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Guide to the Dorothy Frooks Papers
1897-1984
 MS 3116

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 20, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Biographical / Historical

Dorothy Frooks was born in the late 1890s (the specific year varies by source). As a high school student in Bayonne, New Jersey, around 1911, Frooks gained renown for her public appearances in support of suffrage for women, earning the sobriquet the "Young Suffragette." With the advent of World War I, Frooks joined the Naval Reserve, employing her public speaking skills in the service of Liberty Loan campaigns and recruitment of servicemen. She was intensely patriotic and a believer in Americanism, and held that outlook through her long life.

Frooks earned a law degree from Hamilton Law School in Chicago and was admitted to the New York bar in 1920, becoming an attorney for a short time with the Salvation Army. Among the cases she handled as defense attorney in private practice in the late 1920s were two that received some national attention: the case of teenager Catherine Deninno, who was accused of killing the man who had impregnated her at age 12 and later attempted to blackmail her, and the case of Gloria Rouzer, a "society girl" held as a material witness in a Louisiana death.

Frooks was also an author, beginning in 1919 with her novel "The American Heart." She wrote both fiction and non-fiction through the 1940s, culminating with her autobiography "Lady Lawyer" in the 1970s. She edited the Oyster Bay News in the 1920s and later the Murray Hill News in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1930s Frooks was deeply engaged with advocating for women veterans of WWI, and became national commander of Women World War Veterans Inc. Among the group's initiatives was founding a convalescent home for the aging veterans at Saugerties, New York. In the 1920s and 1930s, Frooks also tried her hand at politics, entering various primary elections, but losing them. As World War II approached, she advocated for peace, but when war was declared she was in full support of the United States as she had been during WWI. She joined the Women Army Corps and served with the Red Cross in various hospitals in the southern United States. She remained active in veterans' organizations into her late life.

A theme that emerges in much of Frooks's writing and her legal career was the relationship, especially legal, between men and women. Throughout her life Frooks moved in political, legal and military veteran circles commonly associated with men, though she also observed differences as expressed in the 1970s in her opposition to the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Frooks, a founder as a young woman of a Bachelor's Girls Club, remained unmarried until late in life, in 1986 when she married Jay Philippe Vanderbilt. Frooks died in 1997.

(The above note was based on Frooks's obituary in the New York Times, Wikipedia entry, and documents in the collection.)