Michelle Obama: President’s Grandmother, VP of ‘Little Bitty Community Bank,’ Faced Gender Bias

March 20, 2012 - 4:45 PM
Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama joins experts from WebMD for a town hall on healthy families at Homestead YMCA Family Center, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in Homestead, Fla., during her three day national tour celebrating the second anniversary of Let's Move. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) – First lady Michelle Obama told Democratic donors at a New York fundraiser that President Obama’s grandmother was “vice president at a little, bitty community bank,” before she “hit that glass ceiling,” and saw men promoted over her.

She was referring to the president’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who was the first female vice president of the Bank of Hawaii. Barack and Michelle Obama’s 2009 tax return, posted on the White House website, indicates the Obamas inherited almost $500,000 worth of the bank’s stock from the president’s grandmother.

Speaking to a gathering at a fundraising event in Locanda Verde in New York City, the first lady reminded donors that the first major legislation her husband signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it easier for women to sue their employer for pay discrimination.

“He did this because he knows what it means when women are treated unfairly in the workplace,” the first lady said of her husband. “He watched his own grandmother – a woman with a high school education – watched her work her way up to become the vice president at a little, bitty community bank. And she worked hard, and she was good at what she did, but like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was – men she had actually trained – climb up the corporate ladder ahead of her.”

Michelle Obama has talked about Obama’s grandmother facing gender discrimination at work several times at public events but rarely mentioned she was vice president of a bank.

At an October 2011 fundraiser in Providence, R.I., the first lady said, “his grandmother worked hard, and she was good at what she did. But for nearly two decades, he’s [sic] watched as she was passed over for promotions. Why? Because she was a woman. And she watched men no more qualified then she was – men she actually trained – climb the corporate ladder ahead of her.”

Shortly after, CNSNews.com reported that Madelyn Dunham had been a bank vice president.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported last year that Obama’s grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, had been the first female vice president of the Bank of Hawaii.

In May, the Washington Post published a review of author Janny Scott’s “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother.”

In The New York Times review, the paper said: “At home, sex roles were changing, too. While Stanley Dunham [Obama’s grandfather] drifted between sales jobs, Ann's mother, Madelyn, ultimately rose to prominence as one of the first women to be vice president at the Bank of Hawaii. It was Madelyn who supported the family and paid for her grandchildren's private schooling as her daughter struggled to support herself abroad.”

On April 16, 2010, the Washington Post reported that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had publicly released their 2009 tax return. “Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, left him stock in the Bank of Hawaii valued at almost $500,000 at the time of her death in November 2008, the tax return shows,” said the Post.