America's first bond saleswoman
At a time in our country's history when women rarely worked outside the home—before women had the right to vote, even—Merrill Lynch made history in the beginning years of the women's liberation movement by hiring America's first bond saleswoman.
In 1870, Victoria Woodhull opened the first woman-owned brokerage firm. In 1872, Woodhull was arrested because she ran for president of the United States at a time when women could not legally vote. That same year, Susan B. Anthony was arrested for voting in the presidential election. These events sparked the beginning of a movement leading women across the country to stand up and fight for their right to vote and own property.
When Susan B. Anthony died in 1906, women still did not have the right to vote. A protest staged at the White House 11 years later, in 1917, resulted in 16 arrests. Protests continued, and the women's liberation movement gained momentum.
Annie Grimes grew up during the early decades of the women's liberation movement, watching the generation ahead of her fight for women’s rights. Empowered with ambition, Grimes pursued a degree in business and economics at the University of Chicago. In 1914, she graduated and moved to Manhattan, where she found no prospects in the world of finance. Grimes eventually took a job as a publicist, a job she did for several years while searching for an opportunity that would utilize her qualifications and aspirations in finance.
By 1918, any Wall Street jobs for women were administrative roles.
In 1919, Annie Grimes interviewed for a job with Charlie Merrill, who had only recently formed his firm, Merrill Lynch. Annie impressed Charlie so much that he hired her on the spot. He didn't hire her for a minor role in the firm, either—he hired her as a true woman of Wall Street, America's first bond saleswoman.
Grimes went to work alongside other prominent members of the firm, rising stars like Win Smith and Herbert “Pop” Melcher. She was treated as an equal among the men and was told by the sales manager to “hang up your hat and get to work.” Grimes proved successful in her role, using her experience and savvy to sell new bond issues.
The year after Annie was hired, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women in America the right to vote.
After 13 years selling bonds, Grimes was up for a new challenge. In 1932, Charlie Merrill asked her to help launch his idea of a grocery store based magazine for women shoppers of Safeway Stores, which Charlie helped advise during this period. Safeway was one of the largest grocery chains in California, and eventually became one of the largest in the United States.
Through Grimes’ efforts, that same year, Family Circle magazine was born. The magazine was a success and eventually reached a circulation of more than four million subscriptions per year. Grimes remained at Family Circle, leading the advertising sales unit, until 1955. That year, she phoned Charlie Merrill to announce her retirement. When Charlie heard the news, he responded, “Don’t be silly. You won’t be happy sitting around the house, Annie. Come on back home.”
And so Grimes returned to Merrill Lynch to fill a role created just for her, as goodwill ambassador, spreading the good name of Merrill Lynch around the Stamford, CT, area, where she lived, promoting the firm to civic and women’s groups, organizing investment seminars and calling on potential clients. Annie’s impact was wide and deep, helping to forge a broader career path for women on Wall Street. Just as important, she was a beloved and respected figure at Merrill Lynch and her career is a testament to the heritage of our company.
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