Louise and Dora: Credit Union Pioneers

Louise and Dora: Credit Union Pioneers

There are many women worth celebrating and recognizing during #NationalWomensHistory month.  As a credit union, we give a special recognition to two women who have helped shaped the People Helping People movement and both attended the historic first CUNA (Credit Union National Association) conference in Estes Park, Colorado.



Louise McCarren Herring

Known as the “Mother of Credit Unions”, Louise McCarren Herring was an Ohio native who was a national leader of the credit union movement.

In August 1934, Louise received encouragement from her employer, Kroger Co., to be a delegate representative for the company at Estes Park, Colorado for the first CUNA conference.  Armed with a business degree from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Commerce, Louise was one of the youngest appointed delegates to attend this conference.

Because she was one of the youngest delegates (24 years old, to be exact), she was quickly overlooked by the other delegates, and was thought to be “that college kid sitting over there” and “simply a mere girl”.  

But Louise surpassed everyone’s expectations.  It was through attending this conference that Louise set a solid foundation for the rest of her career with credit unions.  She ended up serving as secretary for the conference, where the delegates founded CUNA and signed its constitution. 

During the next 50 years, Louise accomplished many things for credit unions, including:

·         Founding the Ohio Credit Union League and working as its first managing director.

·         Serving as the state’s first credit union supervisor.

·         Founding the National Deposit Guaranty Corp.—and serving as its director.

·         Setting up 13 credit unions for Kroger employees.

·         Organizing more than 500 credit unions all over Ohio.

·         Assisting in organizing Michigan and Kentucky credit union leagues.

In the midst of being a credit union pioneer, Louise was also married and raised five children (several of whom went on to work in credit unions).

Read more about Louise and how “Neither Snow Nor Jail Could Stop Herring”.

Dora Maxwell

Dora Maxwell was one of the original signers of CUNA’s constitution, also at Estes Park, Colorado, that fateful day in August 1934.  Her efforts included securing charters for hundreds of credit unions throughout the U.S.

Establishing these charters did not come without its challenges. Big banks wanted to keep their dominance of the financial services market, and Dora faced many intimidating bankers who attempted to stop the growth of credit unions. 

It was a result of her first-hand experiences with the communities of each town she visited to grow credit unions that Dora developed volunteer organizer clubs and worked with organizations on behalf of the underserved and unrepresented families.

Because of her passion for assisting families during times of difficulty, The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award was created.


The Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award is given to a credit union, chapter, or a credit union group for their social responsibility projects within the community.

According to CUNA Awards, “Credit unions could receive the award for involvement in almost any kind of activity that helps other people or strengthens the structure of a community.”

Credit unions have come a long way. 

It’s because of driven, motivated, passionate women like Louise and Dora that credit unions are able to offer the “People Helping People”, member-first mindset, you see at any of the 5,757 credit unions in the U.S. today.

 We’re still a place where members can securely deposit and save money, but we also help with consolidating debt, mortgages, retirement IRAs, auto loans, student loans, and more.

Credit unions have a special history and we couldn’t be more grateful for these dynamic women who have helped pave the way for credit unions and the #CreditUnionMovement.

History of Credit Unions

The first credit union in the U.S. was introduced by businessman Edward Filene, who helped spearhead the first credit union act in Massachusetts.  Edward realized that credit unions could help ordinary Americans to access loans at reasonable rates and give them a safe place to save their money, so when hard times hit, they were prepared.  He formed a savings and loan association for employees of his family’s department store Filene.

This sparked the movement of credit unions becoming a part of the U.S. permanently, and in 1934 the national trade association for state and federally chartered credit unions, known as CUNA (the Credit Union National Association) was formed.

Read more about the History of Credit Unions.

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