Strong Woman! Series
September 14, 2020
Known as the First Woman of Finance, Muriel Siebert was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1928. Arriving in New York City with $500 and 2 years of college, she took a job as a research trainee. She discovered the only way to earn the same income as a man was to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Despite members refusing to sponsor her, the NYSE demanding she obtain a bank loan for her seat, and banks refusing to give her a loan, in 1967 Siebert became the first woman to buy a seat on the NYSE. In 1969, she founded Muriel Siebert & Co. and became the first woman to own and operate a brokerage firm that was a member of the NYSE.
She was a strong advocate for women in finance spending millions to fund women in business and promote financial literacy.
Siebert died in 2013 at 84.
September 4, 2020
Another “Iron Lady” – this time it is the Iron Lady of Filipino politics, Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Santiago was born in 1945 in Iloilo City in southern Philippines. The oldest of seven, she helped send her six siblings through college.
During the course of her illustrious career, Santiago was a lawyer, professor, columnist, UN High Commission for Refugees’ legal officer, judge, senator, 3-time presidential candidate and the first Filipino and first Asian from a developing country to be elected judge at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Santiago’s life goal was fighting corruption even in the face of political persecution and death threats. President Corazon Aquino appointed her Commissioner of the Philippines Commission on Immigration and Deportation to clean up the notorious corrupt agency. Santiago sponsored and secured ratification by the Philippine Senate of the UN Convention Against Corruption. She was awarded the “Asian Nobel Prize” (Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service) for her anticorruption work.
Santiago died in 2016 at the age of 71.
August 27, 2020
Born in Maryland in 1921, Dr. Phyllis A. Wallace graduated first in her segregated high school. It was illegal for a black person to attend the University of Maryland so Wallace attended New York University where she graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in economics. She went on to be the first woman to receive a doctorate of economics at Yale University.
Her impressive career included being: senior economist in international trade; chief of technical studies at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Research; the first African American and the first female president of the Industrial Relations Research Association; and in 1975 the first woman to be a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan School.
Dr. Wallace pioneered the study of the economics of sexual and racial discrimination in the labor market. She directed the research in a precedent-setting legal case against the largest private employer in the U.S. that led to a decision in 1973 that AT&T had discriminated against women and minority men.
Dr. Wallace died in 1993 at the age of 69.
August 21, 2020
Born in 1919 in Vienna, future fashion innovator Edith Flagg grew up in Romania returning to Vienna at 15 to attend fashion school. When Hitler invaded Austria in 1938, the Jewish Flagg and her husband fled to the Netherlands. After the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, the two joined the Dutch Resistance but Hans was captured by the Nazis and died at Auschwitz concentration camp. Flagg continued to work with the resistance in the Netherlands.
After surviving World War II, Flagg ultimately moved to California where she worked in the fashion industry earning enough money to build a fashion business with her second husband. The key to her success was her mastery of public relations and having the vision to bring polyester to the U.S. to use as a fashion textile. After seeing the fabric in a store in Switzerland in the 1960s, Flagg imported a wrinkle-free form of polyester from the UK. She was the President of Edith Flagg Inc. and built the company into a multimillion dollar business and one of the largest women’s sportswear manufacturers in California.
When the retail industry began to change and manufacturing started to move offshore, Flagg sold her company to focus on philanthropy. She died at the age of 94 in 2014.
August 13, 2020
From sleeping on a dirt floor to creating a multi-million dollar Mexican food company: meet Romona Acosta Bañuelos. Born in Arizona (U.S. state) in 1925, this American citizen was “deported” to Mexico at the age of seven as a result of prejudice during the Great Depression. She returned to the U.S. at age 18 as a single mother with only a sixth grade education but ultimately saved enough money to start a tortilla business.
In 1964, Bañuelos and her partners established the first Latino-owned bank in California: Pan American National Bank. Bañuelos served as bank president and board chairwoman while running her food company. The bank allowed Latino entrepreneurs a means to access the banking system and spur economic growth in their community.
Bañuelos became the first Mexican-American woman chosen for a high U.S. government post when she was appointed in 1971 by President Nixon to be Secretary of the Treasury. She died at the age of 92 in 2018.
August 5, 2020
Meet a true Indian role model. Anna Chandy was the first woman lawyer in her home state of Kerala, India. As a state legislator (1932-1934), she fought for women’s political, property and employment rights particularly to enable women to achieve financial independence.
Chandy became the first female Indian judge in 1937 when she was appointed to a district court. She served on the district court for eleven years. In 1959 she became the first woman in India to become a high court judge serving in this role for nine years.
Chandy also served on the Law Commission of India working for legal reform. She founded and edited the journal Shrimati in which she advocated for women’s rights including speaking out against the gender wage gap. Justice Anna Chandy died in 1996 at the age of 91.
July 29, 2020
Meet the first woman to head a major American bank (the Trenton Trust Company), first woman governor on the American Stock Exchange, and founder of the first female-owned bank in the U.S. (the Woman’s Bank N.A.). Mary G. Roebling was born on this day in 1905.
Roebling advocated for women to play a greater role in U.S. economic affairs and was committed to issues of equal pay and equal opportunities for professional women. She was appointed by several U.S. Presidents to serve on various task forces and committees related to international business and economics, refugees, women, and the military.
July 22, 2020
You have heard of the Iron Lady of the UK but how about the Iron Lady of the Caribbean? On this date in 1980, Dame Eugenia Charles was sworn in as Prime Minister of Dominica and became the second female Prime Minister in the Caribbean.
This granddaughter of slaves served from 1980 – 1995 fighting against limitations on freedom of speech, tax evasion and government corruption. She was the first female lawyer in Dominica. In 1991, the former Prime Minister was made Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE).