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Maggie Lena Walker, Letter, c. 1920s


Maggie Lena Walker was an influential business and social leader in turn-of-the-century Richmond. Although later in life Walker would insist that she was born in 1867, notably the same year as the founding of the Independent Order of Saint Luke, census information indicates she was born in July 1865. When Maggie was about four years old, her mother married William Mitchell, both of whom were former slaves. Personal hardships, like the sudden death of her adoptive father William Mitchell, marked Maggie's childhood, but she worked hard and earned an education in post-Civil War Richmond. An active member of her church, Walker became involved with an organization called the Independent Order of Saint Luke.

Members of this group provided humanitarian support to sick and disabled people in the community. After a short teaching career, Maggie Mitchell married Armstead Walker Jr. in 1886, and then continued to work for the Order, even chartering the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903 and serving as the bank's first president. As an African American woman chartering a bank in the early twentieth century and the first African American woman to be a bank president, Maggie Lena Walker stands out as a business pioneer.

Citation: Walker, Maggie L. Read every word carefully: act at once. Richmond, Va., 192-. Broadside 192- .W3 BOX, Special Collections, Library of Virginia.


Social Studies: 1.12, 2.8 2.12, 3.7 3.12, VS.1 VS.9, CE.3 CE.4, CE.14 VUS.1, GOVT.14 GOVT.15
Art: 4.1, 5.1

Suggested Questions

Art Exploration: Create an advertising poster for the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank that would encourage the poor members of Maggie's community to save and invest in her banking venture.

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