Tag Archives: Women of Wall Street

Muriel Siebert Remembered

On August 24, we lost a true pioneer in Wall Street’s history with the passing of Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.  In her honor, we’re reposting this article we wrote for Bloomberg on the history of Wall Street’s women.


On Dec. 28, 1967, Muriel “Mickie” Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange — a full 175 years after the exchange was founded. According to Siebert, her NYSE member badge was the most expensive piece of jewelry she ever bought (at $445,000), and it was also the hardest earned. She had been turned down by nine prospective sponsors before finding the two she needed to endorse her application.

As the lone woman among 1,365 men at the exchange, Siebert wasn’t universally welcomed. Headlines such as “Skirt Invades Exchange” and “Powder Puff on Wall Street” conveyed a reluctance on “the Street” to accept a sea change that had been making its way through many other professions for years. In fact, when Siebert purchased her seat, she wasn’t issued the standard scroll all new members received, and which she was required to display. She didn’t receive it until the following year, when the exchange had a new president.

Read the full article


Women of Wall Street: Victoria Woodhull

Born into poverty in Ohio in 1838, Victoria Woodhull went on to become one of the most notable—and perhaps most infamous—women of her time. In addition being the first woman to address Congress and the first woman to run for president, Woodhull was also the first woman to open a brokerage on Wall Street when she started Woodhull, Claflin and Co. with her sister Tennessee in 1870. She was an outspoken suffragist, activist and proponent of free love—which in the late 19th century, meant a woman’s freedom to choose whether to remain married, or indeed, whether she wanted to marry at all.

Many of her views were formed as a result of her first marriage– at 15, she married Dr. Canning Woodhull, who was 26, and who turned out to be an alcoholic. She had two children by him, one of whom was severely mentally handicapped. Woodhull attributed his disability to his father’s alcoholism, and was embittered by society’s expectation that she should stay with her husband in spite of it.

Woodhull and her sister used the proceeds from their very successful brokerage business to publish their radical newspaper, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly. In it, they waged war against Victorian morality, and covered many controversial issues that included suffrage, free love, vegetarianism and spiritualism. Part of the driving force behind the newspapers was Woodhull’s second husband, Colonel James Blood.

In 1872, the Weekly broke a story that Henry Ward Beecher, famous minister of Plymouth Church in Brooklyn who had denounced Woodhull’s views on free love, had been having an affair with one of his congregants.  Woodhull was arrested later that year for sending obscene materials (her newspaper) through the mail. Beecher was sued by his mistress’ husband in 1875, in a highly-publicized trial that was followed around the country.

Woodhull remained a focus of public attention and controversy until she left the United States in 1877, after divorcing Colonel Blood. She remarried John Biddulph Martin and lived out the rest of her life quietly in England.

Last Month of “Women of Wall Street” Exhibit: Profile of Abigail Adams

The Museum’s groundbreaking exhibit, “Women of Wall Street,” is on view until the end of March, which is Women’s History Month.  The exhibit was conceived in January of 2009, when Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and profiles five pioneering historical figures and five of the most powerful women in finance today.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Museum will post a blog entry about each of the famous historical figures in the exhibit, beginning with Abigail Adams.

Abigail Adams is most famous for being the wife of American statesman and former President John Adams, but few people know that she was a bond trader, or in the lingo of the times, a “stock-jobber.”   Adams’ trading activities were one of the few sources of contention between the pair; John Adams, much more conservative by nature, asked his wife to invest in land.  She would point out to him that the bonds offered a significantly higher return on capital than land (24% a year versus only 2% for land).  Indeed, she ultimately earned a return of about 400% as a result of her speculative activities.

In Adams’ time, Massachusetts coverture laws were such that legally, all of her property belonged to John.  Even so, she would set aside “pin money” (small amounts given to wives to purchase luxuries and other items) and buy the bonds through her uncle.  Many women who lived through the Revolutionary War in America had to make do without their husbands, which forced them to become independent in many ways.  Even so, women’s legal rights remained limited, something that Adams famously admonished her husband to address when she asked him to “Remember the ladies” as he was helping draft laws for the newly-founded United States in 1776.