Clara Westropp (1886-1965) and Lillian Westropp (1884-1968)

Company: Women's Savings & Loan Company of Cleveland, Ohio
Started: 1922 with $89,000 in capital
Size: sold in 1992 for $78.25 million to Charter One Financial

On February 1, 1922, a new bank opened its doors in Cleveland, Ohio. The event might have been regarded as just another new financial services company launching in the midst of what many at the time understood to be a booming economy, except that the new bank was started by two sisters, Clara and Lillian Westropp. Not only were women entering a traditionally male-dominated field, but their vision for Women’s Savings & Loan included an all-female board of directors and a mission to educate women about money. Clara, the bank’s secretary, had worked in financial services; Lillian, its president, had been a judge. The bank, which accepted male and female clientele, not only survived, it thrived: it weathered the difficult years of the Great Depression, obtained a federal charter and reorganized as Women’s Federal Savings & Loan in 1935, and by 1950, had assets exceeding $20 million, making it the second largest bank in the county. After the deaths of the Westropps, various men held leadership positions in the bank. In 1983, it was renamed Women’s Federal Savings Bank with assets topping $576 million; in 1992 it was bought by and absorbed under Charter One Financial.

“We give our clientele our ability, our integrity, and our Experience, to aid them in their financial problems, and they in turn give us their confidence and patronage just as they would give it to any sound financial institution, whether it is run by men or women.”

References:

  • Picture: Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University.
  • Schlesinger Library (Papers of Clara and Lillian Westropp); Lillian and Clara Westropp, papers. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe. MC 215, Box 1, Folder 1, Manuscript by Nina Dorberg Public Relations.
  • “The Women’s Federal Savings Bank.” The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (ech.cwru.edu/Scripts/Article.asp?ID_WFSB).
  • “Charter One Buys Women’s Federal,” Toledo Blade, 18 September 1992.