Ruth Backes Papers
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Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. Notable New Yorkers: Frances Perkins.
Ruth Backes, a consultant, professor and psychologist, was born in Mount Vernon, New York on August 25, 1918 to Harriett Crofut Emerson and Robert Stewart Emerson. She graduated from New Rochelle High School (1935) and New York University (1939). She later earned a M.Ed. (1978) and Ed.D. (1985) from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Massachusetts. She married Frederick Tregonning Backes and had three children. Backes worked in the fields of mental health, human services and education, both as a volunteer and professional, all of her adult life. Her professional life included nine years with the Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A. and the United Service Organization (U.S.) (Baltimore, Maryland, New Haven, Connecticut, and Newfoundland, Canada); ten years with the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Yale University (Meriden and New Haven, Connecticut); and six years as a part-time faculty member at Antioch/New England Graduate School (Keene, New Hampshire). For more than twenty years she had a small private practice in Amherst, Massachusetts, assisting mid-life working women with family, self-esteem, and employment issues. This work triggered her interest in researching the life of Frances Perkins, United States Secretary of Labor in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a position in a presidential cabinet. Backes began her research concerning Perkins in 1991 and completed it in 2000. During that period, she was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College (1991-1993) and a Research Associate at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center at Mount Holyoke College (1993-1994). Backes served as a member and board member of many community and professional organizations and as a consultant to numerous hospitals, mental health centers and schools. She was a founding member of the National Committee for Mental Health Education. Her publications include many journal, magazine, and newspaper articles as well as a 1989 book about bookstores in Amherst, Massachusetts.