Credit Union Pioneers: Louise McCarren Herring

Louise McCarren Herring, an Ohio native, was one of the pioneer leaders of the credit union movement. A fierce advocate for credit union progress, she became known as the “Mother of Credit Unions”.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in business, Herring started her first job in the corporate office of the Kroger Company, a large grocery store chain. Her credit union flame sparked when she learned about the Bucket Shop in the early 1930s—during the heart of the Great Depression, when poverty was rising quickly.

In her area, many people who didn’t qualify for loans from banks would borrow from the Bucket Shop at exorbitant rates. They often ended up in debt so deep they couldn’t repay it. Louise learned about the situation at age 23, and her credit union fire was lit. She began to help organize credit unions.

In 1934, Herring was selected as the Ohio delegate to attend the national credit union conference in Estes Park, Colorado where she signed the constitution for a national credit union association. She believed that credit unions were a principal instrument to better people’s lives, and that they were more than just a financial institution. In her own words, “The purpose of the credit union is to reform the financial system, so that everyone can have his place in the sun.”

Through Herring’s commitment to the value of credit unions, she became a national leader of the movement. She helped to establish approximately 500 credit unions.

To commemorate her extensive work, the Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Member Service Award is given annually to a credit union that exhibits practical application of credit union philosophy within the operations of the credit union.