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Muriel Siebert, trailblazer for women in finance, dies at 80

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HONG KONG (CNNMoney) — Muriel Siebert, the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, earning her the title of “First Lady of Wall Street,” passed away Saturday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She was 80.

Siebert arrived in New York City in 1954 in her old Studebaker, with no college degree, $500 in her pocket and big Wall Street dreams.

After being turned down by Merrill Lynch because she never graduated from college, she fibbed that she had a degree. That got her hired at brokerage firm Bache & Co. as a $65-a-week trainee in the research department. She later became partner at two other securities firms, Finkle & Co. and Brimberg & Co.

Siebert was continually frustrated that she “wasn’t getting paid the commissions men were,” she told Fortune in February. “I was getting half of what they got for the exact same orders.” She asked a client where she could get a job that would pay her equally. His advice? “Don’t be ridiculous! Buy a seat and work for yourself,” she recalled.

And that’s what she did. She bought her seat on the NYSE in 1967 for nearly half a million dollars, breaking up an all-male world that had only allowed women on the trading floor as clerks.

Fondly known as “Mickie,” she “knew how to play with the boys — and she played tough and built a good business,” said Ted Weisberg, founder of competing firm Seaport Securities.

“She was a groundbreaker, and then was welcomed into the club,’ Weisberg said. “She was a real master of her craft.”

Siebert would go on to start her own company, Muriel Siebert & Co. in 1967. The firm would eventually become a pioneer in the discount brokerage business.

“I was always good at math. I happen to have a mind where I can look at a page of numbers and they tell me a story,” Siebert told Fortune. “I understood financial statements from Day 1.”

Joseph Ramos, the current COO of Siebert Financial Corp., said that Siebert was a voice of “integrity, reason and sound business practices.”

“Those of us who worked with her will miss her spirit, leadership and great commitment to her clients and the securities markets,” he said.

Siebert was also the first woman to serve as superintendent of banking for New York State.

Born in Cleveland in 1932, Siebert never married or had children. She is survived by her sister, Elaine.