July 7th marks the birthday of one of Hartford’s most remarkable leaders whose dedication to her company, her employees and the city are still felt today… Beatrice Fox Auerbach.
Beatrice was born in Hartford in 1887, the daughter of Theresa and Moses Fox. Her husband, George Auerbach, was also a department-store owner. People remember Beatrice as the chief executive of G. Fox & Co., which under her guidance grew to be the largest privately owned department store in America. She also was widely known as a progressive employer and a philanthropist. Even today, one of the largest donor-advised funds at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund.
But what few people know is that Beatrice loved to travel and her extensive experiences abroad provided her with a world vision that she brought back to Hartford. The Connecticut Historical Society houses the oral histories of more than 30 former G. Fox & Co employees. A number of them touch on Beatrice’s trips and how her observations of other cultures, business practices, and the hardships people faced in different parts of the globe greatly influenced the way she ran Fox’s.
Beatrice Auerbach made the compassionate decision to hire newly arrived immigrants who had suffered under World War II even when they didn’t speak English. She hired and promoted African Americans for meaningful jobs. And she was open towards people of different religions and ethnic groups who often faced discrimination during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Beatrice also loved sharing what she saw and learned abroad. Every time she went on a trip, she wrote long letters home that were published in the employee newsletter, The Go Getter. For many G. Fox employees, Beatrice not only provided them with stable jobs in a company that was widely admired, she also opened their eyes to life in Turkey, Liberia, Egypt, Russia, Greece Rhodesia, Africa, Israel, Ethiopia, Germany and the wide world far from Hartford.
To find out more about Beatrice, her life and career, go to http://www.chs.org/finding_aides/fox/welcome.html