Maggie Lena Walker

1864 – 1934

Maggie Mitchell’s early life was spent in abject poverty, the norm for most African Americans at the time.  Despite this Maggie’s mother, a former house slave, made sure that she attended school.  On graduating from high school in Richmond, Virginia, Maggie took up teaching. 

Not long after she accepted a position as a secretary at a local charity, The Independent Order of St Luke Society in Richmond. The Society took care of the sick and the elderly and paid funeral costs. 

From the Busy Beaver Button Museum

In 1899 Maggie became secretary – treasurer. With Maggie’s skillful management the membership swelled enormously with many black women investing their money with them. 

“First we need a savings bank. Let us put our moneys together; let us use our moneys; let us put our money out at usury among ourselves, and reap the benefit ourselves. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.”

-Maggie L. Walker
Independent Order of St. Luke Annual Convention
August 20, 1901

Under Maggie’s leadership the Society acquired an office building and became The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, increasing the staff to 55 in the process. She was Chair of the Board and the first woman in the USA to direct a bank.

Postcard held by the Virginia Historical Society see Encyclopedia Virginia

Always active Maggie founded a number of other businesses and charitable institutions.  Among them the, St. Luke Herald a newspaperfor Black people, an insurance company and a home for delinquent girls.  She concerned herself with projects that promoted better health care for African Americans and served on the boards of various civic groups. 

An admirer of Booker T. Washington, she firmly believed in the principle of, “cast down your bucket where you are, “ as Washington had advised and Maggie followed. 

Her contributions to the welfare of the Black citizens of Virginia as a whole and Richmond in particular resulted in the city government naming a high school, a street and a theatre after her.  A remarkable woman in many ways she served and continues to serve as a very positive role model for anyone irrespective of race or gender.

Read more about Maggie Lena Walker in Biography

Take a virtual tour around Maggie Lena Walker’s area at the National Historic Site Virginia