Credit Union Founding Fathers: Dora Maxwell

Dora Maxwell portrait

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

She believed in fair access to financial services for everyone. This belief fueled her efforts and resulted in many accomplishments for the credit union movement.

Some of those accomplishments include:

  • In 1932 Dora became the head of the New York Credit Union National Extension Bureau branch.
  • 1934, Dora was chosen as the delegate to attend the Estes Park conference where the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was established. She then worked as an organizer for the Credit Union National Extension Bureau, CUNA’s trade organization.
  • She was one of the original signers of CUNA’s constitution at Estes Park, Colorado.
  • 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 on other groups who were looking to become credit unions. She would then connect the groups with corresponding state credit union leagues.
  • In 1946 she joined the Madison, WI office as a director of CUNA Mutual, doing work that included overseeing nationwide radio and magazine ad campaigns for organization.
  • Dora held numerous volunteer positions at the local and national level. In addition to organizing 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 CUNA, an award that recognizes credit unions for social responsibility within their communities. The award is given for external activities credit unions engage in. Credit unions can receive this award for involvement of any kind that benefits or helps other people or strengthens the structure of a community.