Heritage Server > Story Bank > Fireman's Fund People > Women In The...
From the Fireman's Fund Record, October 1925.
By Miss Emma H. Clark, Fireman's Fund Agent, Marianna, Arkansas

Last month THE RECORD invited some of our women agents to answer a letter from Miss Dorothy L. Kobacker asking for information on women in the insurance business. The article that follows is in answer to Miss Kobacker's letter.

September 11, 1925

Miss Dorothy L. Kobacker,
Uniontown, Pa.

My dear Miss Kobacker:

The FIREMAN'S FUND RECORD has sent me a copy of your letter, together with a copy of their request for answers, with their questionnaire as a guide.

The subject seems very familiar to me. Several years ago when there were fewer of us I was asked to address the Arkansas Association of Local Insurance Agents in convention at Hot Springs, the subject assigned to me being "Women in the Insurance Business." Again last year I was invited to give a toast at the women's banquet at the State Teachers' Association at Little Rock, the same subject being given me. Now, strangely enough, I am asked to give you an outline of my experience and ideas on the same subject. So, I am wondering how best to say something that will be of some benefit to you or to other women who are in, or intend to enter, this most delightful field of endeavor; for it is delightful.

The first question, (How did you happen to go into the insurance business?), were I to answer it fully, would be too long a story and go back many years; so I will just say that I saw what appeared to me to be a need for my services (I was young and hopeful!) in an agency that had just been formed by the consolidation of two bank agencies. They listened to me and made a place for me. This consolidation has resulted in one of the leading agencies in the state of Arkansas. With them I got the foundation of all I know about insurance. I had been with them five years when suddenly and unexpectedly the opportunity came for me to enter, as partner, an agency, that was just a year old. Both of these agencies were in Marianna, my lifelong home. My partner was a hustling young man and after three years I bought his interest and he established a flourishing drug business. I have "gone it alone" since then, which has been about fifteen years. I feel like a pioneer, but the years I have spent in my office and work have been so full of constructive pleasure that I would wish every woman who is in the business could duplicate it.

I can hardly describe my sensations when I first started soliciting. The people I first worked for, and later my partner and I, were all Marianna products and Marianna is a small city, so you see it was not so hard for me to get business. I knew everybody and they all knew me. But I don't like to solicit. To me it is the only embarrassing - not to say disagreeable - part of it all. And, frankly, I believe this is the only part of it where a man has a distinct advantage over a woman. I find that, for instance, I have to go into places of business, especially mercantile risks, and the person (man) I want to see will be busy; maybe unpacking goods or doing some other dirty work or some other disagreeable job. If I were another man, he would curtly tell me it was not convenient for him to see me then, or to call later, or maybe he would not even show that much courtesy; or he would not mind his personal appearance and would stop and talk to me then, but the mere fact of my being a woman makes him, probably, self-conscious of his appearance and chivalry demands that he stop and extend some form of courtesy although it irritates him to do so. I am embarrassed for I realize the situation and that I am intruding - he is inwardly rebellious over an interruption that compels him to give polite attention. This is particularly true in cases where strangers are opening new stores. I seldom get the initial line, though I usually get subsequent business. Soliciting has many like disadvantages for a woman. As I recently told my competitors, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread" - and get the business.

"I have never asked for business on the plea of being a woman."

"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and get the business."

"The side line that I have the best luck with is Tourist Baggage (Personal Effects) Insurance. I seldom fail to sell this when I present it to a prospect."

"Women have been my most loyal friends and patrons."

"It is a splendid and fascinating business for a woman and I often wonder why so few are in it."

"You can set your limit and almost surely reach it. To be most successful is to do the most work."

"Several years ago we went on a cash basis. No policy is delivered till the premium is paid or a short time note given to cover it. And, believe me, this is a happy condition."

I "specialize" on fire and its kindred lines. I have never done very much with casualty and surety lines though I would advise any woman who has a gift for soliciting to specialize on these side lines. They are, I have been told by other women, much more interesting and much more remunerative. The "side line" that I have the best luck with is Tourist Baggage (Personal Effects) Insurance. I seldom fail to sell this when I present it to a prospect. I believe in it so thoroughly and it is easy to sell what we believe in.

As to advertising: I do not advertise systematically though I am sure, in most cases, it is decidedly best. But as I said above, my case is hardly normal. This is my home and I have always been able and made it a point to keep up to a great extent my social life and club work and I think that I, individually, find my best means of advertising is in personal contact. And let me say here that, in my experience, women have been my most loyal friends and patrons and often I am able to swing a nice line through the influence of the wife or mother (or sweetheart) of the man placing the insurance. I believe any woman in the insurance business will find this a wise and happy plan to follow.

Now I come to my competitors and the way they regard me: My answer to that will seem almost too good to be true. Marianna is a small, truly southern city in the heart of the "Cotton belt" (I am having difficulty in keeping from telling you all the wonders of our city, county and State) and we have no "factions" as so many communities have. Everybody seems to pull for everybody else, and in our profession it is the same. There are three agencies. One is a large national bank agency. The other is the agency I began to work for in the beginning. It is composed of two men, one a banker and the other partner the most popular, likable and useful man, to my notion, in the town. Of course the banker partner controls big business and is himself a popular man. However, it is in no way a "bank agency." So you see with two banks and a "personality," my competition is keen. But (I write most of the personal business of the national bank's president, and) there is nothing that borders the least bit on unpleasantness; quite the contrary. Never has either of them tried to take unfair advantage of me nor of each other. From things we hear of other places and from things special agents and others say to and about us, we think we must be almost in a class to ourselves. Our offices are all in one building and we have our Local Club and meet together at frequent intervals and discuss local conditions and troubles and are the best of friends in and out of business. And, believe me, this is a happy condition and one much to be desired. Several years ago, we went on a "Cash Basis" and no policy is delivered till the premium is paid or a short time note (where necessary) is given to cover it. The policy is held for thirty days and it is understood then, and our public has been educated to it, that it is automatically canceled if the premium has not been paid. So, you see, there is hardly any unfair advantage one could have over the other and we are bureau rated, (Thank Goodness!) and it is up to us all to hustle for business.

I have written far too much, but it is hard to say a little and say too much. But before I close let me add that I believe the main reason of my success (and I have been successful) is that I have tried always to keep sex entirely out of my business relations. I have never asked for business on the plea of being a woman. I have kept my business dealings on the square and have tried to be as fair to my competitors, my companies and my patrons as I expected them to be to me.

It is a splendid and fascinating business for a woman and I often wonder why so few are in it. You can set your limit and almost surely reach it. To be most successful is to do the most work, but on the other hand, it is a work that has so many possibilities for ease and vacation. There is nothing disagreeable or sordid about it-you can select your patrons and those you come in contact with, and unless one is desperately mercenary, it affords as much recreation as work. I believe in no other profession can one's success be so completely controlled by the effort put into it.

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-4-46, 0407]


©1998-99 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. All rights reserved.