is the “business community” frightened of this artwork? What is it about empowered workers that frightens them? What business practices are they ashamed of? Bravo to President Lynn Pasquerella for recognizing the work of Perkins and the role the Triangle Fire played in shaping her “lifelong commitment to the well-being of working men and women.”

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Below is the text of Pasquerella’s letter:

March 29, 2011

The Honorable Paul LePage
Office of the Governor
1 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0001

Dear Governor LePage:

I write with grave concerns regarding your decision to remove this past weekend a mural depicting scenes from Maine’s labor history, including a depiction of Frances Perkins, an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and one of the most important figures in American history. I am also concerned that you have ordered a conference room named for Perkins, who has longstanding ties to Maine, to be renamed.

In some ways, the timing for this decision could not have been worse. Friday, March 25, marked the 100th anniversary of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. This event strongly influenced Perkins’s lifelong commitment to the well-being of working men and women, as well as to working children in those days of rampant exploitation. But on an even larger scale, the Great Recession we are now struggling through–and which has hit Maine particularly hard–has numerous historical parallels with the Great Depression. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, the first woman presidential Cabinet member, figured prominently in leading us out of that cataclysm.

I was particularly surprised to read that you were influenced by an anonymous fax comparing the 11-panel mural to North Korean political propaganda, because the act of removing images commemorating Maine’s history itself conjures thoughts of the rewriting of history prevalent in totalitarian regimes. If the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. is housed in the Frances Perkins Building, why can’t she be honored with a conference room in Augusta?

Perkins sets an example to the political figures of today of how service to our nation’s working people must always be at the core of our national enterprise. She is also the perfect role model for girls and women seeking inspiration in a world that needs more women leaders.

On behalf of Perkins’s alma mater, including many alumnae who share my concerns about efforts to diminish the significance of one of our most distinguished sisters, I urge you to reverse course and to celebrate this heroic woman and the notable achievements of working men and women in the great state of Maine.

Sincerely yours,

Lynn Pasquerella
Mount Holyoke College

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