Trailblazers: Then and Now

January 5th, 2017

Hazel Siler was a trailblazer in insurance. Circa 1927, Hazel Siler set up her own insurance agency in Celina, Ohio (Mercer County). And as far as we know, she may have been the first female insurance agent in the state of Ohio.

Thanks to Tim Miesse, Department Chair at Owens Community College and who oversees the insurance program, we've come to know Hazel. She is Tim’s great aunt. Aunt Hay – which is what her family called her – provided financial protections for the community of Celina, meeting with businesspeople from her office in the First National Bank Building across from the Mercer County Courthouse.

As one of the first women in the insurance industry, we were curious as to how Aunt Hay grew her business. Tim shared that she did it through building relationships. Some of her first customers were recommended to her by her fiancé, George, who owned a local real estate business. Aunt Hay did not own a car, so she would walk to customers’ homes and farms to discuss their business needs and to collect premiums. Aunt Hay’s nephew and Zella’s son, Robert O. Miesse, became Aunt Hay’s business partner after he earned his license in the late 1950s. Together they operated the agency until Aunt Hay’s retirement in the 1970s. Robert then carried on as a sole proprietor until his own retirement in the 1980s. (Robert Miesse was Tim Miesse’s dad. The Miesse family’s legacy in insurance continues.)

Sisters Zella and Aunt Hay, Zella also worked at Aunt Hay’s insurance firm.

We celebrate Aunt Hay for blazing a path as well as women such as Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, who leads Ohio’s Department of Insurance. Taylor, a strong advocate for the IIRC and Insuring Ohio Futures, works to create an environment that is friendly to business and job growth in Ohio. Taylor joins many other female leaders who are growing the insurance industry today. It is the strong and bold women who came before them who paved these leaders’ paths. 

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, speaking to IIRC members

Today, insurance is marked by digital innovations, a deluge of data and a fast-moving world, which are transforming the business. Today’s trailblazers need to be just as customer-centric as Aunt Hay. They must evaluate how new technologies impact risk and premiums and transform the industry accordingly. Those in the insurance industry today work with customers in much the same way that Aunt Hay did – by taking the time to understand customers, their business, their risks and how best to protect them. Do you think that you’ve got what it takes to be a trailblazer? Explore to find out more.

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