mountains

Historic women of the cia

BY: April Johnson, AOS Culinary

March is National Women’s History Month, where we take the time to remember the great women who have changed the world for the better.  Two of these women are Frances Roth and Katharine Angell, two powerhouse women who founded a school in New Haven, Connecticut that over the years would grow to become one of the best culinary schools in the nation.

Frances Roth was born in April of 1896. When she was 17, she attended law school at New York University. In 1925, Roth became the first female to pass the bar exam and be admitted to the Connecticut Bar Association. From 1925 to 1941 Frances served as the Assistant City Attorney in New Haven. In 1944, Roth’s daughter Norma also passed the bar exam, making them the first mother- daughter members of the Connecticut Bar Association. I had the opportunity to interview Nicole Semenchuk, the Archives and Digital Collections Specialist at the Hyde Park Campus. Semenchuk said, “She had everything going against her.  She was a single mother after her divorce, and just the time period she lived in was harder for her accomplish things with the way women were viewed at the time… she was very smart and capable.” In 1945, the New Haven Restaurant Association sought out Frances Roth to head up a culinary school in New Haven, and Roth accepted.

Katharine Angell was born in 1890 in Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated from Queens College in Charlette and from 1910 to 1911 she attended Finch School in New York City. Katharine had six children with her first husband Paul Woodman who died in 1930. Katharine married James Rowland Angell, the president of Yale, in 1932. Semenchuk describes Angell as, “the social outgoing, funny hostess, who was more so the fundraiser for the school and was a huge part of the community.” In 1946 her and Frances Roth founded the New Haven Culinary Institute, which would become the Culinary Institute of America.

Frances Roth served as administrative director from 1946 to 1966. Semenchuk said that the role of administrative director is similar to the role of president. Angell served on the Board of Trustees as president and chairman from 1946 to 1966. Roth and Angell worked hard to make their culinary school run effectively and provide returning war veterans the proper skill set to get a job in the restaurant industry. Angell created the school’s first financial aid program, as well as helped start a culinary reference library for the students of the New Haven Culinary Institute. Due to the heavy promotion of the school from Angell and Roth and the concurrent attention the school recieved, the name of the New Haven Culinary Institute was soon changed to the Culinary Institute of America.  The school gained many students; only five years both women retired, the school moved its location to the current Hyde Park campus.

Katharine Angell described the goal of the CIA as, “to train young men and women to become expert cooks and chefs.” What many people do not realize is that our school had female students from the day it started. Nicole Semenchuk said, “There was at least one woman in every class, and there were two classes a year. The program was different back then; the program was nine months to a year.” There have always been women students at the CIA, even though women were outnumbered by men, since the school was founded to help returning World War II veterans attain stable jobs. Semenchuk also pointed out that there were female teachers at the CIA from the beginning too, except they taught academic classes like nutrition while there were only male chefs teaching cooking classes. Even Frances Roth would teach some academic classes that dealt with law.

Katharine Angell and Frances Roth were two powerhouse women who didn’t know at the time that the school they founded would completely change the restaurant industry. Over time, a baking program was started, and with all the attention the school received for providing such well-trained students, the restaurant industry was looked on with more prestige than before. Semenchuk described the work Roth and Angell did as, “leaving a culinary foot print.”

It is amazing to think of how far our school has come since its founding in 1946. We went from having once campus with one female per start date, to having four campuses and 16 different start dates at our Hyde Park Campus, For the first time, we have more  female students enrolled than males.  Our school has come a long way since its founding, but it would not be what it is today without the hard work and dedication of Frances Roth and Katharine Angell.