Barbara Burt, executive director of the recently established Frances Perkins Center in Newcastle will discuss the center’s mission and activities at a meeting following the monthly business meeting of the Midcoast branch of the American Association of University Women on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m. in the community room of the Rockland Public Library. Co-sponsored by the library, the meeting is free and open to the public.

Frances Perkins, whose name is synonymous with the Social Security Act of 1935, was born in Newcastle at the family homestead, The Brick House. Now occupied by her grandson Tomlin Coggleshall, it is the location of the Frances Perkins Center.

A 1901 Mount Holyoke College graduate, Perkins attributed her lifelong involvement in labor and social welfare issues to the economics courses she took as a student which studied working conditions, especially for women and girls, in the silk and paper mills of the adjacent industrial city of Holyoke, Mass.

Her career began in New York state government where, as industrial commissioner under governors Al Smith and John D. Rockefeller, she was responsible for many progressive labor reforms. In 1933 she was appointed Secretary of Labor, the first woman to hold such a position, by president Franklin D. Roosevelt. She served in this position for 12 years and was instrumental not only in the passage of the 1935 Social Security Act, but for many other labor and social welfare reforms.

Burt became executive director of the Perkins Center in 2008, with the mission to promote the legacy of Frances Perkins through programs and events, and to develop the house as a cultural and research center, preserving Perkins’ archives and memorabilia.

Burt, a writer and social activist, with degrees from Boston University and Harvard, brings varied experience to her position. She has long been an advocate for responsive government and progressive politics. As a member of Common Cause she was director of national election reform programs. In 2007 she was the online communications director for Chellie Pingree’s successful congressional campaign.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is a national organization advocating equity and education for girls and women. Its Midcoast Maine branch, which welcomes new members, sponsors annual student scholarships.