Women’s History: Finance Columnist Sylvia Porter Hid Her Gender

Accounts of Sylvia Feldman Porter’s life often cite the fact that her widowed mother lost $30,000 in the 1929 stock market crash as the thing that lit the spark for her career as a financial columnist but that interest may have been piqued even earlier. Porter also watched her parents lose money selfing Liberty Bonds at in inopportune moment, something she said many people once World War I was over. Sylvia Feldman’s mother was serious about her daughter getting a good education. After that  loss of $30,000, Sylvia wanted to know how that happened and switched her major from English/History to Economics. While her education may have increased in understanding, it did not guarantee her a job. Sylvia couldn’t find a job but did get an apprenticeship and took business courses. When Porter started writing about government bonds and financial matters, one of her editors thought it would be amusing to have a women offer financial planning advice. But it was an inside joke: her reading public didn’t know she was a woman because Porter used her initials writing as S.F. Porter to hide her gender. She did this from 1934 to 1942. But in the 1940s, things had begun to change:
The Post realized that her gender was actually an asset so on July 15th, 1942, editors changed her byline to “Sylvia F. Porter” and further revealed her identity by adding her photograph to the column. It was a significant day for Porter, as she reflected in an interview for New Women in Social Science: “ On that day I became a woman.” (https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/12/26/financial-guru-sylvia-porter/)
The revelation that S.F. Porter was actually a woman brought more requests for lectures and columns in other magazines and her professional renown continued to grow.  Porter had a mission to make plain the jargon used in the finance sector so the American public could gain an understanding of financial issues and be willing to take charge of their financial lives. Porter paved the way for today’s female financial columnists  who use their names, a picture, and often speak freely of their families. Sources:

These Women Have Been Breaking Barriers in Business for 150 Years

In the 1930s, financial guru Sylvia Porter hid her female identity with the byline “S. F. Porter”

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Claire Emory, MBA, CFA, CFP®

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