‘SPDR Woman’ Kathleen Moriarty Leaves Legacy of Firsts

Attorney who helped launch SPY, first U.S. ETF, mourned as pioneer.

Reviewed by: Ron Day
Edited by: Ron Day

Kathleen Moriarty, one of the first female pioneers of the ETF industry who helped create the inaugural U.S. exchange-traded fund 30 years ago, died Tuesday. 

Known as the “SPDR Woman,” her death was confirmed by law firm Chapman and Cutler, where she was senior counsel in the firm’s New York office at the time of her death. Moriarty’s age and cause of death weren’t immediately available. She died after “a brief illness,” Reggie Browne, principal at GTS Securities in New York, told ETF.com. 

Moriarty was tapped to help create a mutual-fund-style investment that traded on exchanges like a stock. That product, the SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY), launched in 1993 for State Street Corp. and is now the world’s biggest ETF, with $368 billion in assets. 

Moriarty was mentioned in dozens of ETF.com articles and was named one of the publication’s “Legends of Indexing.”  

Moriarty reflected on being one of the handful of women in the early days of the ETF industry in a recent podcast interview with ETF.com Managing Editor Heather Bell. 

She said she was “fortunate” to work on several first-of-their-kind ETFs, including the first physical gold ETF and the first leveraged ETFs. Moriarty has also been an advocate for a bitcoin spot ETF. 

In terms of strides women have made in the ETF industry, she said progress has been spotty, with more room for improvement. 

“There are subtle [changes], I don’t think they are huge,” Moriarty noted. 

She earned her law degree at Notre Dame Law School in 1980 and her undergraduate degree in 1975 from Smith College, according to Chapman’s profile. Moriarty was on numerous boards, including as a director of Women in ETFs, the New York Bar Association’s Investment Management Regulation Committee and the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Investment Management. 

She received the Nate Most Award in 2017 as “Greatest Contributor to the ETF Marketplace.” The award is named after the inventor of the ETF. 

In addition to helping create the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), Moriarty was involved in the development of the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, the first attempt to register a bitcoin ETF in the U.S. by a U.S. applicant. 

“The ETF industry wouldn’t be the same without her,” Browne said. “This is a great loss to her family and to the profession.” 


Contact Ron Day at [email protected] 

Ron Day is deputy managing editor at etf.com. He covered business and financial news at Bloomberg News for 20 years, was senior editor at ESG news outlet Karma Impact, and covered general news at several New Jersey daily papers. Day's freelance work has been published in AARP.com, Investopedia.com and BigThink.com.