Women have served at the Federal Reserve since its earliest days, not only as stereotypical typists and secretaries but also as researchers, examiners, and economists (such as Aryness Joy, contributor to the cost of living index). Janet Yellen made history in 2014 when she became the first woman to serve as Chair of the Federal Reserve. But few people know the names of the trailblazers who came before her to serve as Fed leaders.
In 1978, economist Nancy Teeters became the first woman on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. She began her work for the Fed as an economist in 1957 and before her appointment to the Board, she also worked for the Congressional Research Service, the Brookings Institution, and the Office of Management and Budget. FRASER holds the memo recommending Teeters to President Carter and a collection of her public speeches and congressional testimony.
Famously, Teeters once likened the nation’s financial system to a piece of overstretched fabric threatening to rip. In an interview, she said she chose the metaphor specifically to emphasize her practical—and feminine—knowledge of the world.
In 1982, Karen Horn became the sixth president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the first woman to serve as president of any of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks. Fed Bank presidents attend all Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings and, except for the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, rotate voting privileges with other Fed presidents. Horn’s first FOMC meeting was May 18, 1982; Chairman Volcker made a point to welcome her and quipped about “the females gracing the right side of the table” (despite the presence of a number of other women in the room). Horn served as president of the Cleveland Fed until 1987. You can read a selection of her speeches and writings on FRASER.
Countless women have served the Federal Reserve System as vice presidents, officers, members of Bank boards of directors, bank examiners, economists, and in nearly every other function, but only 14 women—including Chair Yellen—have been members of the FOMC. FRASER lets you browse materials from every FOMC meeting since the first one in 1933 and allows you to judge their influence for yourself.
Timeline of women in Fed leadership:
Nancy H. Teeters: Board Governor (September 1978–June 1984)
Karen N. Horn: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (1982-87)
Martha Romayne Seger: Board Governor (July 1984-March 1991)
Susan M. Phillips: Board Governor (December 1991–June 1998)
Cathy E. Minehan: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (July 1994–July 2007)
- Transcript of her first FOMC meeting as president, which was also Janet Yellen’s first meeting as a governor
Janet L. Yellen: Board member (August 12, 1994–February 17, 1997); President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (2004-10); Vice Chair of the Board of Governors (October 4, 2010–January 2014); Chair of the Board of Governors (February 2014–present)
- Her statements and speeches on FRASER
- Transcripts of her first FOMC meetings (as governor, as San Francisco Fed president, and as Vice Chair, and minutes from her first meeting as Chair)
- Her confirmation hearing to be Chair
Alice M. Rivlin: Vice Chair of the Board of Governors (June 1996–July 1999)
Susan Schmidt Bies: Board member (December 2001–March 2007)
Sandra Pianalto: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (February 2003–May 2014)
- Her statements and speeches on FRASER
- Transcript of her first FOMC meeting (just before becoming president)
Elizabeth A. Duke: Board member (August 2008–August 2013)
Sarah Bloom Raskin: Board member (October 2010–March 2014)
Esther L. George: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City (October 2011–present)
Loretta J. Mester: President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (June 2014–present)
Lael Brainard: Board member (June 2014–present)
 “Nancy H. Teeters.” http://www.federalreservehistory.org/People/DetailView/78
 Vitello, Paul. “Nancy H. Teeters, First Woman on Federal Reserve Board, Dies at 84.” The New York Times, November 25, 2014; https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/26/business/nancy-h-teeters-first-woman-on-federal-reserve-board-dies-at-84.html?_r=0
 “Karen N. Horn.” http://www.federalreservehistory.org/People/DetailView/204
 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “About the FOMC.” https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomc.htm
 FOMC meeting transcripts are released on a five-year lag. For more information on the FOMC Meeting Minutes, when and how the minutes are published, and what information is available, see “Background on the FOMC Meeting Minutes” from the Spring 2005 Federal Reserve Bulletin.