A lawyer and the first woman to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar Association. The co-founder and director of the Culinary Institute of America.
Born as Frances Levenstein in New Haven, Connecticut. At 18, just after graduating high school, she enrolled in the New York University School of Law, where she met her husband Charles G. Roth. To pay for school, she worked at a settlement house, a law office, and her father’s shoe store in New Haven. At 21, she became the first woman to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar Association. Afterward, she worked for 12 years as an assistant prosecutor at the New Haven city court and became the first female prosecutor in the city. She also worked for the domestic relations department with abused women, wayward girls, and violent husbands. Witnessing thousands of family disputes, she decided to take action and wrote articles presenting practical ways to improve the court system and creating a domestic relations court.
At 41, she resigned from her job as a prosecutor to work in the Bureau of Child Welfare. There, she published two reports about juvenile delinquencies and created a form that simplifies the young offenders’ reporting of cases. It was later adapted in more than 160 cities. She then started to advise the juvenile court justices on improving its work methods and legislation interpretation. In 1939, she led 150 women to the Connecticut Senate chamber advocating for the passage of a juvenile court reform bill. When the bill passed two years later, she was assigned to supervise and organize the new juvenile court. During WW2, she was appointed secretary of the Social Protection Committee in the Connecticut War Council and founded an association of policewomen to deal with girls’ misconduct issues. She left the government at the age of 49 and began to work as a defense attorney, representing Connecticut in the American Arbitration Association.
Because of her reputation as a “Doer,” she was asked by the New Haven Restaurant Association to direct a new culinary school, which later evolved into what is known today as The Culinary Institute of America. The school offered an education program under the GI Bill, training veterans in the culinary arts. When the school opened on May 22, 1946, it had only sixteen students, and by the time she retired, 18 years later, the school had 300 students. Today the school is considered one of the premier culinary colleges in the world. Upon her retirement from the school management, at the age of 68, she was appointed as a consulted for the Office of Economic Opportunity. She passed away seven years later, at the age of 75.
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- She was of Jewish descent.
- She had two daughters.
- When her youngest daughter, Norma, passed the Bar Association, they became the first mother and daughter duo to pass the Connecticut Bar.
- She was an active member of New Haven’s City Women’s Republican Club.
- In 1932, she gave a speech at the American Bar Association’s criminal law section about the importance of psychiatric evaluation when examining offenders in courts, which later was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
- In 1944, she helped to found a sex-education program to decrease the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases.
- She was the first woman to be inducted to the Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs gastronomic society.
- The Roth Hall at the Culinary Institute of America is named in her honor.