Women’s History Month: four centuries of female financial greats

by Badgley Phelps | Mar 08, 2019

At Badgley Phelps, we’re proud that 50 percent of our team members are women. And we know that women have played a key role in financial services from the very beginning. In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s a look at four women – one per century – who, as the song goes, brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan, even when it was not typical to do so.

18th Century: Abigail Adams

Yes, that Abigail Adams.The First Lady of our second president, with her husband often away, was in charge of the family’s finances. Although it wasn’t unusual at the time for women to manage their families’ money in their husbands’ absence, few of Abigail’s peers ended up as bond speculators. Abigail invested some of the family’s money to finance the Revolutionary War, which ended up being paid back at face value, giving her an 18 percent return on her investment. This was in contrast to what her husband had asked her to do: buy two neighboring farms. Abigail correctly surmised, in a letter to John, that “There is a method of laying out money to more advantage than by the purchase of land’s.”

19th Century: Hetty Green

Nicknamed the “Witch of Wall Street,” major financier Hetty Green grew an impressive fortune by sticking to a lifelong investment strategy: “conservative investments, substantial cash reserves to back up any movement and an exceedingly cool head amidst turmoil…When more timid investors were wary of notes put forth by the still-recovering government, Hetty Green bought at full bore, claiming to have made $1.25 million from her bond investments in one year alone. Her earnings on that front were to fund her great subsequent rail-bond purchases.” (Wikipedia)

20th Century: Muriel Siebert

Known as “The First Woman of Finance,” Muriel was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1967. She brought the NYSE’s membership up to 1,366: 1,365 men…and Muriel. The membership cost her $445,000: She called her membership badge the most expensive piece of jewelry she had ever bought. Muriel founded her own firm, Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc., in 1967, as well. And when she went on to be the Superintendent of Banks for the State of New York in 1977, not a single bank failed on her watch.

21st Century: Mary Callahan Erdoes

Mary Callahan Erdoes has been CEO of JP Morgan Chase Asset and Wealth Management since 2009 and is at the top of American Banker’s list of the Most Powerful Women in Finance for 2018. She’s known for having branched out to China, where she earned the first license ever to operate an asset management business in Shanghai. She also reportedly strives to shape her company’s culture, championing the cause of women and minorities in finance and small business.

Women continue to struggle for equity in the workplace – and not just in the financial sector. But with four centuries’ worth of female financial pioneers behind them, and more and more inclusive firms like Badgley Phelps, women will continue to make their mark on the world of financial services.


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