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Image from the Greater Philadelphia Magazine, July 1952, courtesy of the Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ

Image from the Greater Philadelphia Magazine, July 1952, courtesy of the Special Collections & University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, New Brunswick, NJ

Mary Herbert Roebling (1905-1994) was the first woman to serve as head of a major commercial bank when she became president of the Trenton Trust in 1936. After her husband’s early death, Roebling found herself stranded as a young widow with two children. Nevertheless, her father and father-in-law insisted that Roebling, as executor of her husband’s estate, step into the role of president of the Trenton Trust (the Roebling family bank). Roebling ran the bank by day and attended evening banking courses at New York University by way of the commuter train. She has been credited with saving the Roebling bank during years of economic upheaval, and for also establishing crucial public relations, merchandising, drive-in banking and related services that were duplicated by a number of banks at the time.

Roebling attracted a significant amount of attention from Washington, D.C. for her many achievements in Trenton. As a result, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed her to a committee working on the China Relief Bill; President Harry Truman made Roebling the only female member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Armed Forces Installations. She was also a delegate to the Atlantic Congress for NATO, a delegate for the White House Conference on Refugee Problems, chair of women’s activities for the International Chamber of Commerce’s 17th Congress and finally a member of the Citizens Advisory Council to the Committee on the Status of Women.

In 1958, Roebling was named the first woman governor of the New York Stock Exchange. Several years later, in 1978, she helped found the Women’s Bank of Denver which was the nation’s first chartered bank established by women. She received the President’s Medal from the U.S. Army, the Distinguished Service Award from the US Marine Corps and an Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.

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