April 23, 2015

Women and the Credit Union Movement Part I 

Comment October 17, 2012 by Triangle Credit Union 

Women have, for well over a century now, seized upon the cooperative and democratic nature of credit unions to empower themselves in the workforce. Early pioneers such as Louise McCarren Herring (1909-1987) and Dora Maxwell (1897-1985), helped shift cultural thinking over gender in the workforce. Louise McCarren, once infamously dismissed as “a mere girl,” organized the Kroger Company Credit Union, managed the Ohio Credit Union league, and helped found over 500 credit unions. For her life’s efforts she was named by the Ohio General Assembly in 1976 as the “mother of the credit union movement in America.” Dora Maxwell helped organize the Brooklyn Postal Employees Credit Union and was one of the original signers of the Credit Union National Association’s (CUNA) bylaws.

At Triangle Credit Union, where today 70% of our workforce are women, we have a proud tradition of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.

At our first annual meeting in January 1940, Catherine Cushing and Mildred Hamel were named to our Board of Directors. Mildred left her post a year later, leaving Catherine as the lone female board member. However, it would not be for long. By our third annual meeting, Phoebe Coronis and Janet Sawicki joined Catherine, comprising then a third of the board. In 1943, Mollie Petrowski joined. Then in 1944, Catherine became a credit committee member and helped oversee lending decisions with Grace Tostevin.

These women oversaw Triangle during a period of tremendous growth. Growth that was only temporarily stifled as members shifted their assets to buy war bonds. Once the country emerged victorious and renewed from World War II, growth resumed. In December 1947, Irene Alton, a Nashua Corporation employee, was hired as part-time help for the Treasurer.

Guided by the influence of Phoebe Coronis, Janet Sawicki, Mollie Petrowski, Catherine Cushing, Grace Tostevin, and the frontline work of Irene Alton, the credit union experienced immense growth between 1947 and 1949. With the influx of returning veterans, credit union membership rose from 465 in 1946 to 756 in 1949. There is no doubt that these early pioneers shaped our organization into what it has become today, and for that we are truly grateful.


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