Bay, Josephine Perfect (1900–1962)

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Bay, Josephine Perfect (1900–1962)

American financier and the first woman to head a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange. Name variations: Mrs. Charles Ulrick Bay. Born Josephine Holt Perfect in Anamosa, Iowa, on August 10, 1900; died in New York, New York, on August 6, 1962; daughter of Otis Lincoln and Tirzah (Holt) Perfect; sister ofTirzah Perfect (Mrs. Frederick W. Dunn); graduated from Brooklyn Heights Seminary, in 1916; attended Colorado College at Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1918–19; married Charles Ulrick Bay (a Wall Street financier), in 1942 (died 1955); married C. Michael Paul, in January 1959; children: (adopted) Christopher Bay, Synnova Bay, Frederick Bay.

Josephine Bay, the first woman ever elected to the presidency and chair of a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange, was ahead of her time. As early as 1957, she was advocating equality of the sexes on the corporate level. Her words of four decades ago remain relevant. "Today's women have a new and deeper responsibility than ever before in our history—to carry their share of leadership along with men of equal ability…. What a tragedy it would be if we were to maintain the old superstitions which wall out capable executives merely because they are women!"

Bay, who grew up in Brooklyn, showed an early interest in business. After a year at Colorado College, she returned home to become active in a number of civic groups, including the Brooklyn Junior League; she took over their debt-ridden bookstore and sold it in short order, a deal that not only paid off the League's debts but allowed for a continued share in the bookstore's profit. She and her sister Tirzah also operated a lucrative Christmas-card business for a number of years.

At age 42, Josephine married Charles Ulrick Bay, then a senior partner in the firm of A.M. Kidder, one of the oldest and wealthiest brokerage houses in Wall Street. He immediately began to tutor her in all of his business enterprises, inviting her to join him at business meetings and using her as a sounding board. "Time and time again he would discuss a business problem with me," she recalled, "urging me to take the opposite viewpoint to help clarify his thinking."

In 1946, Bay accompanied her husband to Norway, where he served as ambassador until 1953. In addition to working on NATO projects in the war-torn country, the couple adopted three Norwegian orphans. In 1950, she became president of the Charles Ulrick and Josephine Bay Foundation, through which the pair made numerous charitable gifts and grants, including scholarships to Norwegian students for study in America, and a medical fund for research and prevention of cerebral palsy among Norwegian children. Their humanitarian efforts were honored in 1957, when Josephine accepted the Commander's Cross of the St. Olav's order—one of Norway's highest decorations.

When Charles Bay took ill in 1955, Josephine succeeded him as a director of the American Export Lines (a passenger and shipping firm) and in the fall of 1956 was elected chair of the executive committee. Knowing fully his plans for Export, she embarked on a business strategy to see his ideas to fruition. Boosting profits, she won a reputation as a savvy businesswoman in her own right.

Following her husband's death, Bay became a limited partner in A.M. Kidder. On December 1, 1956, she was elected unanimously to the presidency and chair of the board of the prestigious firm. From 1959 to 1960, she also served as chair of the board of American Export Lines. Convinced that she was part of a wave of the future, Bay hoped her position would encourage women to become active investment owners, while encouraging men to stop regarding their wives "as just sweet and naïve things to be provided for but not to be told anything about their business."

Until her death in August 1962, Bay remained head of Kidder. She was succeeded by her second husband, C. Michael Paul, who remained in the post until the brokerage firm went out of business in June 1963.


Candee, Marjorie Dent. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1957.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dober, 1983.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Bay, Josephine Perfect (1900–1962)

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