Florence Gross

b. 1914

Florence (Wilinsky) Gross was born in Boston in 1914 and raised in Brookline.  She attended the Devotion School in Brookline and Girls’ Latin School for high school. After graduation, Florence attended Simmons School for Social work, realized it wasn’t a good fit, and transferred to Pembroke College, then Brown University’s women’s college.  She eventually went back to Simmons and graduated with a degree in social work.  Florence's first job was at the New Haven Grace Hospital, but she left there to work at the New England Medical Center near her future husband.  She and her first husband had two daughters, Joan and Nancy.  When Florence’s children were still young, her husband became sick and eventually died from cancer.  Florence was married to her second husband for nine years.  Then she met Alfred Gross, who also lost his spouse to cancer, and the pair was quickly married and remained together.

Scope and Content Note

Florence traces her family history and shares some early childhood memories.  When she was four years old, Florence’s mother passed away tragically, and the family moved to Brookline to be near her maternal grandmother.  Florence’s father was a physician who worked long hours and was not able to spend a lot of time with his children.  Within a year of his wife’s passing, her father remarried, this time to his sister-in-law (his wife’s sister).  She became a second mother for Florence and her two siblings.  Florence knew from a young age that she wanted to be a social worker, and immediately after high school began attending Simmons School for Social Work.  Florence explains that Simmons wasn’t the right fit, and she transferred to Pembroke College, then Brown University’s women’s college.  Florence explains that she went back to Simmons College and graduated with a degree in social work.  Florence traces her career path as a social worker and hospital volunteer; her first job was at the New Haven Grace Hospital.  Around this time, she became engaged to her first husband, and it was challenging to live in different cities, so Florence quit her job in New Haven and went to work at the New England Medical Center to be near her future husband.  Florence talks about married life and raising daughters.  She remembers when her first husband was diagnosed with cancer and talks about becoming a widow.  Some years later, she met her second husband and moved to Utica, New York with him.  After nine years of marriage, the relationship ended in divorce.  Eventually, Florence met Alfred Gross, to whom she is still married.  Florence helped raise his three teenaged sons.  Florence also explains how, from a very early age, she was very sensitive to the plight of those less fortunate than herself, something she credited to her father.  She religiously volunteered for several organizations throughout her life.  Additionally, Florence’s life was marked by the presence of some very strong and inspiring women.  She described her maternal grandmother as someone who, despite very little formal education, was very strong and intelligent and lived through the death of several of her children.  In addition, Florence’s sister, Harriet, rose to become a Vice President of Filene’s and was very much a career woman.  Florence also maintained a close connection to the medical field.  Her father and uncle were doctors, and she volunteered and worked in hospitals for much of her life. Florence has had a lifelong connection to Temple Israel; her aunt was very involved as the Treasurer of the Sisterhood, and Florence attended Sunday school and volunteered several days a week there.  Finally, Florence reflects on reconciling her religion with the deaths of her husband and mother and how Judaism played an essential part in her life.

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How to cite this page

Oral History of Florence Gross. Interviewed by Rachel Alexander. 11 July 1997. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 25, 2024) <http://jwa.org/oralhistories/gross-florence>.

Oral History of Florence Gross by the Jewish Women's Archive is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://jwa.org/contact/OralHistory.