Nonprofit Seeks Personal Stories Celebrating Social Security

The Frances Perkins Center has received a grant from the National Academy of Social Insurance through funds provided by the Ford Foundation for the creation of a multimedia celebration of the 75th anniversary of Social Security. Part of the project includes a national competition for personal stories about the effect of this landmark federal program on the lives of Americans.

More than 51 million Americans today are recipients of Social Security, a program created during the Great Depression by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help people needing financial assistance. The program’s foremost champion was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins, a former social worker who had observed the distress of elderly people no longer able to work and the desperate poverty of orphaned children and families that lose a breadwinner.

The enactment of Social Security in 1935 ushered in, for the first time, the experience of the “Golden Years” for retirees, and today more than 90 percent of older Americans receive Social Security benefits. For more than a third of them, it is their sole source of income. Social Security is also a vital safety net for the disabled and for children who lose a parent or are orphaned.

The Frances Perkins Center will celebrate Social Security’s 75th anniversary year by highlighting the ways the program has been an essential anchor for economic security and stability for American families through the telling of personal stories. The best essays will be selected for posting on the Frances Perkins Center website and other social networking sites, and about 20 will be nominated for publication in “Celebrating Social Security — In Our Own Words!” The project will feature essays from today’s leading authorities on the program, including historians, policy experts, celebrities, elected officials, economists, and academics. “The personal stories from everyday people are what will bring the program to life for readers,” says the Center’s executive director, Barbara Burt. “The history is important, but the essays are what will make the collection compelling to read.”

Essays should be no longer than 400 words. Writers must include their name, address, telephone number and email address, and be willing to allow their work to be widely publicized. Online entries are preferred; go to Entries can also be sent by mail to: Social Security Essay Contest, Frances Perkins Center, PO Box 281, Newcastle, Maine 04553-0281.

Based at the historic Perkins family homestead in Newcastle, Maine, the Frances Perkins Center carries on Frances Perkins’s commitment to social justice and economic security and tells the story of her accomplishments as the first female Cabinet member, FDR’s secretary of labor for 12 years, and a principal author of the New Deal. Information about the Center can be found at Contact the Center at [email protected] or call 207-208-8955.


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