March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, we’re taking a look back at a few of the most influential women in the history of banking. From the first women on wall street, to the first team of women bankers, these icons have paved the way for women in finance today. They’ve not only opened up opportunities for equality in banking but have blazed trails for women’s careers in finance. Their legacies have changed the landscape for women in banking and opened doors to equality in the finance space.
Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin were sisters and active women’s civil rights leaders who rose from poverty to become the first female stock brokers. The pair opened a brokerage firm on Wall Street in 1870 geared towards attracting women investors. The success of their brokerage firm helped fund later endeavors including a feminist newspaper and even a presidential candidacy for Woodhull.
Maggie Lena Walker led many organizations that supported economic growth in the Black community of Richmond, Virginia from the late 1800s until her death in 1935. She was the first woman to charter and lead a bank in the U.S. and is credited with successfully guiding her bank through the Great Depression and preserving two other Black banks through mergers in the same period. The combined institution survived independently until 2005. Her passion to better the Black community by increasing access to financial opportunities like loans and mortgages opened doors for Black families and Black businesses who were excluded from accessing mainstream banking options due to segregation.
In 1921, the Women’s Banking Department was founded at the Bank of Italy in California, Bank of America’s heritage bank. The Women’s Banking Department marked the first time in the U.S. where women could manage their accounts without the involvement of their spouses or other male relatives and was led by and staffed entirely by women. Not only did the Women’s Banking Department provide better financial services for women, but it also provided women workers with a new career stepping stone into the financial services industry. Grace Stoermer led the Women’s Banking Department and was later the first woman to hold the position of Secretary of State in California. Grace was an admired leader in both the California government and the banking industry whose life and career showcased her deep commitment to women’s rights.
To read more about Grace Stoermer visit: https://www.rareamericana.com/articles/women-bankers
In 1967, Muriel Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She overcame repeated institutional opposition from her peers, 1,365 men. Two years later, she founded the exchange’s first female-owned and -operated
firm, which became a pioneer in the discount brokerage sphere in the 1970’s and is still operational today. She was also the first woman to serve as the superintendent of banking in the state of New York.
To learn more about the life and career of Muriel Seibert visit: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/muriel-siebert.asp
These women’s legacies have greatly impacted the landscape for women in banking and finance in America. Because of their willingness to pave the way, women have been able to continue to push towards establishing true financial equality. The banking industry has greatly benefited from the additions that these women, among countless others have brought to the workforce. Throughout this month and beyond we hope you’ll join us in celebrating women throughout history who have helped pave the way for women’s equality today. And to the women on our team, in our communities and everywhere in-between who make the world a better place. Happy Women’s History Month!
To learn more about Women’s History Month and how to get involved visit: https://womenshistorymonth.gov/
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