Honoring the first female Director in our history.

New York Life | August 20, 2018

Updated February 28, 2024

Key takeaways
  • First Female Director as of August 20, 1947.
  • First director of Women's Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve.
  • Co-chairwoman of the National Women's Conference on Civil Rights.

New York Life Insurance Company’s Board Room

New York Life has long been recognized as a strong supporter of its female workforce. We were recently named among the country’s Best Companies for Multicultural Women in 2023 by Seramount. But did you know our first female director was appointed in the 1940s?

Mildred McAfee Horton (nee Mildred McAfee, married 1945) served on New York Life Insurance Company’s Board of Directors from August 20, 1947 to June 17, 1959 and was the first female director in our history.

A graduate of Vassar College, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago, Mildred had a distinguished career in education and administration, serving in various leadership roles at Center, Vassar and Oberlin colleges before she was elected president of Wellesley in 1936.

Military career

During World War II, Mildred took a leave of absence from Wellesley college to serve as the first director of Women’s Reserve, U.S. Naval Reserve (commonly referred to as WAVES, for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service). Mildred began her military career as a lieutenant commander, making her the Navy’s first female commissioned officer. A year later, she was promoted to captain.

As director, she trained 86,000 women across to country to be “parachute riggers, aerologists, link trainer instructors for flyer, metalsmiths radiomen, aviation machinists mates,” and countless other traditionally male-only jobs. According to newspaper reports, "Under Captain Horton, Waves took jobs in nearly half of the Navy’s 1,000 installations. At the Navy Department in Washington there were more Waves than men."

“Mildred McAfee Horton held many posts in her impressive career, including as president of Wellesley College, the first female commissioned officer in the US Navy, co-chairwoman of the National Women’s Conference on Civil Rights, and president of the Association of American Colleges.

Her leadership earned her the distinguished service medal in 1945. The same year, she married the Reverend Dr. Douglas Horton and adopted the married name Mildred McAfee Horton.

Mildred resigned from the Navy in 1946, resuming her role as president of Wellesley College. Four years later, she left the college to join her husband in New York.

More accomplishments

A champion of education and humanitarian causes, Mildred was the U.S. delegate to the 12th general conference of UNESCO, the first female president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Congregational Christian Churches, vice-president of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, co-chairwoman of the National Women’s Conference on Civil Rights, president of the Association of American Colleges, member of the Committee for the White House Conference on Education, vice-president of the Japan International Christian Foundation, and president of the National Social Welfare Assembly.

Mildred was among the many female trailblazers we’re proud to have contributed to our rich heritage. Today, the company has five women on its Board of Directors including Michelle Buck, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Hershey Company.


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Media contact

Lacey Siegel
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937