Roebling, Mary G. (1906–1994)
Roebling, Mary G. (1906–1994)
American banker and first female governor of the New York Stock Exchange. Born Mary Gindhart in West Collingswood, New Jersey, on July 29, 1906; died in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 25, 1994; daughter of Isaac Gindhart, Jr. (a telephone company employee) and Mary W. (Simon) Gindhart (a music teacher); graduated from Moorestown High School;
attended finance classes at the University of Pennsylvania; attended banking and finance courses at New York University; married Arthur Herbert (died); married Siegfried Roebling (a banking and steel-cable magnate who was the grandson of Washington and Emily Roebling , died 1936); children: (first marriage) Elizabeth Herbert (Mrs. E.H. Dutch); (second marriage) Paul Roebling.
Became first woman to head a major bank when she became president of the Trenton Trust Company (1937); became first woman to hold a policy-making position on any major stock exchange (1958).
Mary Roebling's early years as a young mother and widow gave no indication that she would become a trailblazer for women in America's financial industry. The daughter of Isaac D. Gindhart, Jr., a telephone company employee, and Mary W. Gindhart , a music teacher, Roebling grew up and completed high school in Moorestown, New Jersey. While still a teen, she married Arthur Herbert, and three years later found herself a widow with a baby daughter. Out of necessity she became a secretary at a Philadelphia brokerage firm, while taking finance classes at the University of Pennsylvania at night. She left her employment to marry successful industrialist Siegfried Roebling, only to find herself widowed again, with another infant, in 1936.
Upon her husband's death, Roebling inherited a controlling interest in the Trenton Trust Company, an institution reeling from the effects of the Great Depression. Although she had no financial need to work, she was determined to restore the financial health of the bank. Roebling became president in 1937 and chair of the board of directors in 1941. Her lack of experience in the banking industry prompted her to attend classes in finance at New York University over a six-year period, but much of Roebling's success stemmed from her ability to promote her bank with women customers. Her strategies included holding financial teas to encourage wealthy women to establish trust funds with Trenton Trust. Known for her personal style (she was voted the "bestdressed banking woman" in 1958), Roebling promoted her bank in the same way by hiring professional window dressers to give Trenton Trust a new look. The small touches, such as her sponsorship of art shows, the bank's distribution of thousands of living shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day, and the displaying of her customers' merchandise at the bank, made a large difference. Her success in attracting women customers resulted in a 20-year increase in assets, from $17 million in 1937 to $90 million by 1960. In the process of making her bank wealthy, Roebling acquired a fortune of her own; she was considered one of America's ten richest women by 1957, with personal assets estimated at between $125 million and $200 million. She was driven in a silver Rolls-Royce, wore couture clothing and hung Picassos in her bathrooms, and while traveling once was robbed of the $375,000 worth of jewelry and furs she had with her in her hotel suite.
Because of her success and stature as the first woman to head a major American bank, Roebling was elected the first woman governor of the American Stock Exchange in 1958. She served as one of the three public members on that board until 1962, and was responsible for bringing the public's perspective to board deliberations. In her rapid rise through the ranks of business, Roebling did not forget to create professional opportunities for other women. She hired only women tellers at Trenton Trust's main branch and founded the American Women's Council, of which she was a director. She was also a vocal advocate for a female vice-president of the United States.
Roebling herself never served in elected office, but maintained a strong presence in government, business and community affairs. Her administration of Trenton Trust resulted in leadership positions with other companies, including Wings, Inc., the Fleron Supply Company, the Colonial Operating Company, the Standard Fire Insurance Company, and the Walker-Gordon Laboratory Company. She also served as an emeritus member of the advisory committee on women in the services for the U.S. Defense Department, as well as a vice-president of the National Defense Transportation Association. On the international front, Roebling was a delegate to the Atlantic Congress of NATO, and a trustee of the U.S. Council of the International Chamber of Commerce.
Trenton Trust was acquired by National State Bank in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1972, and Roebling served until 1984 as chair of the merged banks, which had assets of $1.2 billion. In 1978, she was involved in organizing the Women's Bank N.A. of Denver, the first federally chartered bank organized by women. Roebling died at her home in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1994.
Graham, Judith, ed. Current Biography. Vol. 56, no. 1. January 1995.
Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography Yearbook 1960. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1960.
Time. November 7, 1994, p. 23.
Linda S. Walton , freelance writer, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan