Sylvia Porter was one of the most successful financial columnists and writers in America. At the height of her career, she had over 40 million people reading her syndicated financial column.
Porter was born in Patchogue, Long Island, New York, on June 18, 1913, to Rose and Louis Feldman. Her parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants and her father became a successful physician.
Her father died of a heart attack in 1925 which caused many changes in the family. Her mother changed their name to Field and built up a successful millinery business. Porter was in her freshman year in college when the stock market crashed in 1929. The shock of her mother and other people losing large sums of money raised many questions for her. She switched her major to economics so that she could understand how this all happened.
She applied for and won every cash prize that was available for economic students. She earned her Phi Beta Kappa Key in her junior year and she graduated CUM LAUDE with a B.A. Degree in 1932. A year before she graduated, she married Reed R. Porter, a bank employee who encouraged her with her work.
After college, she worked for a number of investment counseling firms and she soon became an expert in government securities. She began to write a column for the American Banker. In 1935, she went to work for the New York Post to cover Wall Street. Three years later, she became their financial editor.
During the years, her column carried the byline of S.F. Porter. She wrote her financial column in a language that was understood by her readers. Her popularity rose and she didn't shirk at exposing corruption or unethical behavior in the financial community.
She attacked Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. for his handling of the bond market and she attacked U.S. Senator Edwin Johnson, of Colorado, for his silver policy. It wasn't until 1942 that the readers discovered that S.F. Porter was a woman. The New York Post felt that the readers would accept a woman with Porter's reputation and expertise as a financial advisor and writer. Her column was syndicated throughout the country and she was in great demand for speaking engagements. In 1978, she left the Post to go to the New York Daily News where she wrote five columns a week. Porter wrote a number of books which included: How to Make Money in Government Bonds, 1939; If War Comes to the American Home, 1941; and working together with tax expert Jacob Kay Lassser, they wrote How to Live Within Your Income, 1948; Money and You, 1949; and Managing Your Money, 1953. She also wrote Sylvia Porter's Income Tax Guide, 1960, which became an annual guide; How to Get More for Your Money, 1961; and in 1975, Sylvia Porter's Money Book: How to Earn It, Spend It, Save It, Invest It, Borrow It and Use It to Better Your Life.
Sylvia Porter has received many tributes from civic and business organizations, which included fourteen honorary doctoral degrees. She was the leading force that made it possible for women to enter the field of business and financial journalism. Her expertise combined with her ability to make business and financial language understandable for all people established her as an authority in a field dominated by men.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America: 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour Sy Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.