A Woman to Know: Sarah Howe

The Ladies' Deposit Company was established as a bank of women, by women, and for women. — Munsey's Magazine

(image via Boston Public Library)


Sarah Howe invented the Ponzi scheme before we knew it as the Ponzi scheme (which, by the way, is named for a man who didn't even run his scheme until 20 years after Howe ran hers).

In 19th century Boston, Howe socialized with high society women, offering them a chance to "get in" on the original "ground floor" of a female-led investment. She took money from these women and promised high-interest returns once they recruited others to contribute — you can guess what happened next.

From the April 25, 1881 issue of The New York Times:

Mrs. Sarah E. Howe, the manager of the notorious "Ladies' Deposit," the woman's bank paying 8 per cent. a month, which was broken up by the persistent newspaper exposures of its operations and their assaults, last Fall, was to-day, after a trial of comparatively short duration, found guilty on four counts of the indictment.

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