One of the first female bank directors was Louisa B. Stephens. As president of First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, Stephens signed every certificate of stock issued by her bank.
First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, certificate of stock; Louisa B. Stephens, former bank president.
One of the first female bank directors was Louisa B. Stephens. As president of First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, Stephens signed every certificate of stock issued by her bank.
First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, certificate of stock; Louisa B. Stephens, former bank president.
History
January 29, 2018

A legacy of women in leadership

Elizabeth “Betsy” Duke, who is making history as the first woman to serve as board chair at one of the largest banks in the U.S., is following in the footsteps of female leaders at Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo rang in 2018 with a milestone in its 165-year history. On Jan. 1, Elizabeth “Betsy” Duke, a former member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, became the new independent chair of the Wells Fargo Board of Directors. This makes her the first woman to serve as board chair at one of the largest banks in the U.S.

While Duke is a pioneer, she follows in the footsteps of many women in leadership and board positions at Wells Fargo — and the many banks that are now part of Wells Fargo.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, very few women filled bank management or board positions. Those who did often had a family connection to the business.

The 1960s and 1970s brought about civil rights legislation, affirmative action, and a new awareness of equal opportunity for women and minorities in the workplace and boardroom. In the 1970s, women assumed governance roles at Wells Fargo Bank and at a number of banks now part of Wells Fargo. Instead of filling these roles because of their familial connections, they earned them because of their own credentials.

Women continue making history at Wells Fargo today in a variety of roles. In addition to Duke, Wells Fargo’s Board of Directors currently includes Karen Peetz, retired president of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation; retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, president of Kilovolt Consulting Inc.; Maria Morris, retired executive vice president and head of the employee benefits business of MetLife, Inc.; and Celeste Clark, principal of Abraham Clark Consulting, LLC, and retired senior vice president of global public policy and external relations and chief sustainability officer for Kellogg Company. Susan Engel, Judith Runstad, Cynthia Milligan, and Susan Swenson were also longtime board members who recently retired.

One of the first female bank directors was Louisa B. Stephens.
As president of First National Bank of Marion, Louisa B. Stephens signed every certificate of stock issued by her bank.
Clara Hellman Heller with her son, Ed Heller, and husband, E. S. Heller, almost 30 years before she became the first woman to sit on Wells Fargo’s board in 1934.
In 1934, Mary G. Roebling became the first woman to head a major commercial bank in the U.S. when she took over as president of New Jersey’s Trenton Trust Company.
Mary G. Roebling collected mechanical coin banks and commissioned a bank featuring herself and Trenton Trust’s building for the bank’s 75th anniversary.
Sandra Day O’Connor sits at the board of directors table of First National Bank of Arizona in 1971, the year she became the first female director in the bank’s 92-year history.
Barbara Lasater Hanes and Rosemarie B. Greco
In 1979, scientist and Metropolitan State University President Reatha Clark King joined the board of the Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis.
One of the first female bank directors was Louisa B. Stephens. She became a director of First National Bank of Marion, Iowa, on May 19, 1877. Stephens joined her husband, Redman, on the bank’s board. Upon his death, she was elected president of First National Bank of Marion on April 9, 1883. Stephens was the second woman to ever head a bank in the U.S. Her appointment made news in national media outlets including The New York Times, which described her as “a woman of thorough business habits and good qualifications, as well as energetic and popular.”
As president of First National Bank of Marion, Stephens signed every certificate of stock issued by her bank. Stephens remained the Marion bank’s president until she resigned in April 1885. First National Bank of Marion became part of Northwestern Bancorp (later Norwest) and is today one of Wells Fargo’s oldest Iowa banking entities.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
Clara Hellman Heller with her son, Ed Heller, and husband, E. S. Heller, almost 30 years before she became the first woman to sit on Wells Fargo’s board in 1934. Heller’s father, Isaias W. Hellman, founded Union Trust Company and ran several other California financial institutions, merging some together with Wells Fargo to create a leading commercial bank on the Pacific Coast. Heller remained on the board until her death in 1959.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
In 1934, Mary G. Roebling became the first woman to head a major commercial bank in the U.S. when she took over as president of New Jersey’s Trenton Trust Company. When Trenton Trust merged with National State Bank in 1972, Roebling became chair of the board of the combined National State Bank and served in that capacity for a dozen years.
Photo: Rutgers University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
Roebling introduced marketing innovations to make Trenton Trust’s services more welcoming to customers. She also collected mechanical coin banks and commissioned a bank featuring herself and Trenton Trust’s building for the bank’s 75th anniversary.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
Sandra Day O’Connor sits at the board of directors table of First National Bank of Arizona in 1971, the year she became the first female director in the bank’s 92-year history. O’Connor later went on to make more history as the first woman to sit as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
In North Carolina, Barbara Lasater Hanes joined the board of Wachovia Bank & Trust and Wachovia Corporation in 1977; from 1990 to 1996, Rosemarie B. Greco served as a member of the board and president and CEO of CoreStates First Pennsylvania Bank and CoreStates Bank, N.A., and as president of CoreStates Financial Corp.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
In 1979, scientist and Metropolitan State University President Reatha Clark King joined the board of the Northwestern National Bank of Minneapolis. Her work as a research chemist contributed to the success of NASA’s space missions. King served on the board of Northwestern National Bank, Norwest Corporation, and Wells Fargo until 2005.
Photo: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives
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