Black History Month: In the Spotlight Maggie Lena Walker
The Inspiring Women Series
Maggie Lena Walker (1864–1934)
Activist/ First Female Bank President to charter a Bank
Who Was Maggie Lena Walker?
Maggie Lena Walker was a Richmond Virginia resident that became the first African American and woman (of any race) in the United States to charter a bank.
Maggie Lena Walker was born on July 15, 1864, in Richmond, Virginia. Her mother was a former slave and her biological father was an Irish-born newspaperman. Tragedy struck her life early as her stepfather died in 1876, leaving her mother to support the family.
Maggie graduated from Normal School (a teachers’ high school) in 1883 and married a brick contractor, Armstead Walker in 1886. After marriage, she left her teaching job and became more active at the Independent Order of St. Luke – an organization devoted to the social and financial advancement of African Americans- an organization that she joined in her teens.
In 1899, Maggie Walker became grand secretary of the organization.
In 1902, she founded the organization’s newspaper, The St. Luke Herald– a gateways for open communication between the public and the organization.
In 1903 she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and became the bank’s first president. This made her the first African American and woman (of any race) in the United States to charter a bank.
Maggie Walker was an advocate of African American women’s rights and served on the board of trustees for: The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and The Virginia Industrial School for Girls. She served locally in Richmond Virginia as vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was also a member of the national NAACP board. She was also a member of the Virginia Interracial Commission.
Maggie Lena Walker passed away on December 15,1934 leaving behind had two sons, an adoptive daughter, a famous house, a legacy, and an impactful stamp on history.
“History & Culture.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/mawa/learn/historyculture/index.htm.
“Maggie Lena Walker.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 28 Jan. 2016, www.biography.com/people/maggie-lena-walker-9522099.