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The First Spark - Blog 3

It all began on a summer's day in 2012. Our local newspaper, The Lincoln County News, ran a major article on the start of tours of the Frances Perkins homestead in Newcastle, Maine, sponsored by the 3 year old Frances Perkins Center. I grew incredulous as I read about Perkins and what she'd accomplished. Always a lover of history, I was flabbergasted that I knew nothing about this amazing woman who had lived much of her life not three miles from my Damariscotta home.

I went running to my husband and said "There's this really important woman in American history, and they're giving tours of her ancestral home in Newcastle!" We got our tickets immediately and had the tour the same week.

One example of my keen interest in history was my lifelong delight in visiting the homes of famous people, whether artists, writers or politicians. Among them were folks as far back as Anne Hathaway and as famous as Claude Monet, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson and Ernest Hemingway.

But what really blew me away is that I always thought (along with apparently the vast majority of Americans) that the credit for the New Deal went almost entirely to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When I was growing up, a few American woman were given very short paragraphs in my history books, among them Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony, and Jane Addams. But Frances Perkins was never mentioned. And yet, I learned she had been THE driving force behind the most important aspects of the New Deal--truly its chief architect. That had me fascinated, curious -- and angry!

What made the tour unique among all the homes of the famous I'd visited, and greatly impressed me, was that the host and tour guide was the direct descendant--in fact, the only grandchild--of the person he educated us on--and that he still lived in the house, the last of generations of Perkinses to do so.

I was captivated by the warmth, enthusiam, and pride in his grandmother I experienced that day in Tomlin Perkins Coggeshall; he fostered in me a deep awe of her. Little did I suspect that in the decade ahead he would become among my closest friends and that I'd be a guest in the beautiful historic "Brick House" many times!

All it took was the first visit to start me on my long journey with Frances, beginning by reading every biography of her I could get my hands on. It took time, but the spark had been lit that day which inspired me to research and write my first published book, a new, well illustrated biography of her, one brief and accessible enough to appeal to both teens and busy adults.

I found that in Frances's life I was able to identify numerous sparks which helped make her the dynamo she was. Those sources of igniting inspiration became a recurring theme in my biography. I can hardly wait to have it "out there" and get feedback from its readers.

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So exciting: I already have six engagements to present the Frances Perkins story in mid coast Maine and have accepted an invitation to d another in Boston in the late summer or early fall. It's downto


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