About the Fund
The purpose of the Florence Roberts Memorial Fund is to alleviate the day to day hardships that burden women returning to their communities from prison. In accordance with the wishes of the Roberts family, the funds will be distributed to women who demonstrate financial need for a particular purpose, including but not limited to emergency rental assistance, educational activities, and furniture and clothing needs. Whenever possible, assistance will be given in the form of payment for the goods or services needed rather than cash assistance. All donations to the fund will be used for these purposes, with no administrative fees to the Women’s Prison Association (WPA). The only fees to be deducted will be the fee charged by a credit card company when a particular donation is by credit card. Checks may be made payable to "Women's Prison Association" and mailed to 110 Second Avenue, NY, NY 10003. Please include "Florence Roberts Memorial Fund" in the memo.
Florence Roberts spent much of her career at Legal Services NYC serving low-income families, incarcerated women and victims of domestic violence. She headed the family law units of two Legal Services NYC offices, first in Brooklyn and later in Queens, promoting the parental rights of mothers and domestic violence victims at a time when family services received little funding or resources. She started one of the city's first uncontested divorce programs; it prioritized domestic violence victims as its clients.
In one of her most notable cases, Grey v. Heckler, 721 F.2d 41 (2d Cir. 1983), Florence convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that her client, a widow whose husband had left her without divorcing her, was entitled to Social Security survivor benefits even though he had remarried in another state without her knowledge and listed his second wife as the beneficiary. Florence also worked on one of the state's first open adoptions, protecting a mother's right to see her children after her parental rights were terminated.
Florence Roberts grew up in the Bronx. She lived in Taiwan for several years with her husband, Moss Roberts, a professor of Chinese at New York University. After they moved back to the United States, Florence earned a Master's Degree in history from New York University and began working as a substitute teacher for New York City public schools. She later enrolled in Brooklyn Law School, graduating in 1978.
In retirement, Florence volunteered with the Incarcerated Mothers Law Project of Volunteers of Legal Service, often visiting women in prison to advise them on their parental rights. She also served on the advisory board of the New York Asian Women's Center, which helps women and children escape domestic abuse. Florence received several awards throughout her career. In 1994, she was honored with the New York City Bar Association's Legal Services Award, and in 2001 she received the "In the Trenches" Award from the Lawyers Committee Against Domestic Violence.
Roberts is survived by her husband; a son, Sean Roberts, a traffic court judge for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles; a daughter, Jenny Roberts, a law professor and co-director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C.; and four grandchildren, Michael and Nicholas Roberts, and Ian and Maya Benepe.