Nancy H. Teeters, a onetime chief economist for the House Budget Committee who in 1978 became the first woman to serve on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the body that sets federal monetary policy, died Nov. 17 at an assisted living facility in Stamford, Conn. She was 84.
She had complications from strokes, said her daughter, Ann Teeters Johnson.
Mrs. Teeters was nominated to the Federal Reserve Board by President Jimmy Carter to fill out the remainder of the term of Arthur F. Burns, who served as Fed chairman through most of the 1970s.
William Proxmire (D-Wis.), then-chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said it was a “disgrace” that no woman had previously been nominated for the board.
Mrs. Teeters joined the Fed’s board of governors at a volatile time, with inflation rates soaring to almost 14 percent in 1979. As a liberal economist, she often disagreed with the policies espoused by then-Fed Chairman Paul A. Volcker and the more conservative majority of the seven-member board.
“Standing alone — opposing Paul Volcker — was not the ‘soft’ thing to do,” author William Greider wrote in his 1987 book “Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country.” “It took ‘guts’ for Nancy Teeters to vote against the chairman and his majority again and again, knowing she would lose.”
As the prime interest rate reached an all-time high of 21.5 percent in December 1980, the New York Times described Mrs. Teeters as “the most prominent, and at times the only, voice urging lower interest rates.”
“I told them, ‘You are pulling the financial fabric of this country so tight that it’s going to rip,’ ” Mrs. Teeters told Greider for his book.
“You should understand that once you tear a piece of fabric, it’s very difficult, almost impossible, to put it back together again,” she said, noting that she deliberately chose a metaphor associated with women.
“None of these guys has ever sewn anything in his life.”
Nancy Hays was born July 29, 1930, in Marion, Ind. (She liked to note, her daughter said, that she was born nine months to the day after the stock-market crash of 1929.) Her father was a salesman.
She graduated in 1952 from Oberlin College in Ohio and received a master’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan in 1954.
After teaching for two years at an overseas division of the University of Maryland in Germany, she joined the Federal Reserve in 1957 as a staff economist. In later interviews, Mrs. Teeters, who had three children, noted that women were required to go on leave once they were three months pregnant.
During the Kennedy administration, Mrs. Teeters served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, then worked for what is now the Office of Management and Budget from 1966 to 1970.
At the Brookings Institution in the early 1970s, she helped prepare detailed analyses of the federal budget. After a stint with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress, she became chief economist of the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee in 1974.
Mrs. Teeters was not renominated by President Ronald Reagan when her term on the Fed board expired in 1984. She was succeeded by Martha R. Seger.
Mrs. Teeters then moved to Connecticut to join IBM as director of economics. She later became the second woman in the company’s history to be named a vice president, and she retired in 1990.
Her husband of 55 years, Robert D. Teeters, an ecologist, died in 2008. Survivors include three children, a brother and six grandchildren.
Mrs. Teeters’s pioneering role with the Fed returned to the spotlight in the past year, as Janet Yellen became the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in January 2014.
“The one thing that I have learned,” Mrs. Teeters said in 1984, as she left the board, “is that there are no simple rules for running monetary policy, much as the outside world would like to think. There have been so many times the board has done this or that and something completely different happened.”