Credit union pioneers: Dora Maxwell

Born in the late 1800s, Dora Maxwell was an early credit union pioneer. Despite having to deal with adversarial bankers, she secured charters for hundreds of credit unions while working in an extremely intimidating industry in the United States.

Her belief in fair access to financial services for everyone fueled her efforts. Some of her accomplishments include:

  • In 1932, Dora became the head of the New York Credit Union National Extension Bureau
  • In 1934, Dora was chosen as the delegate to attend the Estes Park conference where the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was established. She was one of the original signers of CUNA’s constitution at Estes Park, Colorado.
  • Following the formation of CUNA, she worked as an organizer for the Credit Union National Extension Bureau.
  • In 1937, Dora worked alongside Thomas Doig to represent and promote CUNA Mutual insurance, collect national dues, and represent CUNA in the field. Maxwell was placed in charge of the Boston office, allowing her to expand leagues into New York and New Jersey.
  • In 1940, she became head of CUNA’s service organization, which oversaw finding leads of those looking to form credit unions. She connected the groups with corresponding state credit union leagues.
  • In 1946, she joined the Madison, WI office as a director of CUNA Mutual, overseeing nationwide radio and magazine ad campaigns.
  • Dora held numerous volunteer positions at the local and national levels. In addition to assisting in the formation hundreds of credit unions, she developed volunteer organizer clubs and worked with organizations on behalf of the poor.

Because of her efforts and beliefs, Dora Maxwell became the namesake of the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award of America’s Credit Unions, an award that recognizes credit unions for social responsibility within their communities. Credit unions can receive this award for involvement of any kind that benefits, helps, or otherwise strengthens the structure of a community.