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First Woman's Bank

Situated on the public square in Clarksville in the Arlington Hotel, the First Woman's Bank began operations on October 6, 1919. As a financial institution created, directed, and staffed entirely by women, its opening produced something of a sensation, and deposits totaling twenty thousand dollars came in the first day. The bank's establishment at this time, when women had recently experienced successes in their war efforts and in the temperance movement and were moving ever closer to gaining the vote, should have surprised no one.

Founder and president Brenda Vineyard Runyon led the 1916 drive for a city/county hospital in Clarksville. An accomplished leader in community efforts, she chaired the local Red Cross unit during World War I and served as sole female member of the school board. She also taught Sunday school at the First Baptist Church and with her husband, physician Frank J. Runyon, raised two sons.

Welcoming deposits from men and women, Runyon encouraged women to become savers and investors in the 1920s. The bank survived for several years, but when failing health necessitated Runyon's resignation as bank president, none of the directors would assume the vacated position. The banking venture, therefore, remains closely linked with Runyon, and its short life makes it seem more a novel experiment than a viable financial institution. The First Trust and Savings Bank of Clarksville absorbed the First Woman's Bank in 1926 and was itself later taken over by Commerce Union Bank before that institution became part of Sovran Bank and then Nations Bank.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010