In writing their own stories, these women also helped write the story of our country. We think of them as we celebrate Women’s History Month. These are their stories – what’s your story?
Abigail Adams, Maggie Walker and Muriel “Mickie” Siebert weren’t thinking of making a mark for posterity. They were just doing the best they could. For their family, their community and themselves. But in doing so, they changed history and left their stories behind for inspiration.
Abigail Adams was just looking out for her family. When her husband served in the Revolutionary War and later, in the White House, Adams managed the family finances. In 1783 her husband advised her to invest in farmland. Good thing she ignored him and bought bonds instead. That investment had a much greater return than a land purchase would have provided, greatly enriching her family. Throughout her life, Adams invested her own “pocket” money, became wealthy in her own right and upon her death left most of her fortune to women. Although she’s most noted for documenting the home front during the Revolutionary War and her advocacy for women’s rights, she’s also America’s first documented female investor.
Maggie Lena Walker was looking out for her community when, in 1903, she became the first woman in the U.S. to charter a bank. Walker founded St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank, a community lending bank created to promote savings and homeownership, especially among women and racial minorities in the Richmond, Virginia, area. By 1920, the bank had helped more than 600 people buy homes. In 1930, it merged with two other banks to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company; Walker served as chairman on its board of directors until her death in 1934. It was the oldest bank in the U.S. to have black-ownership status until it was acquired in 2005 by the Abigail Adams National Bank. In 2011, the bank was renamed Premiere Bank and still operates today.
Muriel “Mickie” Siebert started out looking after herself. Often referred to as “The First Woman of Finance,” in 1967 Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. But her journey to the pinnacle of the finance world started in tragedy. Siebert’s father developed cancer during her junior year in college, and the family could no longer pay tuition. Determined to make her own way, she dropped out of college and, refusing to marry for security, moved to Manhattan to support herself. Through creative self-promotion, she got a job as an entry-level research analyst and began learning the brokerage business from the ground up. A pioneer in the discount brokerage field, she was known as a scrapper and battled for women’s equality for years. Asked about her strategy for dealing with obstacles, she said simply: “I put my head down and charge."