Author Topic: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August Book Club Online  (Read 57794 times)

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The Woman Behind the New Deal:
     The Life of Frances Perkins,
          FDR'S Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience

               by Kirstin  Downey


Links:
Kirstin Downey
Frances Perkins Center
Frances Perkins, Dept. of Labor
Jane Addams

PROPOSED NONFICTION BOOK DISCUSSION FOR AUGUST.

Publishers Weekly review:

"No individual-not even Eleanor Roosevelt-exerted more influence over the formulation of FDR's New Deal or did more to implement the programs than Frances Perkins (1880-1965). As former Washington Post staff writer Downey makes plain in this deeply researched biography, the first female Cabinet member was the primary shaper of such new concepts as unemployment insurance, the 40-hour work week and-last but not least-Social Security. At a time when the United States stands at the brink of another economic meltdown calling for sweeping federal interventions, Downey provides not only a superb rendering of history but also a large dose of inspiration drawn from Perkins's clearheaded, decisive work with FDR to solve urgent problems diligently and to succeed in the face of what seemed insurmountable odds.

The author: (who does a superb job, making dry material on politics, committees, policies, etc. very readable and interesting) KIRSTIN DOWNEY is a frequent contributor to The Washington Post, where she was a staff writer from 1988 to 2008, winning press association awards for her business and economic reporting.


______________________________

Discussion Leaders:   Ella and Harold

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2009, 03:54:58 PM »
FRANCES PERKINS.  How often have you heard the name in your lifetime, and in what context?

Perhaps reading about the depression years?  The Triangle Shirtwaist fire?  Child Labor laws.  Social Security.

Our author, Kirsten Downey, states that Perkins' name was whispered about over the years, mainly by older people; however, when she began working for the Washington Post in 1988 and writing a column called "On The Job" she became very interested in our subject and began a decade-long probe into Perkins' life.

This book is the result!  It is fascinating!  It is historical and yet appropriate today, as our government looks for ways to get the country's citizens out of the recession and into meaningful jobs.

You will like the book!!

JOIN IN OUR DISCUSSION BEGINNING AUGUST 1ST!  POST A REPLY!

HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2009, 11:08:39 AM »
This book will be a great discussion title.  It is both well researched and well written in an interesting manner.  It is an easy read.  Also more important it is timely since its subject, Frances Perkins led the federal reaction to the great 1930’s depression.  Her political and economic policies in response to the 1930’s crisis invites comparison with the well publicize Federal response of our current economic downturn today.  Our individual views of today’s hot issues and our comparison with the 1930’s approach should make an interesting debate.

Please accept this invitation to join this discussion.  Just post your intention here to join.  We will need at least 5 or 6 committed  participants to make this discussion and a dozen would be even better.

This will be an interesting return to book discussions for me.  I've been involved in some 20 previous discussions going  back to 1997.  Many were with Ella.  But its been near two years since the last one that was the biography of Arron Burr.  I look  forward to this one.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2009, 12:53:26 PM »
HELLO HAROLD!   HERE WE ARE ONLINE!  

ISSUING AN INVITATION TO ALL TO COME TO OUR BOOK DISCUSSION IN AUGUST.

When we get a quorum I will post a comment here:

http://francesperkinscenter.org/

There are a number of sites pertaining to Frances Perkins online and I understand there was a stamp issued in her honor.  I will look that up later.

She is a fascinating lady!

JOIN US






Annie

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2009, 05:16:07 PM »
Just checked this book out of our library and I will "pencil" it in for August but do remember that I am involved in "People of the Book" the first two weeks of August also.
"No distance of place or lapse of time can lessen the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other's worth." Robert Southey

mabel1015j

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2009, 12:49:20 PM »
Just marking my place...........see you in Aug.............jean

HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2009, 09:42:58 PM »
Thank you ADOANNIE and Mabel1015 for your interest and prompt response.  This should make an interesting discussion when it begins August 1st.  

kidsal

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2009, 03:45:50 AM »
Ordered the book.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2009, 09:58:28 AM »
Hello JEAN, ANN, AND KIDSAL!  Friends!  

We are glad to see you joining in.  This is a beginning, a good beginning!

You may be interested in the link provided above to the new Frances Perkins Homestead in Maine.  A quote from that site:

" Many of the New Deal programs and initiatives that Frances Perkins helped to launch and bring to fruition have been abandoned or have dissipated. Even social security, one of her biggest accomplishments, called by FDR "the cornerstone" of his administration, has been threatened. The ideas and accomplishments of Frances Perkins were vital to the nation's recovery from the Great Depression and they remain pertinent, instructive, and inspiring today.

Frances went back to her home many times for a rest from the hectic life of Washington and now her home will be a center that will provide:

"a place for students, scholars, and policy makers to research and write about subjects related to and inspired by Perkins's dedication to improving the lives of working men and women."

JOIN OUR DISCUSSION FOR A THOROUGH VIEW INTO FRANCES' CAREER, HER ACHIEVEMENTS AND HER PERSONAL LIFE.



Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2009, 10:11:37 AM »
One small note:  in 1946 Frances Perkins published a book entitled THE ROOSEVELT I KNEW and our author, Kirsten Downey, used the book for research purposes.  It is, probably, out of print; our library does not have a copy.  If any one knows of where a copy can be obtained, please send me an email.

Jonathan

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2009, 11:16:06 AM »
Count me in. I'd like to participate. Good to see you back, Harold. You and Ella have led so many good discussions.

HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2009, 02:48:37 PM »
Welcome kidsal and Jonathan.

Also I just discovered that Kristen Downey has a Web page,( http://www.kirstindowney.com ) with much interesting information about her career and the book.    It includes a Readers Guide with some15 comprehensive discussion  type questions raised by the book.  

We will contact her through this site to see if we can get her involved in the discussion.

PatH

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2009, 08:56:32 PM »
Ella, Abe Books has a lot of copies of "The Roosevelt I Knew".  You might want to check location and shipping time, as sometimes they come from weird places

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Frances+Perkins&sts=t&tn=the+Roosevelt+I+Knew&x=69&y=6

I'm almost certainly going to join the discussion, but am waiting until I get a chance to look at the book before committing.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2009, 11:01:00 AM »
JONATHAN, WELCOME!  So happy you are joining us as I know from past experiences you love history.

PAT, thank you so much.  I have ordered the book, fun to do.  An out of print book, I don't think I have ever owned one (although I probably have many in my book shelves that probably are so designated) and this is one I can use for our discussion of FDR.  He was her boss, the only one at times superior to her.  Amazing to think like that!  Your boss is the president of the United States!  And what a fellow he was!

I hope you join us.  The book is easy to read and will make an enjoyable discussion.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2009, 06:27:08 PM »

FDR signing the Social Security Act


THE BEGINNING OF THOSE MONTHLY SOCIAL SECURITY CHECKS MOST OF US (SOME OF US?) GET.  (note: Frances Perkins behind the presidenet)

JOIN US IN AUGUST FOR THE REAL STORY OF HOW IT ALL CAME ABOUT!

Jonathan

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2009, 01:47:22 PM »
That's an interesting photo, Ella. FDR has been momentarily distracted in his signing of the new Social Security ACT. Judging by the tilt of his head and his obviously cocked ears, one can almost hear him asking, what's that you said, Frances? My guess is that she has just replied to something said by her cabinet colleague on the president's left. Is that Harold Ickes? Who is the third person in black, on FDR's right? Wallace?

straudetwo

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2009, 03:02:33 PM »
The book is at our library. I plan to participate in the discussion.

HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2009, 10:10:58 AM »
Thank you for your interest straudetwo.  The signs are looking good for an interesting discussion by a diverse group.  There is still a lots of room for more.  All are welcome to join!

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2009, 11:35:34 AM »
Thanks, STRAUDE, for joining us and for your guess as to those in the FDR photo.  Good guess, I truly have no idea who they are; undoubtedly they are members of the cabinet or Congressmen.  But as you will note there is only one women, the most important member in that picture - Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor.  

Here are Google sites for Wallace and Ickes, what do you think?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_A._Wallace

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_L._Ickes




Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2009, 11:41:31 AM »
An interesting story from the book illustrating what one person can do!

"Physician Francis Townsend, who worked for the health department of Long Beach, California, looked out the window one day (around 1934) and saw three elderly women rummaging in a garbage can for food.  He bellowed with rage:  "I want all the neighbors to hear me!.  I want God almighty to hear me.  I'm going to shout till the whole country hears."

And so he did.  Townsend started a grassroots political movement, urging the federal government to provide seniors with $200 a month.  Townsend Clubs operating like old-style Baptist Revival meetings, spread everywhere."

EvelynMC

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #20 on: June 22, 2009, 03:04:56 PM »
Marking my spot.  I will participate in this discussion.

Evelyn

isak

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #21 on: June 22, 2009, 05:23:29 PM »
Please count me in.  I am a big fan of both Perkins and FDR - and I learned first hand
from my mother and grandmother what the Social Security Act meant to ordinary people
in the Midwest  who maybe had a little bit of security in their lives after the Dirty Thirties
and all that.
isak

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #22 on: June 22, 2009, 07:40:39 PM »
WELCOME EVELYN AND ISAK!

What a good group we will have in August to discuss the book.

In these days where government interference (bank regulations, health insurance, etec) is debated online and in the news, what would it have been like for FDR and his team to get a radical bill for Social Security through Congress?  Was it a big fight?  

bellamarie

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #23 on: June 24, 2009, 06:37:04 PM »
This sounds like a very interesting book for this particular time in our government.  I would love to join in August.
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

PatH

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #24 on: June 24, 2009, 07:25:15 PM »
Isak, when I see your screen name, I think of Isak Dinesen.  Any connection?  It's good to meet you here.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #25 on: June 25, 2009, 06:50:38 PM »
WELCOME BELLEMARIE!  

It is a good book and I'm looking forward to discussing this era in our history with all of you.  


EvelynMC

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #26 on: June 25, 2009, 10:09:03 PM »
Our library did not have the book, so I ordered it today from Amazon.  It promises to be good reading.  I told my daughter about it, and she wants to read it when I've finished.  So I am already going to be able to pass this book along.

bellamarie

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #27 on: June 26, 2009, 10:04:49 AM »
My husband loves it when I get into a book discussion, because I always share what's going on with him.  He is a huge History buff, I personally can't retain a single darn date to save me.  I am lucky I remember our kids birthdays.  My hubby is looking forward to this book discussion too.  

I bought my book off Amazon so I can highlight and make notes in it.  
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #28 on: June 26, 2009, 03:03:33 PM »
Welcome. Evelyn and Bellamarie.    I too ordered the book.  In my case it came from B&N.  As I read it I place many light pencil notes in the margin.  At the conclusion of the discussion I will spend an hour or so with a pink pearl eraser removing the notes.   Then I will pass it along probably by putting it in our Chandler Apartment library.

This discussion now has 7 or 8 committed participants and discussion of the book will begin August 1st.  Meanwhile the board will remain open for others to sign-up and for your casual comments relative to your preparations.   But let us avoid any posts relative to the actual discussion of the book.  That will begin August 1st.
 
Meanwhile ANYBODY ELSE OUT THERE IS WELCOME TO SIGN-UP

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #29 on: June 27, 2009, 03:02:29 PM »
If you do not have TIME magazine for this week (the July 6th issue), grab a copy if you can.  FDR and his New Deal is on the cover and a picture of Frances Perkins is inside with a number of excellent articles.  (save for our upcoming discussion)

serenesheila

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #30 on: June 29, 2009, 10:32:52 PM »
I plan to participate in this discussion, too.  I am looking forward to reading this book.

Sheila

PatH

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #31 on: June 29, 2009, 11:08:06 PM »
I'm glad I hadn't already bought my book, because I had the privilege of buying it tonight at a talk and book signing.  Downey is terrific!  She is vivacious and personable, and gives a talk that sucks you in and gets you hooked.  I think the book is going to do the same thing to me, so I'll have to exert my will to keep from starting it too soon.  She spent half the time on a prepared speech, and the rest on very full answers to the audience's questions, and I could have listened for a lot longer.

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #32 on: June 30, 2009, 11:30:17 AM »
SHEILA, SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU!

And a big THANK YOU TO PAT for going to hear a speech by our author, Kirstin Downey. 

It's difficult to put a good book aside isn't it Pat?  But do that because it is much more fun to read along with a group and discuss the book, the author, the era, the people in power at the time, their mistakes, their failures and triumphs.

Have we learned anything from history about the depression, how it can be avoided.  We'll try to understand, make a feeble effort.

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history" - Bernard Shaw


Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - Proposed - August
« Reply #33 on: July 01, 2009, 09:36:03 AM »
GREAT NEWS!        GREAT NEWS!        BREAKING NEWS!

I wish I had balloons or noisemakers or something to tell you the exciting news!
Our author, KIRSTEN DOWNEY, is going to be with us when we discuss her book.

We are so looking forward to her participation.  We will get more news about it all later, but for now isn't it just grand.

Fun for all to have an author, one who has worked for ten (10) years to bring this book to press and in our hands.

We congratulate her on her success and look forward to hearing from her.



bellamarie

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #34 on: July 01, 2009, 10:12:28 AM »
Wow!  Hooray for SeniorLearn.  I contacted Annie Barrows the author of the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and she was kind enough to answer some questions through our emails, during our discussion although she was not able to actually be with us.  I have some personal emails from her I will cherish.  Our group was so honored to have her input.

I just finished the group discussion of the book Night Villa, the author Carol Goodman actually came in and was a part of our discussion.  It was FABULOUS!!!  She was so very kind to give us so much insight into her book.  

And now....the author Kristen Downey will be joining us with this book.  I can't believe how SeniorLearn is growing.  
WOOOOO  WOOOOO lucky us!!!
“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?...Was ever anything so civil?”
__Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #35 on: July 01, 2009, 11:20:20 AM »
Our participation with authors associated with the Washington Post goes back a few years starting with Katharine Graham’s Pulitizer Prize autobiography A PERSONAL HISTORY which we discussed in 1998.  You may recall she was the owner of the Post after the death of her husband and her son is now the publisher.  It was a great book with such good participation.  You will find it here:

http://www.seniorlearn.org/bookclubs/archives/nonfiction/PersonalHistory.html

Two years later, in 2000,  we discussed Ben Bradlee’s book, A GOOD LIFE. Bradlee was the Executive Editor of the Post during the infamous Watergate scandals and it was a fascinating look into an era with which most of us are familiar.  The discussion is here:

http://www.seniorlearn.org/bookclubs/archives/nonfiction/GoodLife.html

And now another association with the Post as Kirstin was a staff writer from 1988 to 2008 winning press award for her reporting and today is a frequent contributor to said newspaper.

HOORAY FOR THE POST AND SENIORLEARN!




Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #36 on: July 08, 2009, 09:44:15 AM »
 "Of course I think biography aspires to be an art, just as the novel does.  It is a piece of imaginative storytelling, as well as an historical investigation. It celebrates the wonderful diversity of human nature, and its aim is enlightenment. But biography is also a vocation, a calling. The dead call to us out of the past, like owls calling out of the dark. They ask to be heard, remembered, understood."  -  Richard Holmes.   

Oh, I do like that and wholeheartedly agree!

Richard Holmes is one of the most accomplished biographers of our time. With the publication of Shelley: The Pursuit thirty-five years ago, he began an exploration of the Romantic era that has illuminated the rich literary legacy of that age.  I might add that the book has almost 900 pages and I have never heard of the fellow, who is English.

Has anyone read anything by him?

Jonathan

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #37 on: July 08, 2009, 05:17:44 PM »
Ella, where did you find that spine-tingling quote about the 'calling' a biographer should feel when she or he sets out to write a life? To hear it in an owl's call. How romantic.

Richard Holmes is among the very best. Really dedicated to the art of writing biography. And when the voices he's hearing are the literary greats of the past, how could he not acquire the art of telling their stories in an artful way. It must rub off, this listening.

I have four or five of his books in the house. I made his acquaintance after discussing Coleridge's  Rime of the Ancient Mariner on SeniorNet about eight or nine years ago. Holmes wrote a 2-volume bio of the brilliant, tortured life of Coleridge. The voice of Coleridge comes through clearly, or should one say darkly - as an owl's call. As a matter of fact, the subtitle of volume two is, Darker Reflections. Reading it is an experience of the romantic mind. It was recommended to me very highly by the guy in the bookshop, and I would like to pass that recommendation along to everyone else out there who is listening.

I also have the Shelley biography, still unread. Doesn't that subtitle, The Pursuit, soung inviting?


HaroldArnold

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #38 on: July 09, 2009, 06:10:32 PM »
Biographies have been very popular as the source of nonfiction discussions on the old Seniors net books boards.  My very first discussion in 1997 was "Undaunted Courage" by Stephen Ambrose that is a biography of Meriwether Lewis.  Others that I can remember right now were biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Ben Bradlee, and Aaron Burr.  Ella was involved in these.  I think there were more, perhaps Ella you might remember some others.


Ella Gibbons

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Re: Life of Frances Perkins,The ~ Kirstin Downey - August
« Reply #39 on: July 09, 2009, 06:44:25 PM »
Hi JONATHAN, I must get a book by Richard Holmes, I have missed something obviously.  Isn't that a good quote?  Investigating, listening, to those in the past, romantic isn't it?

There is a possibility that someone from the Frances Perkins Center (see link in the heading) may participate in our discussion in some manner.  The executive director was out of town but her assistant answered.  We'll have quite a good crowd to investigate and listen to Frances Perkins and her knowledge of the years of the depression, FDR and all his political friends, Eleanor, the social scene and her own tragic life.

At a time when our economic news is worsening, perhaps the past can give us ideas for how to survive the present.  

My State of Ohio is in financial trouble as are other states.  It is in our constitution that we must live within our budget so policies and departments are being threatened, libraries included.

Tighten the belt, pull in the stomach, keep the purse hidden.