Madeline McWhinney Dale
Economist and banker
Born: March 11, 1922, in Denver, Colorado
Died: June 19, 2020, in Red Bank, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2021: Enterprise
Madeline McWhinney Dale lived a life of firsts. She was the first female officer of the Federal Reserve Bank and later the bank’s first female vice-president. She was the first female to win a seat on the board of trustees of the Federal Reserve Retirement System, and the first president of the First Woman’s Bank.
McWhinney Dale’s father was a lawyer and banker; her mother a Smith College graduate with a degree in economics. Madeline was their first-born. Like her mother, she attended Smith, where she earned a degree in finance. She went to work for the Federal Reserve Bank in 1943, when most young men were away at war. When the men returned, she climbed through the ranks by taking on tasks that men felt were beneath them, such as mastering computer technology. That led to her groundbreaking appointment in 1960 as the chief officer of the Fed’s new Market Research department.
By 1967, the Fed made McWhinney Dale an assistant vice president; she was the first woman to reach that level. Earlier, she had the distinction of being the first female candidate to seek election to the board of trustees of the Federal Reserve Retirement System.
Throughout her 30-year career at the Fed, McWhinney Dale confronted sexist barriers that typified the era. Made an officer of the bank, she discovered there were no women’s restrooms on the officers’ floor. Attending business meetings at men’s clubs, she had to be ushered in through a side door.
McWhinney Dale broke another barrier in 1975 when she left the Fed to serve briefly as the first president of the First Woman’s Bank in New York. At a time when women were considered credit risks, the bank was a darling of the feminist movement.
A respected member of the financial community, McWhinney Dale served on numerous boards (including the Carnegie Corporation) and as a governor of the American Stock Exchange. A longtime resident of New Jersey (Middletown and Little Silver), McWhinney Dale served on the state’s first Casino Control Commission in 1980, as the state was rolling out legal gambling in Atlantic City. She also served on the board of the Atlantic Energy Corporation (of Atlantic City) for 10 years, and on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s advisory committee on professional ethics. Starting in 1983, she was also chief financial officer for the Whitney Museum of American Art.
In a lifetime of breaking glass ceilings and championing equal opportunity for women and minorities in business, McWhinney Dale never broke from her own credo of leading by example.