April 23, 2015

Women and the Credit Union Movement Part II

Comment March 21, 2013 by Triangle Credit Union 

The growth of Triangle Credit Union, spurred by the end of World War II, continued throughout the 1950s. By the end of the decade membership rose to 1,050, a 94% increase from 1947, while assets, shares, and loans saw 1,331%, 1,294%, and an astonishing 2,522% increase respectively. Nashua Corp employees and their families were clearly learning to trust Triangle with more and more of their financial relationship.

Meanwhile in the country at large, the Women’s Movement was entering a period that the recently aired PBS documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America refers to as the Awakening:

“For young men in the 1950s, the future held almost limitless possibilities, but society did not see as much promise for young women. The ideal for middle-class American women was to get married and then to cheerfully assume their proper place in the home as wives and mothers”.

The democratic nature of the credit union workplace, however, allowed for women to quicken their gains. At Triangle, during this period, women saw possibilities that society did not. In 1951, Madaline Walton joined the credit committee. In 1956, Irene Alton was elected a director and then Treasurer. Though in the nation around them women were finding jobs that were “low-paying and dead-end”, in the credit union women were assuming and holding onto positions of leadership.

1956 also saw the credit union hire its first employee, Virgie Levitt. Ms. Levitt accepted a job as cashier at an hourly rate of one dollar. Though the pay may have been modest, it came with a promise that the position would not be dead-end. The credit union lived up to its promise by consistently promoting Ms. Levitt to higher ranking positions. Her final promotion to Manager occurred in November 1972, a position she held until retirement in 1979.

Reflecting on this time period brings to mind the recent loss of one of our credit union’s early pioneers. Phoebe Coronis passed away early this year at the age of 95. Ms. Coronis was Nashua Corp’s executive secretary for 50 years and from the sound of this profile in the Telegraph, she was instrumental in shaping Nashua Corp into a Fortune 500 company. According to the profile, “to fill the job, she had to be knowledgeable about company operations but she also had to be part psychologist and part diplomat.” The password to get into the executive office was “Ask Phoebe.” Her contribution to the credit union was just as vital. Ms. Coronis was elected a director of the credit union at our third annual meeting in 1942, a position she held until retirement in 2004 giving her the distinction of being the longest serving director (62 years) throughout the state of New Hampshire! Ms. Coronis is truly an inspiration and one I regret not getting the chance to speak to for this post. She was raised by a single mother, herself an inspiration, who worked in the mills and as a seamstress at Millers. Ms. Coronis overcame the limits of women of her generation, graduating valedictorian of Nashua High School and supporting herself from an early age. The loss of Ms. Coronis is huge for the credit union and the community. Her legacy was best summed up by her niece, Sally Coronis Vallance, in the 1994 profile. Of her aunt she recalled, “She was [a] role model for working women long before we knew what a role model was”; an apt description for all of the working women during this period of Awakening.


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