For centuries, American women have fought for gender pay equality, lobbied for financial autonomy, and more than earned their places of leadership in the economy. Women and their legacy have impacted today’s world and economy in countless ways. In honor of Women’s History Month (#breakthebias), and the countless trailblazers whose efforts have laid the foundation for the financial freedoms women enjoy today, we’ve gathered a list of notable events, milestones, and female figures that have shaped the story of women and money over time.
It’s undeniable that women have played a vital role in molding and driving the modern U.S. economy, in the fintech space, and at home. Check out the below for some of the monumental women and money moments that brought us to where we are today.
Early 1700s: Pennsylvanian women are granted the right to own and manage property, but only if their husbands are physically or mentally unable to fulfill these duties.
1825: Rebecca Lukens becomes the first woman to head a U.S. industrial company after inheriting Brandywine Iron. The business eventually grew to be a Fortune 500 company.
1844: Maine becomes the first state to guarantee women the right to “separate economy.”
1848: New York passes the Married Woman’s Property Act, which gives a married woman the same financial rights as an unmarried woman and excuses her from liability for her husband’s personal debts.
1865: Pocahontas is the first woman to appear on American currency, depicted in the center of a crowd of men on a $20 bill.
1866: Emancipated black women working as laundresses in Mississippi unionize and organize a strike to demand better pay.
1869: Lydia Moss Bradley becomes what is most likely the first American woman to enter into a prenuptial agreement in order to protect her sizable assets.
1870: Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin open the first women-owned Wall Street brokerage house. It targets women investors as its primary customers.
1886: Martha Washington is the first woman to appear solo on U.S. currency when she becomes the face of the $1 silver certificate.
1903: Maggie Lena Walker opens Richmond-based St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, the first bank chartered by a woman in the United States.
1919: Sarah Breedlove becomes the country’s first self-made woman millionaire. She was born to freed slaves, orphaned, and later invented and sold homemade hair-care products to black women through the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
1933: Frances Perkins is appointed by FDR as the first female cabinet member. As the Secretary of Labor, she plays a major role in the creation of Social Security.
1938: The U.S. passes the Fair Labor Standards Act and institutes the federal minimum wage, eliminating many cases of gender wage disparity for hourly workers.
1960s: The U.S. grants women the right to have their own personal bank accounts.
1967: Muriel Siebert becomes the first woman seated on the New York Stock Exchange, joining 1,365 men.
1968: The Fair Housing Act, part of the Civil Rights Act, forbids discrimination in home lending on the basis of gender, race, and more.
1971: The Supreme Court unanimously strikes down an Idaho law that allows only men to administer estates in probate court. The legal brief that won the case was authored by future Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
1972: Katharine Graham becomes the first woman CEO of an established Fortune 500 company.
1974: Congress passes the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which includes a ban on the banking requirement that women have a male co-signer on applications for credit and loans.
2003: The State Quarter series features its first woman, Helen Keller, on the Alabama quarter.
2007: Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously dissents in the case of Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire Company, where Lily Ledbetter sued the company, her employer, for gender discrimination after discovering she was paid less than male counterparts. While the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Goodyear, RBG pressed for Congress to amend the associated Title IV clause—and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Obama signed when he took office in 2009.
2011: The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is formed to oversee the fair lending practices of financial institutions and protect consumers from discriminatory business practices.
2014: Janet Yellen begins her four-year term as the first female Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve.
2021: 27% of seats in the U.S. Congress are held by women as of 2021—a record high—setting the stage for the next wave of change, from finance to equality and everything in between.
During Women’s History Month—and every day of the year—our hats are off to the financially savvy women who’ve brought us this far, and the extraordinarily powerful combination of women and money. Through fair lending, banking, and transparency, LendingClub is doing its part to support equal access to financial products, providing a level playing field for women, and all of our customers, to take control of their financial well-being.
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