Rebecca Talbot Perkins was a highly successful businesswoman who found time during a career of more than fifty years to engage in many philanthropic interests.
At the age of twenty-four, following her father’s death from influenza, Perkins assumed leadership of the family’s real estate brokerage. This was at a time when few women were in business and even fewer were running their own enterprises.
Not long after Perkins established herself in business, she became extremely active in charitable and civic work. In 1893, she joined the Brooklyn Women’s Suffrage Society, a full quarter century before women gained the right to vote. For many years, she served as chair of the Alliance of Women’s Clubs of Brooklyn and served as president of the People’s Political League of Kings County. She was Vice President of the Memorial Hospital for Women and Children, and a director of the Welcome Home for Girls.
In 1921, Perkins was asked to find an adoptive family for an out-of-wedlock child. She placed an advertisement in a local paper seeking adoptive parents for the child. The many responses she received encouraged her to continue in this work. In 1927, a time when very few agencies existed to promote adoption, Perkins joined with the Alliance of Women’s Clubs of Brooklyn to create The Rebecca Talbot Perkins Adoption Society. Later know as Talbot Perkins Children’s Services, the organization provided foster care and adoption services to countless families across the country for seventy-five years. She served as the organization’s president from 1927-1949, and honorary president until her death in 1956.
Over several decades, Perkins fought for causes including better schools, improvements in the courts, increased pay for civil service workers and expanded social services for women and children.