Well okay. We’re jumping into the Elate Eight with a bang: Jonathan Myrick Daniels, one of the martyrs of the Civil Rights movement, and Frances Perkins, largely unsung hero of the labor movement. We couldn’t have warmed up with something more kinder and gentler, hunh? I voted for both of them in the last two rounds (Perkins against MLK no less…) and here they are.
To recap: Jonathan Daniels was a seminarian at the Episcopal Theological School (aka Episcopal Divinity School after it merged with the Philadelphia Divinity School in the ’70’s. Look up EDS on google and you mostly get stuff about Ross Perot’s old company now…). He had graduated from the Virginia Military Academy before heading off to seminary. He became aware of the struggles for Civil Rights and had initially intended to send a donation of money (how often we send a check somewhere for some cause which mostly makes us feel good about ourselves…) but attending Evening Prayer one night at ETS the words of the Magnificat — “‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek. He hath filled the hungry with good things…” came crashing into his very soul and he knew he had to do more than write a check. He went to Alabama where he paid the ultimate price by putting himself in front of a bullet meant for 16-year-old Ruby Sales.
Frances Perkins was, I’ve learned during the course of Lent Madness, “under-known” by many of us. In his introduction to the 2011 re-issue of Perkins’ book The Roosevelt I Knew,” Adam Cohen, former New York Times editorial writer, wrote the following: “If American history textbooks accurately reflected the past, Frances Perkins would be recognized as one of the nation’s greatest heroes – as iconic as Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine. Like Franklin, Perkins was a brilliant self-creation…. Like Paine, Perkins helped to start a revolution…. The New Deal was Perkins’ revolution, and it did nothing less than create modern America.” Perkins would have been famous simply by being the first woman cabinet member, but her legacy stems from her accomplishments. She was largely responsible for the U.S. adoption of social security, unemployment insurance, federal laws regulating child labor, and adoption of the federal minimum wage. The headquarters of the Department of Labor was named the Frances Perkins Building in 1980, her alma mater Mt. Holyoke has instituted the “Frances Perkins Program” for non-traditional students (those over 24), and her house at 2326 California Street, NW, Washington DC has been designated a US Historical Landmark. Never knew that, even having grown up in DC. You can bet I’ll make a point of visiting it when I’m in DC in May. Oh, and the Episcopal Church observes her feast day on May 13 (I bet she’d be surprised!). Jonathan Daniels’ is August 14.
So for whom shall I vote today? The young seminarian who paid the ultimate price or the first female cabinet member who designed so much for which FDR is remembered? Lent Madness offers no “both/and,” so sadly I must choose. And today I continue to choose Frances Perkins. I see part of Lent Madness’ mission as being to lift up the heretofore unsung who henceforward should be sung from the rooftops (I didn’t participate in last year’s LM but apparently Queen Emma of Hawaii hung in there til almost the bitter end). My new hero, as a direct result of Lent Madness, is Frances Perkins — Episcopalian, visionary, promoter of justice for all workers — and one whose voice so desperately needs to be recaptured and re-told in this time when the gap between the 2% and the rest of us continues to widen at an alarming rate.
To vote, go here. Lent Madness promises us tales of kitsch and candor (kandor?) during the Elate Eight round, so do pause to read the actual post before scrolling down to the voting box.