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Frances Perkins Frances Perkins
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Introduction

Dean Albertson interviewed Frances Perkins for the Oral History Research Office between 1951 and 1955. Albertson served as an air officer in the navy during the Second World War, and then obtained a Ph.D. at Columbia, studying with Allan Nevins. He was the first of Nevins's four students appointed to the staff of the Columbia Oral History Research Office, conducting a large number of the early interviews and at one time spearheading an effort to establish a branch in Washington, D.C. After his tenure with the office, he taught at Brooklyn College and the University of Massachusetts. He was a student of the New Deal with an expertise in farm policy, a field in which he published widely.

The Perkins interview was one of the first undertaken by the Office. Under the editing protocols of that time, questions were deleted from the transcript and the text was edited for style, so one can only speculate about the interaction between Perkins and Albertson. The questions were eliminated because they were thought to be simple prompters for discussion; however, listening to the 120 minutes of the interview that were saved and carefully reading the transcript show that Perkins's responses were influenced by the questions asked. We now believe that the mere presence of an interviewer affects the structure and content of the interviews and that the questions reveals their influence on the answers. The table of contents for this interview was composed at the time the transcript was processed.

This interview is among the most widely used in the Collection, and because of its length and wealth of detail any serious student of the New Deal, New York state politics, or American reform movements in general, must consult the text. Perkins's vivid memory and direct contact with the major political figures during her time in office contribute to the richness of the interview.

Interview Excerpt
In 1919, Frances Perkins attended the funeral of her colleague on the New York State Industrial Commission, former United Mine Workers president John Mitchell. Listen to Perkins describe how Mitchell's hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, mourned his death.
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