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Women Who Blazed Trails in Business and Finance

Madam C.J. Walker

For Women’s History Month, LearnVest published an article about “Female Financial Trailblazers You May Have Never Heard Of” and whether you have already heard about these women or not their stories are inspiring. Even if you know of them, it helps to be reminded of what women can accomplish in business and finance. These women not only stood out for their skill in earning money; they were role models of leadership and left legacies of philanthropy and community service.

Madam C.J. Walker, daughter of former slaves, was orphaned, married, and widowed—all before she reached the age of 20. After supporting herself and her daughter washing clothes, she found she needed more money and started selling a product she had used when she suffered from hair loss. Later, she and her third husband worked to sell hair products she formulated and by 1910 she made an amount that would equal several million dollars in today’s money. Not only did she amass a fortune, she used it to open businesses that employed other African Americans and supported her community through philanthropy.

Katherine Graham, who was recently portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film “The Post,” was the first female Fortune 500 CEO. Interestingly, she stepped into this role after her husband’s death (Graham’s husband had taken over the CEO role from Graham’s father).

Graham stood up to the government when her newspaper published the Pentagon Papers and unmasked those behind the Watergate break-in. She helped make The Washington Post a nationally recognized publication and increased its revenue by growing readership and growing its business ventures.

Muriel Siebert is the first woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and it wasn’t easy to get to that point. Membership costs are high and she had to keep knocking on doors to find a bank to lend her the money needed to join.

Siebert blazed trails in big and small ways: “ [donating] millions of dollars to help other women get started in finance, while also standing up for minorities in the industry.” She also “….famously threatened to have a portable toilet delivered to the NYSE’s seventh floor, near the exchange’s restaurant, unless the chairman installed a ladies’ room there. “