Capital Region Scrapbook: Meeting expectations (with photo gallery)
Annual GE gathering of ’62 addresses company successes, future for women
There was no pleasing Wilma Porter Soss.
“I was rather surprised to find how difficult it was to get here in time for the meeting,” Soss said, griping about her trip from New York City to Schenectady on Wednesday, April 25, 1962.
Soss was in town for the 70th annual meeting of the General Electric Co. There were 3,518 shareholders at the Washington Avenue Armory, some for company information and some for the free boxed lunch. Most were from Schenectady, showing up for the first company session in the city since 1958.
Soss was president of the Federation of Women Shareholders in American Business and had made a name for herself by annoying male corporate executives. During the big session at the Armory, which G.E. used to push its “Accent on Value” sales campaign, Soss and federation colleague Beatrice Kelekian dominated the microphone.
“The stockholders are running the meeting and we are permitting you to chair it,” she told Ralph J. Cordiner, G.E.’s chairman of the board. “Now you listen to me. I’m going to say what I have to say.”
One thing Soss wanted was a woman on the board of directors. Cordiner said such an appointment had been long considered by the board.
Schenectady Gazette reporter Peg Churchill noted the chairman had a less contentious conversation with Mrs. M. Dewar Winne. The Northville woman always wore a new hat to the shareholders’ meetings, and Cordiner liked the latest blue and white model.
Winne was against secret ballots for voting issues. “Everybody knows how I vote and who I’m for and I didn’t vote for Kennedy,” she said.
Other shareholders were more interested in the numbers. G.E. President Gerald L. Phillippe said the 1961 sales of $4,457,000,000 represented the best sales year in company history. Net earnings were $242 million.
“General Electric is determined to grow, strengthening its long established businesses generating new markets and meeting the challenges of lively competition at home and abroad.”
The company was also smart with promotions. On Tuesday, April 24, products and exhibits were on display in G.E.’s Building 69. Electric toothbrushes, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners were plugged in for performance.
The igloo-shaped “Space-A-Tarium” let visitors take a simulated flight around the moon. There was also a scale model of Nimbus, an advance weather satellite built for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Wilma Soss passed away in Manhattan in 1986, She was 86 years old.