Women's History Month


March is Women's History Month

Women's History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the important contributions women have made to society. At Community Resource Credit Union, we're proud to be a part of this nationwide celebration.

As part of this effort, we'd like to recognize a few essential women in the history of finance and entrepreneurship. Here are five lesser-known women who are sometimes left out of the popular economics conversation. That, of course, does not diminish the importance of their trailblazing efforts and work.

Maggie Lena Walker, the first female bank president - Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman to charter a bank. The St. Luke's Penny Savings Bank was a community lending institution designed to promote savings and homeownership, especially among women and racial minorities. Founded in 1902, the bank served the Richmond, Va., area for several years before it merged with two other banks. Walker went on to serve as board chair for the consolidated bank.

By 1920, St. Luke's had helped more than 600 people buy homes. Walker's vision and leadership set the standard for community lending institutions. Her bravery and trailblazing business spirit were genuinely commendable during a time when women didn't yet have the right to vote. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown, inventor of the home security system - While few museums will showcase her work, nearly all have some modern iteration of the device Marie Van Brittan Brown pioneered. She was the original architect of the home security system. Her system was devised in response to the dangers she perceived in her neighborhood.

Concerned about the length of time it would take police to respond to a call for help, Brown put a camera on a mobile swivel to enable it to view the front door through each of the four peepholes. A motion sensor triggered a recording device, and the system also enabled the homeowner to view and listen to the cameras using a television set. Brown's original home security system soon caught on in businesses nationwide. She was given an award from the National Science Committee for her work.

Victoria Woodhall and Tennessee Clafin, the first female stockbrokers - These two pioneering sisters broke the gender barrier on Wall Street. They ran the first female-owned brokerage. Despite the blatant sexism they faced in their struggle, the two sisters made millions advising clients like Cornelius Vanderbilt. While enduring headlines like "Wall Street Aroused," the two sisters quietly made enough money to put their male counterparts to shame.

Woodhall would go on to be a polarizing figure in the suffrage movement. She made the first recorded run for president as a woman, 50 years before women were legally allowed to vote! While her suffrage-based platform didn't carry the election, her intellect and force of persuasion were instrumental to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Rosemary McFadden, the first female exchange president - Rosemary McFadden broke another gender barrier in finance. She was the first woman to serve as president of any American exchange. Starting her career as a staff attorney for the New York Mercantile Exchange, she climbed the career ladder to become the first female president of that organization or any other trading exchange in American history in 1984.

McFadden was a strong and effective leader despite the steep resistance she encountered as the first woman in a traditionally male position. When her term was up, she continued to climb toward greatness. She served as deputy mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey.

Abigail Adams, the first female investor - The wife of President John Adams is mainly noted for her documentation of the home front of the Revolutionary War and her strident advocacy for women's rights in the early years of the country's founding. A little-known tidbit is that she's also America's first documented female investor.

Adams managed the household's financial affairs while her husband served in the war and, later, in the White House. She was a wise woman, making a great deal of money investing in government bonds. In one exchange in 1783, her husband advised her to invest some money in farmland. She ignored the advice, buying bonds instead. The move made her family quite a bit more money in the long run!