Women’s History Month

Portraits of women in economic history - Eliza Allen, Victoria Woodhall, Tennessee Clafin, Maggie Lena Walker, Louise McCarren Herring, Dora Maxwell, and Rosemary McFadden.

(L-R) Eliza Allen, Victoria Woodhall, Tennessee Clafin, Maggie Lena Walker, Louise McCarren Herring, Dora Maxwell, and Rosemary McFadden.

March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the important contributions women have made to society. First, we don’t just celebrate Women’s History Month, we make it a part of our work culture and values all year round. We’d like to share some facts about TwinStar regarding women in our organization.

  • Women make up over 72% of our workplace. That’s 330 women out of 456 employees.
  • 40% of the positions in the Manager and Executive/Senior level are led by women.
  • 73% of the positions in the First/Mid-Level & Manager description are occupied by women.

Women in finance remain one of the most untapped talents in a male-dominated industry. We recognize that diversity in the workplace contribute to a stronger organization.

Also, we’d like to take some time to talk about six women who are left out of the wider economics conversation and deserve recognition.

Eliza Allen, board member of the first African American bank
In 1880, Eliza Allen became the first Black woman to become a board member of the first chartered African American owned bank in the United States, the True Reformers Savings Bank. The bank was formed by The Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, an African American fraternal organization that became the largest and most successful Black business venture in the United States between 1881 and 1910.

As an enslaved woman during the mid 1800s, she set up and ran at least three underground mutual aid societies for women on plantations in Virginia. After emancipation, she put her strong leadership skills and ideals to work as she established Black banks and insurance cooperatives.

Victoria Woodhall and Tennessee Clafin, first female stockbrokers
Running the first female-owned brokerage, the two sisters broke the gender barrier on Wall Street in 1870. Despite the blatant sexism they faced in their struggle, the two sisters made millions advising clients like Cornelius Vanderbilt. The two sisters quietly made enough money to put their male counterparts to shame.

Woodhall would go on to be an important figure in the suffrage movement. She was the first woman to run for president a full 50 years before women were legally allowed to vote. Though she didn’t win the election, her intellect and force of persuasion were instrumental to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

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

St. Luke’s had helped more than 600 Black families buy homes by 1920. Walker’s vision and leadership set the standard for banking.

Louise McCarren Herring, “Mother of Credit Unions”
Louise McCarren Herring is recognized as one of the early leaders of the credit union movement in the United States. Herring is regarded as the “Mother of Credit Unions” for her work with the movement since its earliest days. She was only 23 years old when she started organizing credit unions in the 1930s. Herring saw what debt did to people and wanted to create equal and fair access to financial services. She is also credited with helping to establish five hundred credit unions.

Herring was one of the delegates at the 1934 Estes Park conference in Colorado that established the Credit Union National Association (better known as CUNA). Her commitment to credit unions made her a respected leader of the movement.

Dora Maxwell, early credit union pioneer
Maxwell was also an attendee at the 1934 Estes Park conference which established the Credit Union National Association (CUNA). In 1937, she represented CUNA and helped expand the organization and in 1946 became the director of CUNA’s Organization & Education Department. Maxwell obtained charters for hundreds of credit unions around the country.

CUNA celebrates her legacy with the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award, which recognizes credit unions for their community service efforts. Dora Maxwell believed in equal access to financial services and worked with organizations on behalf of the underprivileged.

Rosemary McFadden, first woman exchange president
Rosemary McFadden broke the gender barrier in finance by serving as the first female president of the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1984. Starting her career as a staff attorney for the New York Mercantile Exchange, she climbed the career ladder to become the first woman to serve as president of a U.S.-based futures exchange.

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