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3 Women Who Helped Shape Credit Union History

The role of women in the development and growth of the Credit Unions throughout history cannot be overstated. Women’s History Month is the ideal time to recognize the significant contributions of some of the leading female figures who’ve helped guide, elevate and champion the cooperative movement across the country.  

Below you’ll get a glimpse of just a few of the strong, driven and passionate women who helped shape the credit union movement’s cooperative and caring landscape—yesterday and today.

Louise Herring, the Mother of Credit Unions

Ohio native and University of Cincinnati business graduate, Louise Herring (1909-1987) was only 23 years old when she started to organize credit unions.

An employee of the Kroger Company, Herring set-up 13 volunteer-run credit union to serve Kroger employees, who often had difficulties getting loans from banks. 

Herring became involved with the national cooperative movement and was a key player at the 1934 Estes Park conference that established the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), despite being one of the youngest delegates at the event.  

She became the first director of the Ohio Credit Union League. In that role, she traveled all over Ohio, helping to organize more than 500 credit unions across the state. All while raising five children of her own. It’s no wonder Louise Herring is considered the “Mother of Credit Unions.”

Dora Maxwell, a Passion for Helping People

While Herring was seeding credit unions across Ohio, Dora Maxwell (1897 – 1985), another original signer of the CUNA constitution at Estes Park, was doing the same on the East Coast.  Through her efforts, including facing down big banks bent on curtailing credit union growth, she was able to secure charters for hundreds of credit unions across the country.

Because of her unflagging dedication to assisting underserved families, CUNA established an award in her name: the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award. It’s given each year to a credit union for its socially responsible projects within the community.

Renée Sattiewhite, a Force for Diversity and Inclusion ​

Beginning her financial industry career as a teller trainee for a bank in California, Renée Sattiewhite rapidly moved her way up the ranks, fueled by her passion for helping people. She has been associated with the credit union movement for over 25 years.

Currently, Sattiewhite is the president and CEO of the African-American Credit Union Coalition​ (AACUC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to “shaping diversity, equity, and inclusion in the credit union movement.”  

A certified diversity professional, motivational speaker/executive coach, as well as credit union development educator, Sattiewhite brings a wealth of experience and understanding to the role. Under her leadership, the AACUC works with credit unions across the country to better meet and understand the needs of underserved populations, while increasing membership diversity.