The Frances Perkins Center Presents ‘The New Deal for Artists’ In Damariscotta


“The Woman Behind the New Deal” by Kirstin Downey. The Paperback Edition costs $16.95, Anchor Books.  This is a Wonderfully Engaging Biography that is a “Must Read” for  Anyone Interested in the Origins of our Social Safety Network, an Inspiring Woman to Whom Workers are Indebted and Her Love for Maine.

Secretary Frances Perkins Depicted in the 11-Panel History of Labor in Maine That Former Governor Paul LePDage Removed From the Department of Labor During his Administration.

Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor in the FDR Administration from 1933 – 1945.

The Frances Perkins Center has partnered with the Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta to present the remastered film, “The New Deal for Artists” (1976) on Thursday, July 29 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm.  Sarah Peskin, chair of the Frances Perkins Center board, will present a post screening talk after both the matinee and evening screenings of the film.

With the failure of President Hoover’s policies at the end of 1929, marked by the stock market crash on October 24, 1929, and the ensuing Great Depression, the decade that began with the dream of endless progress and prosperity came to an end with millions unemployed.  American industrial workers who had lost their jobs lined up in the streets for a bowl of soup and hunk of bread.  Depression, new technology and foreclosure by the banks drove more than half the American farmers to bankruptcy.  By 1932 something had to change and the newly elected President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) created the New Deal to put America back to work.  The Works Project Administration (WPA) and Farm Security Administration (FSA) were formed to carry out this plan.

Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under FDR, established programs to hire visual artists to embelish federal buildings under construction.  She did this at the very start of the FDR Administration.  Eventually, some 10,000 artists were employed by the various New Deal Arts programs, not to mention the thousands of writers, directors, actors and others who were employed in their fields during the tenure of FDR from 1933-1945 and who are shown in the film.

Narrated by the iconic Orson Welles, “The New Deal for Artists” features a who’s who of 20th century luminaries including Studs Terkel, John Houseman, Arthur Rothstein, Howard Da Silva, James Brooks Nelson Algren and more.

Sarah Peskin will speak following each performance.  Admission is general seating and tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door, concessions will be available and masks are optional.  Running Time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.  For tickets and more information, visit

Frances Perkins (1880-1965), the first women to serve in a US Presidential cabinet, was Secretary of Labor (1933 – 1945) for the entire tenure of FDR.  Perkins was the driving force behind many of the groundbreaking New Deal programs that are still the foundation of the American social safety net:  social security, unemployment insurance, the 40 hour work week and the minimum wage.

Born in Boston, educated in the public schools of Worcester, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she spent summers throughout her life at her ancestral family homestead in Newcastle, Maine, now a National Historical Landmark owned by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Frances Perkins Center.  The grandson of Frances Perkins, Tomlin Coggeshall, was the force behind the creation of the Frances Perkins Center.

The Homestead is currently undergoing a major restoration project and will open to the public in 2022.  To learn more about the Frances Perkins Center, call 207 – 563-3374 or visit or

For more background information on Frances Perkins and her Maine connection, please visit these posts herein:  September 9, 2020, October 30, 2018 and August 13, 2017. A post herein dated March 25, 2011 describes former Governor Paul LePage’s intention to remove an 11 panel mural that depicts the history of labor in Maine from the Department of Labor. One of those panels features Secretary Frances Perkins.  (See above left photo.)