Beatrice Fox Auerbach

Beatrice Fox Auerbach
"Don’t write about me as a businesswoman; call me a woman in business."
- Beatrice Fox Auerbach

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1887

Died: 1968

Inducted: 1994

Town: Hartford

When Beatrice Fox Auerbach took over the leadership and day-to-day operations of Connecticut’s leading department store in 1927, she fully expected her tenure to be temporary but, in her words, found herself “fascinated and stayed” at the helm until 1965. As president of G. Fox, Auerbach expanded the business ten-fold, instituted innovative sales practices and established pioneering labor reforms, including a five-day, 40-hour work week, retirement plans and other significant improvements for the company’s 3,000 employees.

Beatrice Fox was born in Hartford in 1887 to Theresa and Moses Fox. Both her grandfathers had established dry goods stores in the mid-19th century—one in Hartford that became G. Fox and Company. In 1911, Beatrice Fox married George Auerbach, whose family owned a department store in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Auerbachs lived in Salt Lake City until 1917, when Moses Fox persuaded them to return to Connecticut after a devastating fire destroyed the G. Fox in Hartford. A new, greatly expanded store, designed by architect Cass Gilbert, was built downtown and opened in 1918. When George Auerbach died in 1927, Beatrice became increasingly involved in the business, taking over as president when her father died in 1938.

As the president of G. Fox, Auerbach emphasized standards of excellence and quality customer service. Some of her forward-looking innovations included free delivery service, a toll-free telephone order department and fully automated billing. These advancements helped G. Fox to become one of New England’s largest and most successful department stores and the largest privately-held store in the country.

Beatrice Auerbach was also committed to her employees, and her tenure as president of G. Fox produced fair labor standards that resulted in workplace reforms for her staff. In addition to the five-day, 40-hour work week, Auerbach introduced medical and non-profit lunch facilities and interest-free loans for employees in the event of a crisis. G. Fox was one of the first major retail stores in the country to hire black men and women for positions that gave them opportunities for advancement. In 1947, she was honored with the Tobé award for “distinguished service” by retail leaders for her contributions to the industry.

In addition to her work in the business world, Auerbach was a renowned philanthropist contributing significantly to many of Hartford's cultural, educational and civic organizations. Through the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation, she continued to provide aid and support for educational and civic activities. In addition, she founded the Service Bureau for Women’s Organizations, a clearinghouse for charitable and civic causes.

She remained president of G. Fox until 1965, when she sold her privately-owned stock for $40 million to the May department stores. Upon selling the stock and realizing an enormous windfall, Auerbach stated, “One thing you can be certain of is that I won’t be spending it on yachts and horses, but for the benefit of the people.”

For her many contributions, Beatrice Fox Auerbach was recognized by numerous institutions including Trinity College, Connecticut College, Wesleyan University and the Connecticut Bar Association. She traveled extensively and remained active in various causes until her death in Hartford in 1968.

During This Time
1921 - 1945: Prosperity, Depression, & War