Service Bureau for Women’s Organizations

Today, October 24th, is United Nations Day and when I think about the United Nations, I always think about Eleanor Roosevelt because she was chairperson of the UN’s Commission on Human Rights. However, instead of writing yet another entry about Eleanor Roosevelt’s connection to this collection of G. Fox materials, I thought I would discuss an important organization that she supported: the Service Bureau for Women’s Organizations.

In January of 1945, the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation sponsored a Woman’s Service Bureau in order to increase the effectiveness of women’s work through organized efforts. From the beginning, Beatrice Fox Auerbach was deeply involved in the organization. She was the first chairman of the advisory board for the Service Bureau and donated space on the eleventh floor of G. Fox & Co. for the Bureau’s director to use as her office. In fact, the Service Bureau was never far from Mrs. Auerbach’s mind. When traveling abroad, Mrs. Auerbach would speak with women in other countries about the Service Bureau and would often invite them to come speak at the organization’s meetings.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Mrs. Auerbach never took a vacation from promoting the Service Bureau while abroad was that her close friend and frequent traveling companion, Chase Going Woodhouse, was also a co-founder of the Service Bureau. Mrs. Woodhouse also served as the Bureau’s second director, a position she held from 1954 until 1981.

Under the adept leadership of Mrs. Woodhouse, the Service Bureau thrived as a clearing house for women’s organizations in Connecticut.  The agency also researched and developed program materials for use by those organizations.  The Service Bureau’s name was changed in 1970 to the Service Bureau for Connecticut Organizations to be more gender-inclusive.  In the library’s collection, we have two publications created by the Service Bureau as well as a number of their annual reports.

“My Holiday, 1949”

During each of her trips abroad, at least those taken in the latter part of her life, Mrs. Auerbach wrote detailed letters to her family to keep them informed about her activities. After each trip, these letters were typed and the pages bound to create books commemorating her experiences. The collection contains volumes from three vacations she spent traveling different parts of the world with her close friend and frequent traveling companion, Chase Going Woodhouse. The earliest travel journal has the format of a diary and details her visits to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Trans-Jordan, Israel, Old Jerusalem, Switzerland, and Germany during her vacation from August to October, 1949.

In an excerpt of one of her entries, Mrs. Auerbach writes about the differences that have occurred in the years since she had visited Istanbul as a child:

“We drove into town through the old Ottoman Empire walls down to the Pera Palace Hotel, as we were unable to be ‘put up’ at the Park, which is far more modern but very small and our dates of arrival having been changed, the rooms could not be held. The Pera Palace is the same old hotel that Mother, Dad, Fan and I stopped at years ago, long before I was married. It is very run-down. The owner, a wealthy man, fills about twenty-five of the two-hundred-fifty rooms and then does not take any more guests, but just says politely but firmly, ‘I am full.'”

The travel journal is full of descriptions of the places that she and Mrs. Woodhouse visit. Mrs. Auerbach has quite strong opinions about many of the people she meets, but especially about the political and economic climates in the countries she explores. To me, the significance of this travel log is in its representation of one woman’s view of post-World War II life. Mrs. Auerbach talks a lot about the destruction that occurred during the war as well as what has been rebuilt and what life is like for people after the war. She definitely has her own point of view and it certainly makes for an interesting read!