How Social Security Really Began

January 31, 2012

By Kristin Aguilera, Deputy Director, Museum of American Finance
Bloomberg - Echoes Blog

History is filled with examples of people who achieved fame not because of a major accomplishment, but simply because they were the first to do something. Such is the case of Ida May Fuller, a resident of rural Vermont who became the first beneficiary of a recurring Social Security payment on Jan. 31, 1940.

Fuller was born on Sept. 6, 1874, and attended school in Rutland, Vermont, as a classmate of future President Calvin Coolidge. Known to her family and friends as “Aunt Ida,” she never married or had children, and she lived alone most of her adult life. After working for decades as a teacher and legal secretary, and contributing to Social Security for almost three years, she filed her retirement claim in November 1939.

The check she received two months later for $22.54 (roughly $350 in today's dollars) bears the historic number 00-000-001...

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