Aside from being a limited-partner of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Bulls, with seven World Championship rings to prove it, there’s something else that’s interesting about Carol “Mickey” Norton: she’s known as the first woman trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s (CME) International Monetary Market (IMM) trading floor, and perhaps in the world, according to her.
Still trading today, Norton is a pioneer for women in the male-dominated Chicago trading pits of the 1970s; and it was the card game Bridge and the legendary Leo Melamed, CME chairman emeritus, that got her hooked on trading.
She met Melamed in 1964 at a bridge game in Chicago. “He told me about trading and I didn’t know what it was,” Norton says. “I started going once a week to chart for Leo to get a feel for the floor; and we’d play bridge. The idea was I was going to make him a [bridge] Lifemaster and he was going to make me a trader.”
It took a lot of effort by Melamed to persuade this math major from the University of Illinois to take up trading. After college Norton worked as an actuary before working for Gov. Adlai Stevenson, D-Ill., during his presidential campaign of 1956. Next, she worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative assistant to Sen. Joe Clark, R-Pa. She returned to Chicago in 1957 and got married.
When she first met Melamed CME seats were $5,000. He suggested she buy a seat and she said, “Don’t be ridiculous, I’m raising my family.” In 1972 when the IMM first opened Melamed said to Norton, “If you can trade pork bellies, if you can trade grains, why can’t you trade the ultimate commodity: money?” Norton agreed and bought an IMM seat for $10,000 and became the first woman trader in the IMM trading pit.
She took three trading lessons from Harris Bank. “I made $70 on my first trade and thought I was God’s gift to the financial world. So that was it.” That trade was in the Deutsch mark. “After that, Melamed would bring up bridge tournaments and I would tell him, ‘I can’t play bridge, I work.’ And I have never touched a card since 1972,” she says.
As a floor trader she’d spend all day on the trading floor, but not in the same pit, she would go from pit to pit trading numerous contracts. “I could walk by a pit and tell you if it was going to go up or down. I followed my stomach…if I was bullish I bought and if I was bearish I’d sell.”
She began trading cattle the same year she started trading currencies. “I was the first woman who actually traded in the cattle pit,” she says, adding there were women clerks on the floor, but not in the pits. It wasn’t until six months after she began trading on the IMM that she saw women in the pits.