Barack Obama wasn’t the first in his family to defy convention: His grandmother bucked prejudices in Hawaii against women and whites in the 1960s and '70s, USA Today reports. Madelyn Dunham, now 85, fought to become one of the Bank of Hawaii’s first female vice presidents. “Was she ambitious? She had to be,” said a former colleague. “It was a tough world.”
Another former colleague recalled open racial bias during that era, citing housing ads rejecting whites and Japanese. Despite Obama’s reference to his grandmother’s own prejudices in his Philadelphia speech on race, “I never heard Madelyn say anything disparaging about anybody’s ancestry,” says a former Dunham trainee. Dunham was a formidable boss: "She was the Grande Dame of escrow," says another ex-employee.