The handful of high-ranking Wall Street women took a hit in recent years. At Lehman Brothers, former CFO Erin Callan was shown the door by boss Dick Fuld amid growing turmoil there before Lehman's collapse.
Around the same time, at Morgan Stanley, top trading executive Zoe Cruz was forced out by then CEO John Mack.
A Boston native who attended Trinity College, Kelly attended George Washington University at night. Eventually she landed at the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, now Wilmer Hale.
In 2004, in an interview with online newsletter Bisnow, Kelly said that before she made partner to show how dedicated she was she did a conference call while in the labor room delivering twins, much to the horror of her male colleagues. After stints as top counsel for Sears Roebuck and Fannie Mae, Kelly joined MCI WorldCom.
"We were in total, utter chaos, but chaos can teach you," Kelly told Bisnow in 2004.
Female or not, as an executive at AIG, which has received $173 billion in total taxpayer assistance, Kelly will likely have more detractors than supporters.
"I wish it wasn't true, but on Wall Street women in senior roles remain rare," said Tanya Beder, a former CEO of a hedge fund that was part of Citigroup and the current chairman of the advisory firm, SBCC Group. "Given this and the spectacular costs the taxpayers may bear due to AIG, it isn't surprising she is in the limelight."
In AIG's statement announcing Kelly's resignation, AIG CEO Robert Benmosche thanked her for her "tireless service."
"We are exceedingly grateful for the work she has done to help AIG recover from its financial crisis and the excellent counsel she has provided the company, often during very difficult times," he said.
With reports from ABC News' Charles Herman.