The essentials to living your best century
By Natalie Eastwood
Francoise (Frenchy) Roos Snyder ’40 has been a rebel since the end of World War I, or close to it. Born March 25, 1919, she supported women’s rights, stood up for liberal politics, joined a union, and was president of the Baltimore section for the National Council of Jewish Women.
And, she wore a blue dress on her wedding day because that was her favorite color.
“I was always leading the fight,” she says.
At age 14, Snyder started volunteering because her mother taught her the importance of being part of the community, and it is the heart of her steel-backed mantra: “Get involved in what’s going on in the world and try to do something about it,” she says. “Wave the banners; don’t sit back.”
It was a different time for women, in the early and mid-20th century, Snyder says; they were entering the workforce, divorcing their husbands, using birth control. “It was a blossoming, is the way I like to look at it,” she says. As a volunteer at Planned Parenthood for a number of years, Snyder helped provide access to birth control, often going into women’s homes to talk with their husbands, who resisted this shift in power. “Volunteering there was my first introduction to inequality and unfairness for women,” Snyder says. “I discovered something that I hadn’t found out in my marriage—men like to be in control of things that don’t affect their bodies.”
Snyder’s first paying job was at Sinai Hospital, which was a significant shift since, previously, her work had been all volunteer-based. It was just after World War II, and there was a shortage of mental health professionals, so a woman therapist began to offer training in therapy-based work for married or divorced women with at least one child. It was a year of didactics and two years of monitored clinical work. Snyder became acquainted with a vast array of people, but she was most drawn to working with families.
She held her position for 24 years and then continued a referral-based practice until her 80s. “I loved trying to help people figure things out about themselves and their lives and walk them through situations that they had never thought of being in,” she says.
In Snyder’s life, that moment came right before her senior year of college when she was at a party. “I was standing at the bar, and this man came over and introduced himself and we talked, and he said, ‘I’m going to marry you.’ I laughed at him. I laughed at him,” she repeats softly. “And I married him.”
Reflecting on her late husband, she says, “47 years wasn’t long enough.”
When asked to describe her life—the people she worked with, her rebel causes, two daughters (who are in their 70s), five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, countless chocolate ice creams, cinnamon on everything, loving her husband, and a constant state of movement—she says contemplatively, “Well that’s a big question. I don’t know how to answer that. I’ve been fortunate, very fortunate and very grateful.”
Orchids grace almost every table in her apartment. One variegated with yellow and pink lost its bloom several months ago, but Snyder tended to the plant and encouraged it to bloom again for her. When it comes to aging, Snyder says, “It’s hard to accept what happens to one’s abilities physically and emotionally. As they say, it ain’t for sissies.”
(Photo at top): Francoise (Frenchy) Roos Snyder ’40