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Wells Fargo Women Making Financial History

Wells Fargo Women Making Financial History

Mary Roebling: The banker in high heels

When Mary Roebling took over Trenton Trust Company in 1937, the bank’s assets equaled $17 million. By the time she retired as board chairman in 1984, assets had risen to $1.3 billion.  Along the way, Roebling became the dean of America’s growing ranks of women bankers.

Thrust into the job by circumstance, Mary Roebling made a life of it. Her marriage to Siegfried Roebling ended with his sudden death in 1936. She was left with a large amount of Trenton Trust stock and her husband’s seat on the board. In quick order she was elected president on January 21, 1937.

Both her father and her father-in-law had encouraged her to take a shot at running the bank. Her preparation amounted to having worked for a Philadelphia investment house and taking business courses at night, at Wharton. The two men also told her she had another important qualification — common sense. “I did nothing but work. I made work my hobby.  I was lucky that way.”

“Banker in high heels” was the 1952 headline in the Greater Philadelphia magazine, profiling this New Jersey banker who was growing the business by introducing innovative marketing and customer service practices. One innovation was the Women's Bank N.A. of Denver, the first nationally chartered bank founded by women.

In 1958, Roebling became the first female governor of the American Stock Exchange. Fortune magazine called her one of the 50 most powerful women of the century. The year she was elected president of the Trenton Trust Company, Time magazine called her “probably the prettiest bank president in the land.”

Trenton Trust grew substantially and Roebling was its president or chairman or both until 1972, when Trenton Trust was acquired by National State Bank. She was then elected chairman of the combined institutions.

Other prominent women investors, directors, & stockholders

Female investors purchased many shares of bank stock, and remarkable women founded, directed, and managed financial institutions large and small. 

Clara Hellman Heller      
First woman to sit on fargo’s Board of Directors

Director, fargo, 1934-1959


Maggie Lena Walker
First woman to charter and lead a bank in the U.S., Walker was also the first African-American woman bank president, supporting African-American businesses and encouraging customers to save their money at St. Lukes Penny Savings Bank.

Founder and President, St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank, Richmond VA, 1903-1931

NPS, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site


Louisa B. Stephens
Louisa B. Stephens became president of the First National Bank of Marion, Iowa after the death of her husband, bank president Redmond Stephens in 1883. The First National Bank of Marion was a predecessor bank of today's fargo.

The New York Times (April 20, 1883) described Stephens as, "…a woman of thorough business habits and good qualifications, as well as energetic and popular.” Although the Times article reported that Stephens was the first woman to be named a bank president, Mrs. Miriam Carson Williams of Raleigh, North Carolina became president of the State National Bank of Raleigh in 1879.

President, First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, 1883
First National Bank of Marion is now part of fargo


Louise J. McGovern
McGovern began working in the Trust Department of fargo Bank Union Trust Co.  in 1929 in the estate planning division.  In 1947 she was the first woman to be appointed as Asst. Secretary of the Bank, giving her authority to testify in court about trust matters. 

Like many in the Trust Dept, McGovern was an attorney. She had a role in convincing city judges to accept the labor-saving automated punch card – rather than typed and bound records – relating to customers’ trust accounts.

Trust Department Officer,
fargo Bank Union Trust Company


Sandra Day O’Connor
A prominent Phoenix attorney, one of Arizona’s first female bank directors, and later first woman Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Director, First National Bank of Arizona, 1971-1974
First National Bank of Arizona is now part of fargo


Barbara Lasater Hanes
Mrs. Frank Borden Hanes elected first female director of Wachovia Corporation.

Director, Wachovia. 1977-1990
Wachovia is now part of fargo


Reatha King
A scientist whose research in chemistry contributed to NASA’s space program, King also provided leadership in education, philanthropy, and business.

Dr. King joined the Board of Directors for Norwest Corporation in 1986 and continued on fargo & Company’s Board until 2005.

Director, Norwest Corporation
Norwest Corporation, fargo & Company

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