084: Sophomore Seminar

The Woman Behind the New Deal: Frances Perkins

Instructor: Margaret Conkey

Term: Spring 2019

Time: W 9:00 am - 9:59 am

Units: 1

Course Number: 25531

Sophomore seminars are small interactive courses offered by faculty members in departments all across the campus. Sophomore seminars offer opportunity for close, regular intellectual contact between faculty members and students in the crucial second year. The topics vary from department to department and semester to semester. Enrollment limited to 15 sophomores.

Course Description: 

Have you ever wondered how something like Social Security got started? Unemployment insurance? The minimum wage? What about workers' rights? How are laborers protected today? This seminar will focus on a recent book about Frances Perkins--the first woman in any presidential cabinet, she under FDR--and learn how she was able to create some of the most important--and still hotly debated-- rograms of social support in US history. In this election year, this "ethnography" of women, power and social change, especially in relation to American workers, will be an important insight into what needs to be done and how. Guest speakers will provide some insight into the progressive movement in New York City that spawned Perkins' motivations, and on other topics relevant to Perkins' life and work. Reading will be basically the paperback book (one chapter each week) by Kirsten Downey: "The Woman Behind the New Deal: FDR's Secretary of Labor and his Moral Conscience." Ideally, these would be students who are engaged today with the political process, with the upcoming election and its issues and with understanding the ways in which programs and policies for the "common good" are developed and implemented (or not).  

Faculty Bio: 

Professor Meg Conkey is an anthropologist and archaeologist who has long engaged with issues of the roles of women in history and prehistory. She has taught at Berkeley for 30+ years, and has held numerous positions in the discipline related to feminist  and gender anthropology and its practice. She has a "connection" of sorts with the subject of the seminar, as they both attended (decades apart!) the same undergraduate institution ( Mt Holyoke College) and share an attachment to a specific location in Maine, where Perkins had a family homestead. 

Faculty web site: http://anthropology.berkeley.edu/users/margaret-w-conkey