Before women earned the right to vote, they were more than capable of making money on their terms, but not without many obstacles on the way. On the stock market, where it was scandalous for women to appear, they succeeded in starting a business. Let’s start with Mary Gage.
Who was Miss Gage?
In the 1880s, very few women were allowed to own property, and even if they did, that would be a target of much gossip. If any of them worked, they were underpaid or more often not paid at all. A woman having her money was considered a threat to men, and even working an honest job and getting the wage for it would be viewed as the same as prostitution.
One day, exactly where now is the world’s famous brokerage, Wall Street, Mary Gage was very frustrated that she couldn’t get into any stock brokerage and invest because of her gender. Especially now when she knew that America was becoming a central place for growth regarding finances. Being driven to do something about it and gain her independence, her finance associate, Elizabeth Cady Stanton started an exchange business but just for women. The goal was to allow every woman to dive into the world of stocks.
Who invested before women?
Well, men did. Women would give their money to men, to invest for them, but they had a tremendous interest rate, so in the end, they wouldn’t end up with much in return. Miss Gage decided to cut off the third party and avoid being robbed. She wanted to make autonomous decisions about money and how she wanted to use it. Bear in mind that Mary Gage didn’t have much influence on budgeting or anything related to money before this. She was helpless and put on the side, like any other woman at that time.
Was it outrageous only for women?
Surprisingly, no! When Miss Gage formed the first exchange, stockbroking, this was a “dirty” job for every gender. Religion saw this as an act of immorality and devilish ways of making money. Still, it was even harder for women because they were considered pure, and they had to maintain their purity for the sake of their families and reputation. Being on the market and making was, like we said, looked upon the same as prostitution, if not worse. They were going against their male figure in the family and considered rude and impure.
How men tried to delete women from the stock market
As expected, many didn’t approve of this “movement” and tried to stop women from investing at the exchanges. Ironically, in art and almost any other field, it was considered that women are emotionally incapable of enduring fluctuations in the stock market, which would make them crazy or get a full-blown panic attack. They were considered emotionally unstable for anything but bearing children and doing the housework.
How women responded
We are lucky to have Mary Gage, as she changed the history of finance and the stock market, especially in America. When they were told they couldn’t even create their market (which Gage succeeded in), many women started to gain influence using third-person relationships. For example, Abigail Adams convinced her husband that there are many advantages in trading, and convinced him they should do so.
The importance of Victoria Woodhull
Victoria Woodhull was the woman who made her bid in 1872 for the US presidency, and we can describe her as one of the first female stockbrokers that started a company with her sister in 1870 called Woodhull, Clafin & Company. This made her a female millionaire by the age of 31. It seems like she was a great negotiator because she brought to her side many clients who were magnates at the time. She also funded many causes that supported women’s rights, and she knew a couple about marketing as well. Her catch was that she had both male and female clients who could see her potential and determination. She demanded equal pay for equal work (something we debate even to this day). Still, trading was considered a joke, and Gage was also arrested at some point because she was “insane,” but they let her out later. People felt women like Victoria Woodhull and Mary Gage were “witches of the Wall Street.”
The Investing Club
Despite all the struggles on Wall Street, women formed investing clubs 40 years later, around 1920. By that time, they started getting positions in the back office. What made the front of The New York Times in 1927 was a rumor that a woman was asking for a seat on the NY Stock Exchange. That would mean that a female trader would have a place on the floor and a full right to buy and sell shares. The situation where oppression was still significant, newspapers didn’t even include the name of the woman who wanted to change something, and she didn’t succeed.
Four decades later, Muriel “Mickey” Siebert became the first woman to get a seat on the New York Stock Exchange floor, made a dream come true for so many women before, and worked as a broker until she died in 2013.