Maggie Walker


Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Virginia. [Washington, D.C.: The National Park Service] [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,


Maggie Walker


Maggie Lena Walker, born Maggie Mitchell on July 14, 1864, in Richmond, Virginia, was raised by a single mother after the death of her stepfather. During her time as a student in Richmond's segregated public schools, she became active in the Independent Order of St. Luke, a society established in 1867 with a mission to provide sick and burial benefits for their members. Upon graduation, she spent three years as an educator before marrying Armstead Walker Jr., then focusing on raising her children and expanding her work with the Order. She established councils in Virginia and West Virginia as a traveling organizer. In 1899, she was elected the society's national executive secretary treasurer -- a position that was functionally the head of the society regarding its business operations, including membership and finance.

It wasn't long before Walker became known for her oratorical skills, diplomacy, and earnestness. The organization's membership doubled within two years. Eventually, Walker proposed several changes to the organization and a major expansion of its initiatives, which included an idea about creating a bank. Under Walker's leadership, her vision of establishing a bank was realized with the opening of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in November 1903 in the St. Luke headquarters building, 900 James St. in the thriving black Jackson Ward district in Richmond. On the first day, the bank recieved more than $8,000 in total deposits from 280 depositors ranging from a few dollars to hundreds. At the bank's helm, Walker almost immediately became a national figure.

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