Thursday, March 8, 2012

Maggie Lena Walker - Women's History Month


The story of the life and work of Mrs. Maggie Lena
Walker of Richmond constitutes a chapter in the progress
and development of the race, which should be read and
studied by every aspiring boy and girl in the South. It is
a story of struggle and shows to a rare degree the qualities
of faith, courage and enthusiasm, even in the face of diffi-
culties, and withal a fine disregard for such traditions and
precedents as threatened to hamper or discourage her.

To say that Mrs. Walker has done a man's work, merely
because she has done a number of things usually done by
men, is not a fair statement of the case. Rather she has
done her own work in her own way. One does not have to
know her long, to learn that she loves her work and enjoys
the arduous tasks which her success has brought with it.
It is her life. Her thinking, her plannig, and her actions
are direct, straightforward, and constructive. This is true
in her church work, her business operations, and her social
relations. It is one of the secrets of her success. When
she wants a thing she goes after it in the most direct and
logical way and gets results. She is free from the hesi-
tancy and variableness with which her sex is sometimes
charged. Another quality which has contributed much to
her success is her splendid executive ability. Neither in
the office nor in the field, does she permit herself to be in-
volved in details which others can handle as well. She has
the happy faculty of putting others to work and of inspir-
ing them with her confidence and enthusiasm. This does
not mean that she spares herself, for all her life she has
been a hard worker, but she works at the center where her
efforts count for most and passes the details on to others.

Mrs. Walker is a native of Richmond, where she was
born. Her maiden name was Mitchell and her mother was
Elizabeth Mitchell, who was a daughter of Frederick and
Peggy Draper.

As a girl, Mrs. Walker attended the Richmond public
schools and passed from the grades into the high school,

from which she was graduated in 1888. The way was not
easy. Her mother was a widow and had other children to
support, so that it was necessary for our subject to make
her own way, as well as contribute something to the support
of the family, but the girl never faltered.

After her graduation she began teaching in the local
schools and remained in that work till her marriage.

On Sept. 14, 1890, she was married to Mr. Armistead
Walker, Jr., of Richmond, a son of Armistead and Mary A.
Walker. After her marriage, the school board dispensed
with her services, as was the rule. Two children were born
to Mr. and Mrs. Walker: Russell E. T. and Meilvin DeWitte
Walker. Mr. Walker passed away on June 20, 1915.

Mrs. Walker took a commercial course and soon found
steady and remunerative employment. In 1889, she was
made Executive Secretary of the Independent Order of St.
Luke. She had the wisdom to see the possibclities of the
order and the ability to organize and push the work.

The records of the order tell the story of her splendid
work. When she took charge there were a thousand mem-
bers, now (1920) there are a hundred thousand in the
twelve hundred and forty-five local lodges for adults and
the nearly six hundred lodges for the juniors.

With the growth in fiannces, she was not slow to see
the advantages arising from a bank in connection with the
order. Accordingly, the St. Luke's Penny Savings Bank was
organized in the fall of 1902, with Mrs. Walker as Presi-
dent. She was at that time the only woman bank presi-
dent in the United States, and rem.ains one of the very few.
The bank has taken its place in the financial and commer-
cial life of the city, and is in a prosperous condition, as
shown by its official statement.

With the growth of the order in members and resources,
there was also the need of headquarters or general offices,
and a building for this purpose was accordingly erected.
Today there stands on St. James Street, Richmond, a mod-
ern hundred thousand dollar office and business building,

which is itself a monument to Mrs. Walker's zeal and enthu-
siasm as well as good business sense.

She has done a great deal of outside organization work.
She is a forceful and entertaining speaker and her voice has
been heard frequently at race conferences and other meet-
ings, not onlly in Virginia, but in every part of the country.
She is a prominent and active member of the First Baptist
Church, and has for a long time been a teacher in the Sun-
day School.

Mrs. Walker is President of the Council of Colored
Women, which has a membership of 1,400. She is a Trus-
tee of the National Training School for Girls and the Dou-
glas Home, both at Washington, D. C. She is also a Trus-
tee of the Industrial Training Home at Peake, Va., and the
Negro Organization Society of Virginia.

Among the secret orders and benevolent societies, she is
identified with the I.^O. of St. Luke, Eastern Star, House-
hold of Ruth, Ideal Shepherds, the Southern Aid, and the
Richmond Benefit Association.

During the war she was a leader in the various drives
and campaigns and the St. Luke's Building was the center
of war activities for the race in Richmond.

Notwithstanding all these activities, this remarkable
woman finds time for considerable reading and has occa-
sionally taken up a correspondence course in order to keep
up with the times.

She advocates no short cuts to success, but believes that
progress must rest on such old-fashioned virtues as thrift,
frugality, union, loyalty, confidence, and co-operation. She
is herself a living exampde of what these things will accom-
plish in the life of an individual.

History of the American Negro and his institutions; (1917)
Caldwell, Arthur Bunyan, 1873-

 A modern tribute to Maggie Walker may be found at; The NPS website.

 To the credit of Ms Walker and those officers who followed her the bank lasted over 100 years before it became necessary to sell it. see Oldest Black bank sold.

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