Boots First

These boots are made for walking… 
And that’s just what they’ll do.
One of these days these boots
are gonna walk all over you.

She was a Maverick — she had to be.

Those good old boys had the rules and the “code.”  Women need not to apply.  She was rejected nine times.  But this cat had ten lives.

And she wore boots.

She changed the rules.


In Memoriam
In Memoriam
Muriel Siebert, (September 12, 1928-August 24, 2013) a woman of firsts, a Fieldmarshal Rational, certainly made her mark on American history. In 1967, after having her application rejected nine times, she succeeded in becoming the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.

Fieldmarshals are bound to lead others, and from an early age they can be observed taking command of groups. In some cases, they simply find themselves in charge of groups, and are mystified as to how this happened. But the reason is that they have a strong natural urge to give structure and direction wherever they are – to harness people in the field and to direct them to achieve distant goals. They resemble Supervisors in their tendency to establish plans for a task, enterprise, or organization, but Fieldmarshals search more for policy and goals than for regulations and procedures. [Please Understand Me II]

As a child, she never thought of having a career, but possessed an early love of math, and recalled that she could “look at a page of numbers, and they would light up and tell [her] a story.” She was committed to her education, but her time at university was cut short when she made the decision to return home to care for her sick father who was dying of cancer.

Muriel’s big move to Manhattan was precipitated by a trip to visit her sister. She recalled saying, “You know this looks exciting. Maybe if I come to New York I’ll get a job on Wall Street.” When Muriel stood on the balcony of the NYSE during a tour she took on that visit in 1953, that dream was solidified in her mind. A year later, Muriel made the trek to Manhattan with an old Studebaker that she bought from a girlfriend’s mother. She said, “I came with that used car and five hundred dollars. And I drove.”  She was hired as a $65-a-week trainee in the research department at Bache & Company.


“The way it worked, everybody who was already there got to give the new kid one of their junk industries,” she told The New York Times in 1992. “I got airlines, I got motion pictures — things nobody wanted in those days.”

Despite her success, however, Siebert was painfully aware of the glass ceiling that prevented her from receiving equal pay and responsibility to the male executives at her firm.

She changed jobs three times, she said, when she found that men doing the same work were being paid at times sixty percent more than she was. She also discovered when job hunting that when the New York Society of Security Analysts sent out her résumé under the name Muriel Siebert, she received no inquiries, but when the society distributed it under the name M.F. Siebert, the results were quite different.

When she decided to strike out on her own and purchase a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, she was turned down by the first nine men she asked to sponsor her application before a 10th agreed.

The exchange told her that if she was admitted, her seat would cost $445,000. It also insisted that she get a bank to lend her $300,000 of the total price, something it had never asked of an applicant before. The banks, in turn, refused to lend her the money unless the exchange admitted her. “There would be no loan until I was accepted, and I couldn’t be accepted without the loan,” she said.

Believing that no existing firm would provide the respect and opportunities that she deserved, Siebert decided to found her own. She established Siebert & Co. in 1967.  []

Her seat on the exchange was big news at the time. Muriel said, “There was one headline, ‘Now The Girls Want To Play.’ And I’ll never forget that article.” It wasn’t until a decade later that another women joined the NYSE, and Muriel mused, “For ten years I could say, thirteen hundred and sixty-five men — and me.” Muriel’s groundbreaking career had many “firsts” for women. Two years after buying the seat on the NYSE, she founded Muriel Siebert & Company, becoming the first woman to own and operate a brokerage firm that was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1977, she was the first woman, appointed by Governor Carey, to be the State Superintendent of Banking.

With all the attention she got for being a pioneer, it was sometimes easy to forget that Siebert was also extremely good at her job. She did her homework. She loved to dig into the numbers. She understood market trends and human behavior. She was candid about her weaknesses and confident about her strengths. She loved to compete and win, but not if it meant being unfair. Having forged her own path in finance, she was determined to make the playing field more fair. Although celebrated as a pioneer in finance, Siebert’s greatest achievement may be in giving others the tools to succeed there, too.

Muriel fought and won many battles for women throughout her life. Determined  with an incredible work ethic, Siebert never took “no” for an answer, and was not afraid to take risks. As she noted when talking about what it takes to succeed in life, “There are three four letter words that end in k. It’s luck, work and risk.”

For Muriel Siebert, the secret to making a difference is to “take stands, take risks, take responsibility – the real risk lies in continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.”

Siebert didn’t set out to make Muriel Siebert & Co., the “first discount brokerage, or the first one owned by a woman … it was simply good business.”

Siebert died Saturday, August 24, 2013. of complications from cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Siebert was founder and president of brokerage firm that bears her name, Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc. The company went public in 1996 as Siebert Financial Corp.

In 1977, she became the highest-ranking female regulator in history when she accepted a five-year position as New York State’s Superintendent of Banks. Her interest in public service persisted even after the end of her term; in 1982 she ran in the Republican Primary for the United States Senate, finishing second among three candidates.

In addition to leading Muriel Siebert & Co. and investment firm Siebert Brandford Shank, Siebert sat on the boards of several philanthropies including The Economic Club of New York, The New York State Business Council, the Greater New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Guild Hall Museum, and others. She was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Committee of 200 (an international organization of pre-eminent businesswomen), the International Women’s Forum, Deloitte & Touche’s Council for the Advancement and Retention of Women, and the New York Women’s Forum, for which she was a founder and president.

A spokeswoman announcing her death, said Siebert was “a fabulous woman, a trailblazer and a pioneer” who set a high standard for those who entered the financial world after her.

She was active almost to the end.  Siebert bristled at the idea that she would ever stop working. Her retirement plan was to be “carried out boots first.”

She once explained her strategy for dealing with obstacles:

openquoteI put my head down and charge.closedquote  — Muriel Siebert

Other Fieldmarshal Rationals include:  Jerry Buss, John Adams, Indra Nooyi, William Pitt, the Younger, Ellen Sirleaf and Joyce Banda, and Margaret Thatcher.

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