Five Women Who Paved The Way On Wall Street

Wall Street is mostly a man’s world. Even as our economy has fallen apart, most of the people making headlines are male (and some go as far as to believe the collapse of the financial markets might not have happened if there had been more women involved). But Wall Street’s minority is being honored with an exhibit at the Museum of American Finance, an affiliate of the Smithsonian in New York City. “Women of Wall Street” runs through Jan. 16, 2010, and features five historical and five contemporary females who made a name for themselves in finance. After the jump, a quick intro to Wall Street women who led the way — and inspired us to contribute a little more regularly to our 401(k).

  • Abigail Adams: The woman mostly known as the first lady married to second President John Adams, Abigail Adams was left alone to manage the farm when her husband was away on state business. Though John told her to invest in land, Abigail realized she would get a higher rate of return by investing in U.S. government bonds. She eventually convinced him that the investments were beneficial and went on to earn more profits than would have been made if she had followed John’s plan.
  • Victoria Woodhull: The woman who was Cornelius Vanderbilt’s clairvoyant at one point (and helped him pick stocks with her abilities) went on to form a brokerage company, earning more than $700,000 (about $12 million today). Besides this financial success, Victoria Woodhull also made a run for president with Frederick Douglass as her running mate.
  • Hetty Green: Born to a wealthy family in 1834, Hetty Green grew up reading the financial pages to her father. She managed her own money and turned her inheritance into a fortune. The Guinness Book of World Records once listed her as the “World’s Greatest Miser” because she watched her money so closely.
  • Isabel Benham: When Isabel Benham expressed interest in studying economics, the dean of Bryn Mawr told her to enroll in typing school, as the all-women’s school didn’t offer any classes in that subject at the time. She lobbied for change and became one of five women in her glass to graduate with a degree in that field in 1931. Isabel went on to become a railroad analyst on Wall Street and the first woman to be named partner at a Wall Street bond house.
  • Muriel Siebert: Known as “Mickie,” Muriel Siebert became the first woman to purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1967 after struggling to find the required two sponsors to endorse her application. Mickie became the first female Superintendant of Banks for New York State in 1977, and she remains president of the brokerage firm she started in 1975.