Last week's inauguration of Kamala Harris as the Vice President of the United States burst many barriers for the women of our country.
If we look back to 1952, another local woman, Mary McGhan Perkins, also burst several barriers in her own right. Mary and her husband, Walter, lived in the village of Cayuga with their children, Richard, Jean, Karen and Lynne. As the owner of Jenkins Laboratories in Auburn, Mr. Perkins was well known in many business and civic circles. In business since the 1920's, Jenkins Pharmaceuticals was a reputable and respected name in its industry never having been cited for misrepresentation of its products. The firm marketed or manufactured over 175 different pharmaceutical formulations with a full line of tablets, liquids, ointments, capsules and injectables.
Sadly, at the pinnacle of his business career, Mr. Perkins died at the young age of 48 leaving his family to cope and continue not only without his life but the business which he had managed as president since 1935. Undaunted by becoming a young widow with four children, Mary became the president of Jenkins Labs and continued in this role until the sale of the business in 1962. During her tenure, the business continued its many achievements developing a culture of team work and success.
This would not be the only first for Mary Perkins. In 1956, she was the first woman to be elected as a village trustee in Cayuga County garnering the most votes of all candidates. This was a remarkable accomplishment for the time, especially when you consider that she was the president of a major business, a single mother with four children and a respected actively contributing member of many civic and community organizations.
In this week of firsts, we pay tribute to Mary Perkins, another hidden hero no longer hidden!