Beatrice Fox Auerbach.
One of the most famous women in Connecticut history is Beatrice Fox Auerbach, who ran Hartford's premier department store, G. Fox and Company, from 1938 to 1965. Her grandfather, Gerson Fox, established his dry goods store in 1847, and his son Moses took over in 1880, building it into the largest family-owned retail store in the country. His daughter Beatrice married George Auerbach and moved to Salt Lake City, but in 1917 a devastating fire destroyed the Fox store and the Auerbachs returned to Hartford to help rebuild. George died ten years later, and Beatrice started assisting her father.
When Moses died in 1938, Beatrice became president. In addition to emphasizing quality customer service, she initiated innovative labor reforms, such as a five-day week, medical and nonprofit lunch facilities and interest-free loans. G. Fox was one of the first major stores to hire African-Americans for jobs with opportunities for advancement. Beatrice refused to attend meetings at the Hartford Club because it was not open to Jews, and when asked to contribute to Hartford Hospital, she said she would "when you have at least two Jewish interns." In its heyday, G. Fox & Co. had 3,000 to 4,000 employees and 147 trucks delivering more than two million packages a year.
Beatrice also was active in local organizations and philanthropies, setting up a foundation to support educational and civic activities and founding the Service Bureau for Women's Organizations, a clearinghouse for charitable and civic causes. In 1965, Beatrice sold her stock for $40 million to the May Department Stores Company. But downtown was losing its allure, and traffic was moving to suburban malls. In 1993, G. Fox & Co. closed its doors after 145 years. Beatrice Fox Auerbach died in 1968, but the sixth generation of her family is still involved in the local community.