Beatrice Fox Auerbach
1887 – 1968
People who shopped or worked at G. Fox and Company in Hartford, Connecticut, from the 1930s to the 1960s have fond memories of Beatrice Fox Auerbach and her department store. Many enjoyed the benefits of her merchandising innovations and progressive employment policies. Her customers enjoyed services such as personal shoppers, free home delivery, and toll-free telephone ordering long before these services were standard in other department stores. Because Auerbach believed in training programs and promotion from within, employees could achieve steady advancement and job security. Ahead of her time, Auerbach did not limit these opportunities to white workers. Beginning in 1942, G. Fox hired African Americans for sales and executive track positions. Auerbach was a talented executive, and G. Fox and Company became the largest privately owned department store in the country.
Born in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 7, 1887, Beatrice Fox Auerbach was the first of two daughters of Moses and Theresa (Stern) Fox. It was a merchandising family—Moses Fox was the son of Gerson Fox, founder of the Hartford emporium that bore his name. Although she attended several schools and traveled widely, Beatrice did not earn a degree from any school or college. In 1911, she married George Auerbach, whose family owned a department store in Salt Lake City. After her father’s store burned in 1917, the young couple returned to Hartford to help Moses Fox rebuild, and George Auerbach became secretary and treasurer of the expanded G. Fox store.
While raising two daughters (Georgette, b. 1916, and Dorothy, b. 1919), Auerbach remained interested in the business activities of her father and husband. After George Auerbach’s sudden death in 1927, she helped her now elderly father for what she thought would be a short time, but she enjoyed the work and proved to be a skillful merchandiser. Upon her father’s death in 1938, she became president of G. Fox and Company, and directed its operations until she sold it to the May Company in 1965.
Auerbach’s success in becoming a respected professional woman inspired her to help others attain success as well. She established and funded the Service Bureau for Women’s Organizations in 1945 to teach members of those groups how to conduct meetings, coordinate activities, and lobby effectively. She was also interested in helping other women enter her field with professional preparation. Between 1938 and 1959, she collaborated with the Connecticut College for Women (now Connecticut College) in a retailing program that used her store as the laboratory in which classroom theories were practiced.
For Auerbach, G. Fox and Company and Hartford were inextricably part of each other, and her philanthropic giving through the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation was generous and widespread, with gifts to many of the city’s cultural organizations, hospitals, and institutions of higher education. She was a member of Temple Beth Israel, founded by her grandfather, and on the board of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, continuing her family’s interest in Reform Judaism. She was widely honored for her executive abilities and philanthropy, and received several honorary degrees and many awards.
Beatrice Fox Auerbach died in Hartford on November 29, 1968. She was uninterested in personal publicity and agreed to interviews only if they related to her store or philanthropic activities. She would be pleased to learn that the service for which G. Fox and Company was famous is now the stuff of legend in Connecticut, and that residents of the Hartford area still mourn the store’s closing.
Case, Linda. “The Very Private Life of Beatrice Fox Auerbach.” Hartford Courant, Northeast Magazine section, May 4, 1986, 12–24; Dove, Roger. “Inside A Great Store: Hartford’s G. Fox & Co.” Hartford Courant, April 10–17, 1955; Koopman, Georgette [daughter of Beatrice Fox Auerbach]. Telephone interview with author, May 1996; “Leaders Extol Mrs. Auerbach.” Hartford Courant, December 1, 1968; “Mrs. Beatrice Fox Auerbach, 81, Retailer and Philanthropist, Dies.” NYTimes, December 1, 1968, 86:2; NAW modern; Silverman, Morris. Hartford Jews, 1659–1970 (1970); WWIAJ (1938); WWWIA 5, 8.