Lucy Jenkins Franklin’s Advice

by Mary Goljenboom

A can-do spirit marked the generation of young women attending college in the 1920s. They’d witnessed women’s great power and influence in enacting prohibition and voting rights. They’d seen how, during World War I, women not only had filled jobs traditionally held by men, but had excelled in them. They believed deeply that their success—in school or in their future careers—depended on their own determination and hard work.

This ambitious generation wanted to shape their futures: earn a living by performing meaningful work, live independently in apartments instead of in the family house, make their own decisions about friends and activities. The lives of their mothers and grandmothers, limited to the home, were too restricted for these independent young women.

But figuring out how to get the most from life raised many questions, offered many paths, and required many decisions. For the three thousand female students enrolled at Boston University in 1925, Lucy Jenkins Franklin, the university’s first dean of women, was there to help. “I’m here as an advisor, to make college, if possible, a happier and more beneficial place for our girls, and to make life more glorious.”

Franklin was familiar with the questions and decisions that perplexed her students. They weren’t that different from ones she and her classmates had twenty-five years earlier when Franklin was an undergraduate. She’d made choices in the ensuing years: studying oratory (public speaking) at Ohio Wesleyan University, where she earned a BA in 1904 and an MA three years later. Choosing a career in academia supplemented with occasional public performances created from popular works of the day, like Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. She’d married another academic, a professor of English, and had a child. She put together a life that included both career and family.

The current generation had opportunities in fields and professions that, twenty years before, Franklin and her cohorts could only dream of. Franklin believed modern young women needed to be educated differently than she and her classmates had been. “They must be trained for leadership whereas in the past they [young women] were merely protected and given an appreciation of the cultural advantages of an education,” she told the Boston Globe soon after starting at the university in December 1924.

Modern young women needed to be prepared to take an active part in life, Franklin believed, and that preparation started at the university. Franklin’s duties as dean of women included vocational advising to help students choose a field and take the classes necessary to get a job upon graduation.

Books, bibliographies, and brochures supplied the information, produced by individuals (like Catherine Filene who published Careers for Women in 1920) and organizations. Franklin used resources from the Bureau of Vocational Information (BVI), an educational research group headed by Emma P. Hirth. BVI collected data about fields that employed college-educated women. That data included: training required for the field; personal qualifications; best methods of entering the field; kinds of positions available and their duties; working conditions; salary ranges; and opportunities for advancement.

“I keep in touch with the bureau, so that I’ve a prospective job for every girl who wants one,” Franklin explained to a news service reporter in early 1925. “I’m here to suggest openings for girls who haven’t any idea of what they’d like to do.”

She also had a suggestions for young women grappling with the question of career or marriage and family. “My advice to girls who are contemplating matrimony and wavering between housework and business is, Try them both. If you are a competent enough woman, you can swing them. If they’re too much for you, give up the job.”

Franklin believed that every woman ultimately wanted “love, husband, home, and babies” and should, therefore, prioritize home life. “When a woman marries, her home, I feel sure, must mean more to her than this matter of economic independence.”

But room could be made for a career. Franklin had continued to work after her 1910 marriage but, when her son was born four years later, she stayed home. “I gave up five years to him and went back to work again. He was old enough then to leave in the care of my maid.”

A schedule, a cooperative husband who didn’t object to her working, and a maid to handle housework and childcare allowed Franklin to join Evansville College’s faculty in 1919 and Boston University’s five years later (her husband was also a faculty member at both schools). She scheduled breakfast and dinner as family time, although sometimes her work obligations (meetings, speeches, etc.) forced her to miss the family’s evening meal. At her son’s bedtime, one of the parents, usually Lucy, told him a story.

Franklin assumed without question that it was her responsibility—and that of every other married woman—to manage the household and family. She also assumed that a married woman’s income could be lost without deeply damaging the family’s financial wellbeing. Consequently, women had to find supports (like she did) or make trade-offs. “If hustling off to business each morning and coming home all weary to a disordered home and a delicatessen meal takes all the romance out of business, then my advice is stay home, young woman, and put your house in order,” she said in 1925. “But if you can keep your place well-ordered and your husband happy, and your children good, and rate a pay envelope on the side, then all power to you!” That remained her advice until she retired from BU in 1945.

Lucy Jenkins Franklin firmly believed in women’s education and ability to shape their futures. She helped Boston University’s female students plan careers and find meaningful work to support the independent lives they desired. She also advised her students to make choices that prioritized husband, home, and family, advise that many acted on. Above all, she believed that “there’s precious little a woman can’t do if she wants to badly enough.”

“Modern Girl All Right, Says New Dean of B.U.,” Boston Globe, 14 December 1924, accessed via

“The First Dean of Women in American Education,” Tacoma (WA) Sunday Ledger, 8 February 1925, accessed via [Note: Contrary to what the article’s title might suggest, Lucy Jenkins Franklin was not the first woman appointed dean of women at an American college. She was Boston University’s first dean of women.]

“Mrs. George B. Franklin Now Winning New Laurels,” Atlanta Constitution, 18 August 1912, accessed via

“Lucy D. Jenkins Impersonator. Will Give Interpretative Recital at Euclid Avenue Friday Evening,” Zanesville (OH) Times Recorder, 9 April 1907, accessed via

Career & Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey Toward Equity by Claudia Goldin (Princeton University Press, 2021)

Beyond the Typewriter: Gender, Class, and the Origins of Modern American Office Work, 1900—1930 by Sharon Hartman Strom (University of Illinois Press, 1992)

Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper by Linda Simon (Reaktion Books, 2017)

Boston University Annual Report of the President of the University for the Year 1924-1925, v.14 no.32 presented Nov. 24, 1925, accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

A history of the Position of Dean of Women in a Selected Group of Co-Educational Colleges and Universities in the United States by Lulu Holmes, PhD (Teachers College, Columbia University, 1939), accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

Training for the Professions and Allied Occupations; Facilities Available to Women in the United States by The Bureau of Vocational Information, (1924) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library$b45940

Careers for Women, edited by Catherine Filene (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library$b385238

A Guide to the Study Of Occupations: A Selected Critical Bibliography of the Common Occupations with Specific References for Their Study by Frederick J. Allen prepared under the auspices of the Bureau of Vocational Guidance, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University (1921) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

Library Work: An Opportunity for College Women by American Library Association (1920) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

“The New Position of Women in American Industry,” Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau, no.12, (US Dept of Labor, 1920) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

“Married women in industry” by Mary N. Winslow, Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau, no.38 (US Dept. of Labor, 1924) accessed via Haithi Trust Digital Library

Copyright © 2022 Ferret Research, Inc.

First Women’s Banks

by Mary Goljenboom

A group of Chicago businesswomen saw a problem with the range of banking options available to women. Female business owners were denied credit from banks at a far higher rate than their male counterparts. It stifled women’s ability to start, operate, and expand their firms.

The Chicago women reasoned that a bank that specialized in the female market, led by women who knew the financial industry, and supported by female stockholders and depositors, could address that credit gap. The result is First Women’s Bank, chartered in Illinois in July 2021 with plans to open in the autumn. It will be one of the few US banks primarily owned and managed by women, and whose products and services are specifically designed to support women in business.

The new First Women’s Bank has predecessors. Some of them even used the same or similar names. For instance, in the mid-1970s, as throngs of American women agitated for equal rights, female-led groups established:
First Women’s Bank, opened in New York in 1975
Women’s Bank, opened in San Diego in 1976
Western Women’s Bank, opened in San Francisco in 1976
First Women’s Bank of California, opened in Los Angeles in 1976
Women’s Bank, opened in Richmond, Virginia in 1977
Connecticut Women’s Bank, opened in Greenwich in 1977
Women’s National Bank, opened in Washington, DC in 1978
Women’s Bank, N.A. opened in Denver in 1978.

Many savings-and-loan associations and credit unions which were owned, managed, and staffed by women also opened in this period.

One of the earliest predecessors dates back a century, to another period when women were agitating for equal rights and seeking opportunities to improve society. It was the need to be useful that impelled Brenda V. Runyon to establish First Woman’s Bank in Tennessee in 1919.

During World War I, Runyon had headed the Clarksville chapter of the Red Cross. After the war ended, she told a reporter, “I found it impossible to settle down to the old life of ease and inactivity. There was the desire to do something for the public good—something worthwhile.”

At the suggestion of a banker friend, she settled on a bank for women. Runyon and four of her friends incorporated the First Woman’s Bank in Tennessee on August 1, 1919, sold stock, and held the first shareholders’ meeting on August 16. Shareholders voted in a board of directors: eight women including Runyon and the incorporators. Following the shareholder’s meeting, the board elected officers: Brenda Runyon, president; Mary Elder, vice president; Love Lyle, cashier and secretary. The group found space in the Montgomery Hotel building, which was owned and managed by Lulu Bringhurst Epperson.

While organizing the corporation and preparing the space, Runyon and Lyle also spent at least three days each week at a bank in a nearby town, learning the trade. They initially did all the work to keep costs to a minimum. Newspapers delighted in reporting that all the bank’s personnel were female, including the janitor.

First Woman’s Bank in Tennessee opened for business on October 6. Lulu Epperson was the first depositor. By 2pm, customers had deposited $20,058.75—five thousand dollars more than the capital raised by the sale of stock.

The bank did not limit its clientele to women and had male stockholders and depositors. It made an effort to “influence women to economize and save their money,” according to Runyon. “We shall try to teach them business methods and encourage them to do things for themselves.”

First Woman’s Bank grew and operated successfully for six years. In 1926, growth slowed and Runyon retired from the bank after a fall incapacitated her. First Woman’s merged into First Trust and Savings Bank. Love Lyle continued as cashier at First Trust.

First Woman’s Bank in Tennessee, the women’s banks formed in the 1970s, and Chicago’s new First Women’s Bank were all founded on the same concept: women helping women. In each period, women recognized a financial problem or need and fashioned a solution that educated women, provided jobs, and increased their participation in the economy.

First Women’s Bank,

From the Clarksville (TN) Leaf-Chronicle accessed via
“First Woman’s Bank in the State of Tennessee,” 30 July 1919
“First Woman’s Bank in the State of Tennessee, the Charter for which has been Filed for Registration—the Incorporators,” 31 July 1919
“First Meeting of Stockholders of New Bank,” 18 August 1919
“Clarksville’s New Bank Opens,” 6 October 1919

“Story of State’s First Woman’s Bank is Told,” Nashville Tennessean, 21 September 1919 accessed via

“The First Woman’s Bank in Tennessee: 1919-1926” by H. Bruce Throckmorton. Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Winter 1976), pp. 389-392. Stable URL:

“First Woman President of the First Woman’s Bank in the United States” by Vonnie Rector Griffith. Ladies Home Journal, June 1920, p. 149

Copyright © 2021 Ferret Research, Inc.

Harriet Fisher Pivots

by Mary Goljenboom

Harriet White Fisher was a woman of action and independence. When her husband died, she took over running his family’s business, Fisher & Norris Eagle Anvil Works in Trenton, NJ. To make sales calls, she traveled around the country by chauffeured automobile. In early 1908, with the anvil business slow because the country was in a recession, she started a reduced-rate automobile repair business.

It made perfect sense. It allowed her to keep all her workers busy instead of having to lay some off. It generated revenue. There was room in the factory to do the work. And it injected competitive pricing into a business where mechanics, Fisher felt, colluded and were “practicing extortion on the automobilists.”

To oversee the department, Fisher hired an experienced manager, Harold Fisher Brooks. He knew marine engines as well as automobile, so they included motorboat repairs in their services. The business was limited to machinery repair—no painting or upholstery work. Fisher guaranteed the workmanship, promising that it would adhere to Eagle Anvil Works’ reputation for quality.

Fisher invested in some machinery for the repair department and began advertising in the Trenton Evening Times classified advertising pages in late January 1908.

Gasoline Engines
AUTOMOBILE Repairs, motor boat engines repaired and installed, by expert machinist and engineer; first-class work guaranteed; no trust prices. Fisher & Norris Anvil Works, Fair Street, Trenton, N.J.

Slow economic times caused Harriet White Fisher to think creatively and act decisively. She found a niche that utilized some of her business assets, required a manageable amount of investment, and was personally satisfying.


Trenton Evening Times, 23 January 1908; 21 January 1908; and 21 April 1908 via

New York Times, 24 January 1908

Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 January 1908 via

The Motor World magazine, 6 February 1908 via Google Books

Copyright 2020 Ferret Research, Inc.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett

by Mary Goljenboom

A starter

  • sends out a current that sparks operation
  • sets off a reaction and causes ingredients to change
  • gives the signal for something to begin

Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a starter.

She’s remembered today as an investigative journalist who detailed the barbarism and hypocrisy that underpinned the lynching of black men. Her articles, pamphlets, and editorials so inflamed white racists that they destroyed her newspaper’s offices and the type that allowed her words to be printed and distributed. But Ida just joined another prominent black newspaper and carried her crusade forward. In her career, she edited at least five newspapers, founding two of them and having all- or partial ownership in the other three.

Words, type, ink, and paper were not her only weapons for fighting racism. She was also a community organizer. With great entrepreneurial spirit, she started the first African-American women’s club in Chicago, the Ida B. Wells Club (which established a kindergarten for black children); the Negro Fellowship League, a settlement house; and the Alpha Suffrage Club, Chicago’s first suffrage club for black women. Nationally, Wells-Barnett was instrumental in starting the NAACP and the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the first national black women’s organization.

Whether she was starting a newspaper or establishing an association, Wells-Barnett applied an entrepreneur’s zeal to the tasks. She found the people, facilities, and finances with which to build and inspired others to do the same. Her passion for justice was a current that sparked many operations.

Ida. B. Wells-Barnett was honored in 2020 with a posthumous Pulitzer Prize “for her outstanding and courageous reporting on the horrific and vicious violence against Black Americans during the era of lynching.”

Originally published March 25, 2013. Copyright 2020 Ferret Research, Inc.

Marked Foresight and Sound Judgement: Mary Vail Andress, ARC

by Mary Goljenboom

Mary Vail Andress and other American Red Cross workers, Toul railroad station, March 7, 1918
Red Cross workers including Toul Canteen director Mary Vail Andress (woman on the left) distributing refreshments to the 5th Regt. Field Artillerymen on the way to the British-French front. Toul railroad station, March 7, 1918. Photo from the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

In 1917, after the US had entered World War I, the American Red Cross put out a call for volunteers to run canteens in France. Mary Vail Andress answered. She easily met the requirements. At 34 years old, she was in good health and on the young side of age the prerequisite. Having operated a school in Paris for American girls until war had broken out in 1914, she already spoke French. She was able to pay all her own expenses. While she had no experience with the American Red Cross (ARC), she knew the service sector: in addition to running her school, she’d also worked for the New York Settlement house. Quickly selected, by late summer, Andress was in France with ARC’s Canteen Corps.

Canteens provided weary soldiers with rest and refreshments. The Red Cross worked with officials of both the French military and the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) to open, staff, and supply canteens where they would most benefit soldiers: both at railway stations to serve soldiers in transit and, more dangerously, just behind the battlefront. No matter the flag under which the allied soldiers served, they could find hot or cold drinks, sandwiches, candies, chocolates, cookies, fruit, and a place to relax at an American Red Cross canteen.

It took some persuasion for Andress to get an assignment in the field. She initially worked  in Paris as the assistant to the director of the canteen service, according to Edward Hungerford in his book With the Doughboy in France (1920). Her desire for more active duty was eventually granted. After completing several short-term jobs at canteens in Épernay and Chantilly, she was assigned to direct a small French railway canteen at Toul, on the Moselle River in northeastern France. She arrived in January 1918.

Toul, because of its location on major rail lines and closeness to battlefields at Nancy and Verdun, was becoming an important military center for transporting soldiers, supplies, and equipment. Later that year it would become the headquarters of the US Second Army. Toul often was the last canteen for soldiers headed to the German front and the first for those leaving the battlefield with injuries or on leave.

ARC Rest Station, Toul. June 1918
An ARC worker with soldiers outside the ARC’s tent outside the Toul train station, June 22, 1918. Photo by Lewis W. Hine/American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

It was clear to Andress that the little French canteen at the railway station would need to be re-outfitted to serve more soldiers—many more. She envisioned facilities like those in Paris and Épernay, where she’d been assigned earlier. There soldiers could buy (at minimal cost) not only snacks, sandwiches, and drinks, but also full meals of soup, meat, vegetables, salads, bread, cheese, and eggs. These canteens had sleeping rooms, showers, recreation areas, and rooms for letter-writing or reading. Andress wanted to offer the soldiers stopping off at Toul all these services and comforts. The question was, How?

Her solution was multi-pronged. To give increasing numbers of traveling soldiers easier access to the railway canteen, she moved it into a 50-foot tent in the railway yard. This took copious amounts of persuasion, but Andress kept at it until she secured the necessary authorizations from railroad, military, and Red Cross officials.

Toul, France. Exterior of the American Red Cross Officer's Rest House
Exterior of the American Red Cross Officer’s Rest House, Toul, Nov. 1918. Mary Vail Andress (on the right in the doorway) with her colleague Ruth Smith. The soldiers are Pvt. Herbert Roylance and Pvt. J. Murphy, both of the 51st Pioneers. Joseph, a Frenchman, holds a broom. Photo from the American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

She found and rented a three-story apartment house a short walk from the railroad station. This was converted into a rest house. Twenty-five beds for officers were on the first two floors and eight more for enlisted men on the top floor. Food and showers were also available.

The building that became her main facility, the Hôtel de la Gare, was across the street from the train station. Andress rented it and then adapted it for the needs of soldiers. In the basement, she added showers that could accommodate up to sixteen men at a time. The kitchen produced full meals, thick sandwiches, hot dogs, doughnuts, cookies, and coffee brewed in ten-gallon marmites. Soldiers could buy candies, chocolates, and chewing gum, and canned goods like jam. Other items—toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors and blades, soap, towels, combs, brushes, handkerchiefs, underwear, socks, sweaters, cigarettes, playing cards, checkers—were also available, some at minimal cost, some given away. There was a writing room with stationery, postcards, pencils, pens, and ink, as well as a reading room with as many newspapers, magazines, and books as could be collected. There were 400 beds plus a system for announcing trains so that sleeping soldiers didn’t miss their departures.

American Red CrosCanteen & Rest House, at Toul France, Nov. 1918
The American Red Cross Canteen and Rest House at Toul (Meurthe et Moselle), France. ARC director Mary Vail Andress at center front. Photo from the American National Red Cross Photograph Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

Andress and her growing staff worked tirelessly to get each venue operating. Demand was high. By June, during the build-up for major military campaigns conducted in the summer and fall of 1918, the Toul canteen was serving 3,000 troops a day. Days were filled with cooking, baking, cleaning and—above all—friendly and upbeat conversation with soldiers. Shifts could run ten, twelve, fourteen hours or more. The search for supplies and provisions was endless, keeping Andress’s supply officer on the road between ARC warehouses, French and AEF commissaries, and local markets. A new, enlarged canteen was built in the plaza in front of the railway station and a small one placed in the yard on one of the platforms to serve those not able to leave trains. Sometimes even the nighttime was overactive with the sounds of artillery at the not-too-distant front.

ARC Canteen at Toul, France. Nov. 1918
Doughnuts, coffee, and sandwiches at the American Red Cross Canteen at Toul, France, Nov. 1918. Shown: Miss Mildred Cowing, of Wyoming, OH, Miss Mary Vail Andress of Sparta, NY, [third ARC worker is unidentified]. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

As busy as Andress’s Toul operations were during the war, their biggest test came after the November 11, 1918 armistice. For months, hundreds of thousands of AEF soldiers returned from battlefields, passing through Toul as they headed to French ports and home. Shortly after the armistice, 11,000 arrived in a single day. After that, it averaged 6,000-7,000 daily for months, according to Carter H. Harrison, an ARC manager at the Red Cross hospital in Toul who tells much of Andress’s story in his memoir With the American Red Cross in France.

Interior of American Red Cross Enlisted Men's Hotel at Toul, Fra
Soldiers in the lunch room of the American Red Cross Enlisted Men’s Hotel at Toul, Nov. 1918. Photo from the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

The Red Cross Bulletin of July 1919, published highlights from a year-end report about the Toul operation, and the article was subsequently reprinted in newspapers across the country. The 1.6 million soldiers who passed through the canteen during the previous eleven months had eaten 1,561,625 well-filled sandwiches, 461,114 doughnuts, and “oceans of coffee, chocolate, and lemonade . . . and pyramids of ice cream” as well as plenty of other food.

The article said that Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the AEF, had inspected the canteen and complimented its management. While the article did not mention Mary Vail Andress, the AEF had noticed her extraordinary effort and responsive administration. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her initiative and for displaying “marked foresight and sound judgement, with untiring personal devotion to the interests and comfort of those whom she served.”

In an exceptional salute to her work, Gen. Pershing himself presented her with the medal.

Mary Vail Andress’s Distinguished Service Medal citation:

For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. On her own initiative she organized and efficiently developed and administered the work of the American Red Cross at Toul, France. Under her wise supervision this work grew from the ministering and supplying of small comforts to soldiers passing through in hospital trains to an undertaking of extensive proportions, which has aided and cheered thousands of men in the service. In the performance of her exacting tasks, she has displayed marked foresight and sound judgement, with untiring personal devotion to the interests and comfort of those whom she served.

Congressional Medal of Honor, The Distinguished Service Cross, and the Distinguished Service Medal Issued by the War Department Since April 4, 1917 up to and including General Orders, No. 126, War Department, November 11, 1919, Compiled in the Office of the Adjutant General of the Army, 1919 (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1920), p. 840

With the American Red Cross in France, 1918-1919 by Carter Henry Harrison

With the Doughboy in France; a Few Chapters of an American Effort by Edward Hungerford

The American National Red Cross Annual Report For the Year Ended Jane 30, 1918

The Red Cross Bulletin, vol. 3: Jan. 7, 1919 p. 7; Jul. 7, 1919 p. 8

“Army Canteens Conducted by American Women”. Washington, D.C., 28 Oct. 1917 via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers from the Library of Congress

Great Quantities of Food Handled at the Canteen“. Maysville, KY Public Ledger, 28 June 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Captions are based on information provided by the source and information in The Catalogue of Official A.E.F. Photographs Taken by The Signal Corps, U.S.A., War Department Document No. 903, 1919, accessible via Internet Archive or HathiTrust .

Red Cross workers incl MV Andress (woman on left) distributing r

National Archives Identifier: 20804532

ARC Rest Station, Toul. June 1918

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, American National Red Cross photograph collection, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-anrc-16624


Toul, France. Exterior of the American Red Cross Officer's Rest House

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, American National Red Cross photograph collection, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-anrc-15425 (digital file from original)


Exterior of the American Red Cross Headquarters at Toul (Meurthe

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, American National Red Cross photograph collection, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-anrc-15425 (digital file from original)

ARC Canteen at Toul, France. L-R: Miss Mildred Cowing,  Miss M.V

National Archives Identifier: 20803806.  Another version is in the collection of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, American National Red Cross photograph collection, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-anrc-15423

Interior of American Red Cross Enlisted Men's Hotel at Toul, Fra

National Archives Identifier: 20803812

A version of this article originally appeared in our newsletter on historic businesswomen, The Registry, in 2016.

Copyright 2019 Ferret Research, Inc.

Lillian G. Jones, Bank Cashier

by Mary Goljenboom

The banking career of Lillian G. Jones was uncommon in many ways.

It started in 1910, when Jones took a job as a stenographer at the New York branch of the National Bank of Cuba. She worked her way up, becoming an expert in foreign exchange. This was a critical area for the bank because of its deep involvement in the Cuban sugar trade. A woman with this kind of expertise was rare. Many of the women who went into banking in the late nineteen-teens were hired—at least in part—because of their extensive social networks; they were then taught the necessary banking skills.

Jones’s work was rewarded when, in May 1916, she was appointed assistant cashier of the Bank of Cuba of New York. (It was the same bank, but renamed to reflect it becoming a state bank). Jones, then in her mid-20s, was one of the country’s earliest female bank executives.

Two years later, newspapers across the country noted how “Wall Street precedence was shattered” when Lillian Jones was appointed the cashier of the bank. The job opening was created when the bank’s cashier, Charles F. Plarre, was called to World War I military duty in July 1918. The New York Tribune noted how the even “the more important” financial posts were being filled by women because of the war. The Associated Press said she was first woman in New York to hold the cashier’s position.

As cashier, Jones was responsible for receiving and paying out the bank’s money, collecting and paying its debts, receiving and transferring its commercial securities, and overseeing the work of assistant cashiers, auditors and accountants, and tellers. The position of cashier is similar to the modern position of controller (comptroller).

Jones’s tenure as cashier was temporary. The war ended in November 1918; Plarre was discharged in January and returned to the bank as cashier shortly thereafter. Jones was again assistant cashier. Her achievement was valued by the bank for in all of its ads her name and title, L. G. Jones, Assistant Cashier, are listed with the president, vice president, and cashier. She also showed that women were capable of so much more than the standard of the day assumed.

Jones’s career was not long. Bank of Cuba of New York closed in 1921 after a precipitous drop in sugar prices caused the failure of its parent, the National Bank of Cuba. She married in 1923. It’s possible that she continued to apply her skills behind the scenes to her husband’s business (real estate), like countless other wives who have worked unacknowledged.

The Commercial & Financial Chronicle
, July 29, 1916 p 380 via Google Books

“Precedent Shattered.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, September 22, 1918, column 7, via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers from the Library of Congress

Copyright 2016 Ferret Research, Inc.

Marion McPartland’s Halcyon Records

by Mary Goljenboom

Singer, songwriter, and producer Madonna has been called the “Queen of Pop” and is one of the best-selling female recording artists of all time. The achievements of her long—and still active—career did not help her when her 2015 single, “Living for Love” was rejected for airplay by BBC Radio 1. The reason? The station is working to attract listeners in the age 15-30 demographic. “The vast majority of people who like Madonna, who like her music now, are over 30 and frankly, we’ve moved on from Madonna,” the head of music for BBC1 explained.

One of the hazards of being a popular artist is the loss of popularity, real or imagined. Music distribution companies and promoters make business decisions based on market popularity. Slow sales can mean lost recording contracts and canceled tours, and put a career in the doldrums—or worse—leaving the artists struggling to get their music out to their fans.

While this scenario is very unlikely to describe Madonna’s future, it does describe the careers of thousands of recording artists of the 20th century, especially mid-century when pop music “moved on,” shifting from big band jazz to rock-and-roll. Some recording artists, including pianist Marian McPartland, dealt with the problem by founding a label and signing themselves.

“Marian McPartland has three strikes against her,” wrote noted jazz critic Leonard Feather, “she’s English, white, and a woman.” In spite of these “liabilities,” McPartland, who moved to the US after World War II, created a career as a jazz soloist, bandleader, composer, writer, radio host, and headed her own record business, Halcyon.

Marian McPartland
Marion McPartland, undated portrait from Betty Lee Hunt Associates

Halcyon Records was formed in 1968. McPartland’s recording contract with Capitol Records had ended and she was looking for alternatives. Twenty years before, she and her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland, had started a small record company, Unison, to release their work, so the process of producing and marketing was not entirely new to her.

Right from Halcyon’s start, McPartland had several objectives, according to biographer Clare Hansson: “to record herself with artistic freedom, retain executive control over her recorded output, and to record other musicians who were major jazz talents yet being ignored by record companies.” Retaining control over output was especially important to McPartland. “I think the thing that annoyed me the most was seeing albums recorded for the big companies, which, if they didn’t sell immediately, would be quickly taken out of the catalog,” she told an interviewer in 1978. Artistic control and steady sales mattered more to McPartland.

Initially McPartland had two partners, Sherman Fairchild and Hank O’Neal. According to McPartland biographer Paul de Barros, all three put up $500 to give the company working capital and split management and production duties according to their expertise. Fairchild, a very successful inventor and entrepreneur, provided his home recording studio plus administrative support for the venture and an employee to handle distribution (which was to be primarily mail order). O’Neal engineered the recordings. McPartland selected music, worked on album cover design and often wrote the liner notes. She also came up with the Halcyon name and worked with a friend to design the logo. Halcyon’s first recording, Interplay, featuring McPartland with bassist Linc Millimen, was released in 1969 and was praised by jazz critics. Over the next three years Halcyon released several more albums. The partnership ended with Fairchild’s death and O’Neal forming a new recording company, Chiaroscuro. McPartland became the sole owner of Halcyon.

As every small business owner knows, ownership means responsibility. For McPartland that meant she was now responsible for production duties formerly split with two others, plus all the expenses for creating the albums. She rented recording studios and hired engineers in addition to selecting music and musicians to record. She contracted for the manufacturing of the LPs, usually pressing one thousand copies at a time, and arranged for them to warehoused, often in her own home (she bought a big house in the New York City suburbs for this purpose). She handled publicity—getting review copies to critics and deejays to encourage airplay on radio stations—and even invested in a small amount of advertising, running ads in The New Yorker, in 1976 and 1977. She worked out distribution agreements with record stores in the New York City area and, in later years, in Europe, and made sure that orders from individuals and retail outlets were filled, too, sometimes relying on neighbors to do the work when she was traveling. She was the collection agency when retailers were late with payments. McPartland worked these tasks in around her performances, which themselves were a major source of record sales. On the road, she shipped cartons of records to her destination.

McPartland held true to her objectives. Her solo recordings on Halcyon—some critically acclaimed—documented her growth and artistic maturity. She recorded talented jazz musicians who were being passed over by the big record companies. Halcyon released albums of Marian performing with Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Joe Venuti, and her ex-husband, Jimmy McPartland, as well as solo albums by Dave McKenna and Jimmy Rowles. She even re-released on Halcyon music that the McPartlands recorded in 1948 and 1949 for their Unison label, illustrating her commitment to preserve and manage recordings, including the eighteen albums that ultimately made up Halcyon’s catalog. She felt keenly the art that was lost when recordings—old or contemporary—were no longer available. “It makes it all the more important to have a catalog and keep the catalog up. You know, I wouldn’t take anything out. I still get a number of orders on the first of them. They all sell slow and steady all the time,” she said in 1978. Critics lamented that Halcyon did not have broad distribution throughout the country.

Halcyon Records did not make McPartland rich. It was one revenue stream (sometimes a trickle) in a career that included performing, composing, teaching, and (starting in 1979) a radio program, Piano Jazz, broadcast on National Public Radio. McPartland recorded for other labels during the time she was running Halcyon, including three albums for Tony Bennett’s label, Improv (Bennett had co-founded his own label in 1975). Running Halcyon did have its rewards. “Even if I lost lots of money out of my own pocket, always having a new record is a form of publicity. And it’s very satisfying” she explained in a 1974 interview.

Today many Halcyon recordings are available through Concord Music Group. Thanks to electronic media, McPartland’s fans—like Madonna’s—can see music videos on YouTube and hear her music via radio and music streaming services.

“Madonna Accuses BBC Radio of Ageism After Song Ban” by Daniel Kreps. Rolling Stone, March 14, 2015.

Marian McPartland, Jazz Pianist: An Overview of a Musical Career by Clare Hansson. PhD Thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland by Paul de Barros.

“Marian McPartland: A Fine Romance” by Joe Waz. Jazz Forum, Issue #52, 1978

“Jazz Goes Independent” by L. Matlin. SR World, May 18, 1974 pp. 40-41.

Listen to  Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz at the NPR archives

Copyright 2015 Ferret Research, Inc.

Thinking Differently: Josephine Roche

by Mary Goljenboom

Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The troublemakers. The ones who see things differently. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Apple’s Think Different advertising campaign (1997-2002), used those words to describe 20th century icons—Einstein, Gandhi, Martha Graham, and Martin Luther King, Jr.—whose images were the other integral piece of the television and print ads. Two of the visionaries in this series were business leaders—Richard Branson (founder Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, etc.) and Ted Turner (founder CNN and TBS).

Businesswoman Josephine A. Roche was not part of Apple’s campaign but the ads’ description fits her, particularly when she took over the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company and changed its management policies.

Forty-year-old Josephine Roche took her seat in the boardroom after inheriting 40% of the Colorado-based coal mining company’s stock in 1927. She knew her positions on pressing issues differed from those of the company’s other directors and her late father, the company’s former president. She’d been educated at Vassar College and Columbia University and, in her professional life, had instituted progressive policies within organizations where she worked as an administrator: the US Foreign Language Information Service, the editorial division of the US Department of Labor’s Children’s Bureau, and the Denver Juvenile Court System. She expected to be seen as a troublemaker by her boardroom colleagues.

Disputes over working conditions and wages had caused years of labor-management conflicts for all of Colorado’s coal mining businesses. Seen from today, management’s treatment of labor is harsh and unfair. Miners’ wages and hours fluctuated dramatically and they were not paid for time that was integral to the operation but not “mining,” such as loading coal or building support structures. Pay raises frequently were followed by cuts that zeroed the increase. Often miners were paid not in cash but in scrip, which only had value at the company store. Inside the mine, there was spotty compliance with safety and ventilation regulations. Complainers faced instant job loss. These issues, unresolved for decades, led employees to call strikes and for unionization. Management believed in their inalienable right to control their property (i.e., the business). They chose to quash dissent, ruthlessly and unscrupulously, using their economic power to support their business practices, no matter the cost in dollars or lives.

Josephine Roche saw things differently. She believed the company should be managed for the benefit of all stakeholders—employees, customers, managers, and investors—not exclusively for those controlling the capital. She was sympathetic to workers’ demand for union representation because she’d witnessed their deplorable living and working conditions. Her vision for RMFC was farsighted and progressively capitalistic: She believed the company could both make money and improve the lives of her workers and their families.

In order to realize her vision, Roche first needed a majority of stockholders supporting her. According to biographer Robyn Muncy, Roche contacted non-board investors and received enough authorizations (proxies) to fire the current board of directors and re-build it. The president of RMFC was so incensed that he offered to sell his shares to Roche. She borrowed $35,000, completed the deal, and became RMFC’s controlling stockholder.

Roche installed progressive managers to oversee the business, and named herself as vice president (within a few years she became president). She then invited her workers to organize and choose their own representatives for negotiations with management. They chose the United Mine Workers and in the summer of 1928 Roche signed the labor contract she and the union had negotiated. Its provisions—an eight-hour day and six-day work week at $7 per day (the highest coal mining wage in the state), as well as other benefits—won her increased productivity, labor peace, and the support and gratitude of her employees. She needed it.

Her competitors viewed her as a “dangerous industrial radical” according to TIME magazine and started a price war. These coal operators, including Colorado’s largest, the Rockefeller–owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Corp., dropped prices 50 to 75 cents per ton so RMFC’s higher labor costs put the company at a big disadvantage. Some operators gave secret rebates to customers. The predatory practices were designed to force RMFC into bankruptcy and rid the industry of unions.

Roche fought back. She met the competition on price, then, to supplement the loss of income, raised money privately. Six hundred of her workers, according to TIME, voluntarily voted to take only half their wages for three months, thus loaning the company about $80,000. The union-led “Buy from Josephine” campaign to increase sales to households, merchants and manufacturers was pumped up. The United Mine Workers loaned her money, too.

Rocky Mountain Fuel Company hung on, even as the Great Depression added more economic hardship and the newly developed natural gas industry competed for coal customers. Roche was forced to lower wages to $5.25 a day in 1932 but opened company property to farming and provided credit at the company store to help offset the cuts. That same year, the New York Times reported that the company’s costs for digging a ton of coal had steadily declined since the 1928 contract took effect and its sales increased. The company was making money because of the joint efforts of management and labor. In 1935, a nationwide poll of 500 business executives named her the top US businesswoman. By then, all the other Colorado coal mines were unionized.

Josephine Roche was crazy enough to think she could change the world. And she did.

“A Woman Unravels an Industrial Knot,” by Louis Stark, New York Times, February 7, 1932

Restless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth Century America by Robyn Muncy

A Wide-Awake Woman: Josephine Roche in the Era of Reform by Elinor McGinn

Regulating Danger: The Struggle for Mine Safety in the Rocky Mountain Coal Industry by James Whiteside

“Rocky Mountain Gesture,” TIME, September 7, 1931

Land Of Contrast: A History of Southeast Colorado by Frederic J. Athearn

Copyright ©2015 Ferret Research, Inc.

The Campaign for Early Christmas Shopping

by Mary Goljenboom

In the 1890s, as today, stores were often packed with shoppers in the days leading up to Christmas, lured by sale prices and special merchandise. At that time, however, the shopping season only spanned the few weeks before the holiday. Merchants often did not have all their holiday merchandise available until mid-December. Shoppers waited until a few days before Christmas—and especially Christmas Eve—to make their selections and have them packaged and sent to the recipient, with delivery expected before Christmas. This consumer behavior put tremendous pressure on retail employees, and interfered with their own holiday celebrations.

It took a concerted social movement to make store management change their policies and for consumers to buy-in. Ironically the change has led to Black Friday and shopping madness on Thanksgiving Day. But the story of that social movement also illustrates what needs to happen in our own time to cause change for modern workers.

The movement was started by a group of middle- and upper-class women interested in changing the working conditions of women and children with jobs in retailing. At the time there was no minimum wage, no maximum number of hours to the work day or week (and, therefore, no overtime compensation), and no limits on child labor. While some labor organizers were working to improve conditions through unionization, Josephine Shaw Lowell, Maud Nathan, and other like-minded women believed in another strategy—the power of the purse. They reasoned that consumer demand dictated the policies of employers and, therefore, consumer demand could force change to those policies. In 1891, these women organized themselves into the Consumers’ League of the City of New York (CLCNY).

Maud Nathan, who became president of the group in 1896, explained one tactic:

The majority of employers are virtually helpless to maintain a high standard as to hours, wages and working conditions under the stress of competition, unless sustained by the cooperation of consumers.

A woman who joins our league agrees to shop early in the day. She does not insist that her goods shall be delivered on the same day, declining to receive anything after 6 pm. This enables the delivery men and errand boys to finish their labors early. A member of our league does her Christmas-shopping early. She avoids shopping in the evening and on Saturday afternoons. She does not even ring up the grocer or the butcher by telephone on Saturday afternoons and order goods.

Another tactic used by CLCNY was to create and publicize a list of merchants who met the league’s criteria for fair working conditions; league members and sympathetic consumers (who may have seen it in the newspapers) would then patronize those businesses. The league actively investigated conditions by visiting stores, interviewing managers, and separately seeking verification or contradiction from workers. The list was called the White List for it was the opposite of blacklisting merchants. Eleven retailers, including Lord & Taylor, were on the league’s first White List in 1891. Four years later there were 31 including John Wanamaker, Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and F.A.O. Schwarz.

As the CLCNY investigated and reported on workplace conditions, they realized the particular burden the Christmas holiday, particularly Christmas Eve shopping, placed on workers. After a twelve- or fourteen-hour selling day, shelves needed to be restocked, goods packaged for delivery, and deliveries made (gifts were almost never sent early at this time), keeping employees—including children—working far into the night.

In typical league fashion, Maud Nathan’s CLCNY fashioned a multipronged approach, reaching out to retailers and consumers. It encouraged White List merchants to close early on Christmas Eve. For instance, eight days before Christmas 1898, White-List-member Wanamaker’s started announcing in its holiday advertising that it would close early (at 7 pm instead of 10 pm) on Christmas Eve. The next year, Wanamaker’s ran an ad explicitly stating that they were closing early on Christmas Eve so “the thousands of us who will have helped with your good Christmas can get ready for our own.”

The league also discouraged evening hours during the Christmas shopping season and encouraged merchants to display all holiday merchandise earlier than the few weeks just before Christmas, as was the custom, so shoppers could make their selections early. “We found that just as soon as demand for these gifts was made, supply was forthcoming,” Nathan wrote in her book on the league, Story of an Epoch-Making Movement.

Finally, CLCNY, in its annual appeal to members and supporters, urged them to shop early at the White List stores.

Over the next decade these tactics became a campaign to promote early Christmas shopping.

The league amended its fairness standards to cover the evening hours. To comply, a merchant must “not remain open after 7 pm more than four evenings between December 15th and December 25th,” and not remain open “later than 9 o’clock on these four evenings.” The White List was divided into two categories: “Stores not open in the evening before Christmas” and “Stores open in the evening before Christmas” (in 1908, there were 34 stores closed in the evening compared to 14 open). Members pledged to shop early. The White List was printed in newspapers, magazines, and theater programs.

Nathan made speeches, gave interviews, wrote opinion pieces and letters to the editor. She set up a Committee on Arousing Public Sentiment. They produced thousands of flyers, posters, letters, and postcards with the appeal to shop early. These were distributed through churches and synagogues (some 15,000 in 1907 alone), in schools and clubs. At CLCNY’s urging, they were also used as talking points by clergy and teachers. Women’s clubs signed pledge cards to complete shopping before December 15th. In 1909, from November 30th to December 14th, a 25×30 foot banner was hung over 23rd St. between 5th and 6th Avenues. It read Do your Christmas shopping before December 15th to help the workers in the shops and factories. [signed] Consumers League of the City of New York.

The movement and the Consumers’ League spread nationwide. Habits changed. Merchants displayed their goods in November and, in some cases, October. CLCNY reported proudly in 1906 that “one merchant sent notices in October to all of his charge customers, informing them that his full Christmas stock would be on exhibition by October 29th , and that selected goods would be reserved for later delivery if purchased before December 10th.”

In her memoir, Maud Nathan wrote with pride “No longer do shoppers feel that they must wait until the hurried last days before the holiday. . . .Each year holiday goods are displayed earlier and earlier to meet an ever-increasingly early demand.” If she was here today, she would protest shopping hours on Thanksgiving Day. Or maybe start another movement.

Story of an Epoch-Making Movement by Maud Nathan via Haithi Trust Digital Library

The San Francisco Call. 27 May 1902 via Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers at the Library of Congress

New-York Tribune. 28 Jan. 1894 via Chronicling America

The New York Sun. 16 Dec. 1898 via Chronicling America 

New-York Tribune. 15 Dec. 1899 via Chronicling America

Volumes of the Annual Reports of the Consumers’ League of the City of New York via Haithi Trust Digital Library

Copyright 2014 Ferret Research, Inc.

Hiring the Best

by Mary Goljenboom

To make the best begin with the best . . .

Bernice Fitz-Gibbon was the head of advertising and publicity at New York’s Gimbels department store in the 1940s and early 50s. Her policy was to only hire Phi Beta Kappas for copywriting jobs.

She wrote in her book Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me:

At Gimbels, we offered hard work, stern training, challenge and opportunity, and, ultimately, some pretty handsome cash rewards. But first, training and work. We wanted hustlers and scramblers, the type that takes on tough problems for fun.

There are many people like that, and they don’t have to have college degrees. College degrees do not guarantee brilliance. . . . It is true, however, that college does provide some kind of rough sorting system for brains. It was on the latter theory that we adopted our recruiting policy.

Fitz-Gibbon summed up her hiring policy quoting an old slogan for Campbell’s Soup “To make the best begin with the best . . .”

Her method comes to mind because of the report “Moving the Goalposts,” recently published by the labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. The firm found that an increasing number of employers demand a bachelor’s degree for jobs that previously did not require it. Burning Glass reached its conclusions by comparing “the education levels of workers currently employed in an occupation – a measure of past employer preferences – with the education levels employers are currently demanding for the same occupation.”

Why the change? The report says there are two common explanations.

  1. Some jobs have become more complex and require more skills.
  2. Employers are being more selective, favoring more highly educated workers.

The hiring practices of Bernice Fitz-Gibbon fit precisely under explanation #2.

Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me: How to Earn $90,000 a Year in Retail Advertising by Bernice Fitz-Gibbon (Simon and Schuster, 1967)

Moving the Goalposts: How  Demand for a Bachelor’s Degree is Reshaping the Workforce by Burning Glass Technologies (September 2014),

Copyright 2014 Ferret Research, Inc.