Ruth Backes Papers
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> Scope and Contents of the Collection
Selected items available online:
Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. Notable New Yorkers: Frances Perkins.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Ruth Backes Papers consist of correspondence, writings, research material, publications, oral history material, and photographs. Most of the material in the collection dates from 1934-2001 and relates to Backes's research for a biography of Frances Perkins. Correspondence (1990-1996) includes letters that she exchanged with Perkins' grandson, Tomlin Coggeshall, and letters to and from Allan David Bloom, Maurice F. Neufeld, and others who knew Perkins. Other letters concern talks that she gave about Perkins. Writings (1990-2001) contain a personal journal that Backes kept during the course of her research as well as her book proposals and drafts, a bibliography of her sources, the texts of her talks about Perkins, and a chronology that she prepared of Perkins' life. Research Material (1864-1865, circa 1900-1997) concerns both Perkins' personal life and her professional activities, particularly her service as United States Secretary of Labor from 1933-1945. Most of this series consist of photocopies of original documents that are in the collections of Columbia University, the Library of Congress, Cornell University, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, and other repositories. These items include copies of correspondence, articles, speeches, and reports written by Perkins between circa 1926-1965 concerning topics such as unemployment insurance, labor laws, women and children in the workplace, and occupational and industrial diseases. Of particular note are copies of her annual reports as Secretary of Labor, 1933/34-1944/45, and her "Report to the President on Ten Years' Achievements in Labor and Social Improvements", 1943. Other documents in this series relate to Perkins' family, childhood, and education. Publications in the collection chiefly consist of books dating from 1934-1995 that Backes collected during her research. Most of these items concern Perkins, Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal, or labor-related issues. Oral History Material (1951-1955, 1989-1994) contains lists, notes, correspondence, excerpts, and typed transcripts relating to oral history interviews conducted by Backes. Allan David Bloom, Alice Hanson Cook, Trude W. Lash, Carol Riegelman Lubin, Maurice F. Neufeld, Peter A. Poole, Richard Strassberg, and Perkins' daughter, Susanna Coggeshall, were among the individuals whom Backes interviewed. This series also contains an incomplete copy of the typed transcript of the "Reminscences of Frances Perkins", based on oral history interviews conducted by Dean Albertson for the Columbia Oral History Research Office between 1951-1955. In addition, Backes's detailed notes concerning these interviews are part of this series. Rounding out the collection are photographs dating from 1990, 1992, and 1995 that were taken at "The Brick House", Perkins' former home in Newcastle, Maine. These photographs are of Backes, Tomlin Coggeshall, and the house and grounds.
The correspondence, writings, research material, and photographs are arranged chronologically. Publications are arranged alphabetically by author. Oral history interviews are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the person interviewed.