A Woman Ahead of Her Time

From Rochester, NY, weighing in at 96 pounds and standing at 4’10”, Ellen Putnam was a heavy weight champion of life insurance and aptly described as a giant among giants in a predominantly male field.

Contracted with National Life in 1919, 10 months after the end of World War I, Ellen was a producer with us for the next 70 years. There wasn’t a company or industry award that wasn’t hanging on her wall.  She stood tall in our industry and was a leading national producer at a time when there were no women standing with her. In fact, when she first attempted to join the life underwriters association, her application was turned down because of a “no women allowed rule.”

Ellen Putnam, CLU

She persisted and not only became a national member, she became the first woman president of the Rochester Life Underwriters in 1933, was one of the country’s first Chartered Life Underwriters, and then was the first woman to be honored by the National Association of Life Underwriters in 1978.  “She was truly a pioneer,” said Brian Lindner, National Life Corporate Historian. “Ellen Putnam was a real pro who was precise, professional and driven to serve her clients.”

An innovative marketer, she wrote a by-lined article in 1923 entitled Life Insurance for the Nurse which was published in The American Journal of Nursing and the National Messenger. Ellen was espousing life insurance with living benefits before the term had even been coined. She wrote: “The very greatest reason why the nurse should carry insurance is to protect herself against the time when her earning capacity is decreasing and her physical ability may be impaired.”

Ray Naber, a National Life agent that worked with Ellen in Rochester, remembered her with a chuckle:  “She was one tough lady…the toughest snow storm would not keep her from getting to the office and serving her clients.”

Ellen lived her life with a servant’s heart describing her own success as her life’s passion: “It’s not work.  I’m just having fun helping people, and taking care of families.”

Ellen continued to bring peace of mind to her clients until her very final days. She submitted her last application shortly before her death at age 95. During Women’s History Month, we remember those whose shoulders we stand on. Thank you Ellen Putnam, for being part of our rich history and having the courage to forge ahead when there was no trail.

Looking to blaze your own trail? Consider a career in financial services with National Life Group.