Female Finance Firsts

March 02, 2021
Our Female Finance Firsts feature showcases the achievements of 13 women who were pioneers in the finance and business fields.

At the Center for Women & Wealth we are continually sharing the stories of inspiring women. As important as it is to highlight the female leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers of tomorrow, it’s vital that we take the time to remember those who broke barriers years, decades, even centuries ago. To celebrate Women's History Month, we are sharing the stories of 13 women who broke barriers and made it possible for us to be where we are today.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Center for Women & Wealth is celebrating 13 women who were pioneers in the financial services and business fields. These women, ranging from the 1780s to the present day, overcame obstacles to break barriers, and this month we recognize their courage, intelligence and tenacity.

  • Abigail Adams (1780): The second first lady of the United States, Adams was also the first documented female investor in the United States.
  • Victoria and Tennessee Woodhull (1870): The Woodhull sisters opened their own firm, Woodhull, Claflin & Co., in 1870, making them the first female stockbrokers on Wall Street. Victoria Woodhull was also the first woman to run for president in 1872.
  • Hetty Green (Late 1800s): Green was the first female “tycoon” and was also known as the “Witch of Wall Street.” When she died in 1916, she had an estimated net worth of between $2.2 billion and $4.4 billion in 2017 dollars, making her the richest woman in the world at the time.
  • Maggie L. Walker (1903): Walker was the first black female bank president to charter a bank in the United States. The bank she founded was the United States’ longest continually run black-owned bank. Disabled later in life, Walker served as an example for not only women, but also the disabled community.
  • Madam C.J. Walker (1910): Walker was not only the first female self-made millionaire in the United States – she is also one of the most successful black business owners ever.
  • Mary Roebling (1937): As the first woman to head a major American bank and recognized as the “banker in high heels,” Roebling brought Trenton Trust Company’ assets from $17 million to $1.3 billion until retiring as chairman of the board in 1984.
  • Margaret Ogden (1942): Ogden was promoted to analyst at Scudder Stevens & Clark (SSC) when the U.S. entered World War II. She remained as an aerospace analyst at SSC until she retired, making her reportedly the first female analyst on Wall Street.
  • Muriel Siebert (1967): Known as the “First Woman of Finance,” Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1967 and was the first woman to head one of the NYSE’s member firms
  • Rosemary McFadden (1984): McFadden became the first woman president of a U.S. stock exchange when she was named president and chief executive officer in 1984 of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYME).
  • Christine Lagarde (2011): In 2007, Christine Lagarde became the first woman to hold the post of finance and economy minister of a G7 country. In July 2011, she became the first woman to serve as a managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
  • Janet Yellen (2014): Yellen is not only the first woman to serve as chair of the Federal Reserve, but also the first Democratic nominee to run the Fed since Paul Volcker in 1979.
  • Kamala Harris (2021): In 2011, Harris was appointed attorney general of California, making her the first woman to hold this position. In 2021, she made history again when she was inaugurated as the first woman vice president of the U.S.

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