Friday, March 9, 2012

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.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller - Women's History Month

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Meta Warrick Fuller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 9,
1877. For four years she attended the Pennsylvania School of Industrial
Art, and it was at this institution that she first began to force
serious recognition of her talent. Before very long she began to be
known as a sculptor of the horrible, one of her first original pieces
being a head of Medusa, with a hanging jaw, beads of gore, and eyes
starting from their sockets. At her graduation in 1898 she won a prize
for metal work by a crucifix upon which hung the figure of Christ in
agony, and she also won honorable mention for her work in modeling. In a
post-graduate year she won a much coveted prize in modeling. In 1899
Meta Warrick (then best known by her full name, Meta Vaux Warrick) went
to Paris, where she worked and studied three years. Her work brought her
in contact with many other artists, among them Augustus St. Gaudens, the
sculptor of the Robert Gould Shaw Monument at the head of Boston Common.
Then there came a day when by appointment the young woman went to see
Auguste Rodin, who after years of struggle and dispraise had finally won
recognition as the foremost sculptor in France if not in the world. The
great man glanced one after another at the pieces that were presented to
him, without very evident interest. At length, thrilled by the figure
in "Silent Sorrow," sometimes referred to as "Man Eating His Heart Out,"
Rodin beamed upon the young woman and said, "Mademoiselle, you _are_ a
sculptor; you have the sense of form." With encouragement from such a
source the young artist worked with renewed vigor, looking forward to
the time when something that she had produced should win a place in the
Salon, the great national gallery in Paris. "The Wretched," one of the
artist's masterpieces, was exhibited here in 1903, and along with it
went "The Impenitent Thief." This latter production was demolished in
1904, after meeting with various unhappy accidents. In the form as
presented, however, the thief, heroic in size, hung on the cross torn by
anguish. Hardened, unsympathetic, and even defiant, he still possessed
some admirable qualities of strength, and he has remained one of the
sculptor's most powerful conceptions. In "The Wretched" seven figures
greet the eye. Each represents a different form of human anguish. An old
man, worn by hunger and disease, waits for death. A mother yearns for
the loved ones she has lost. A man bowed by shame fears to look upon his
fellow-creatures. A sick child suffers from some hereditary taint. A
youth is in despair, and a woman is crazed by sorrow. Over all is the
Philosopher who suffers perhaps more keenly than the others as he views
the misery around them, and who, powerless to relieve it, also sinks
into despair.


Other early productions were similarly characterized by a strongly
romantic quality. "Silent Sorrow" has already been remarked in passing.
In this a man, worn and gaunt and in despair, is represented as leaning
over and actually eating out his own heart. "Man Carrying Dead Body" is
in similar vein. The sculptor is moved by the thought of one who will be
spurred on by the impulse of duty to the performance of some task not
only unpleasant but even loathsome. She shows a man bearing across his
shoulder the body of a comrade that has evidently lain on the
battlefield for days. The thing is horrible, and the man totters under
the great weight; but he forces his way onward until he can give it
decent burial. Another early production was based on the ancient Greek
story of Oedipus. This story was somewhat as follows: Oedipus was the
son of Laius and Jocasta, king and queen of Thebes. At his birth an
oracle foretold that the father Laius would be killed by his son. The
child was sent away to be killed by exposure, but in course of time was
saved and afterwards adopted by the King of Corinth. When he was grown,
being warned by an oracle that he would kill his father and marry his
mother, he left home. On his journey he met Laius and slew him in the
course of an altercation. Later, by solving the riddle of the sphinx, he
freed Thebes from distress, was made king of the city, and married
Jocasta. Eventually the terrible truth of the relationship became known
to all. Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus tore out his eyes. The
sculptor portrays the hero of the old legend at the very moment that he
is thus trying to punish himself for his crime. There is nothing
delicate or pretty about all such work as this. It is grewsome in fact,
and horrible; but it is also strong and intense and vital. Its merit was
at once recognized by the French, and it gave Meta Warrick a recognized
place among the sculptors of America.

Water Boy

On her return to America the artist resumed her studies at the School of
Industrial Art, winning in 1904 the Battles first prize for pottery. In
1907 she produced a series of tableaux representing the advance of the
Negro for the Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition, and in 1913 a group
for the New York State Emancipation Proclamation Commission. In 1909 she
became the wife of Dr. Solomon C. Fuller, of Framingham, Massachusetts.
A fire in 1910 unfortunately destroyed some of her most valuable pieces
while they were in storage in Philadelphia. Only a few examples of her
early work, that happened to be elsewhere, were saved. The artist was
undaunted, however, and by May, 1914, she had sufficiently recovered
from the blow to be able to hold at her home a public exhibition of her

Talking Skull

After this fire a new note crept into the work of Meta Warrick Fuller.
This was doubtless due not so much to the fire itself as to the larger
conception of life that now came to the sculptor with the new duties of
marriage and motherhood. From this time forth it was not so much the
romantic as the social note that was emphasized. Representative of the
new influence was the second model of the group for the Emancipation
Proclamation Commission. A recently emancipated Negro youth and maiden
stand beneath a gnarled, decapitated tree that has what looks almost
like a human hand stretched over them. Humanity is pushing them forth
into the world while at the same time the hand of Destiny is restraining
them in the full exercise of their freedom. "Immigrant in America" is in
somewhat similar vein. An American woman, the mother of one strong
healthy child, is shown welcoming to the land of plenty the foreigner,
the mother of several poorly nourished children. Closely related in
subject is the smaller piece, "The Silent Appeal," in which a mother
capable of producing and caring for three sturdy children is shown as
making a quiet demand for the suffrage and for any other privileges to
which a human being is entitled. All of these productions are clear cut,
straightforward, and dignified.

Bisque Head

In May, 1917, Meta Warrick Fuller took second prize in a competition
under the auspices of the Massachusetts Branch of the Woman's Peace
Party, her subject being "Peace Halting the Ruthlessness of War." War is
personified as on a mighty steed and trampling to death numberless human
beings. In one hand he holds a spear on which he has transfixed the head
of one of his victims. As he goes on his masterful career Peace meets
him and commands him to cease his ravages. The work as exhibited was in
gray-green wax and was a production of most unusual spirit.

Among other prominent titles are "Watching for Dawn," a conception of
remarkable beauty and yearning, and "Mother and Child." An early
production somewhat detached from other pieces is a head of John the
Baptist. This is one of the most haunting creations of Mrs. Fuller. In
it she was especially successful in the infinite yearning and pathos
that she somehow managed to give to the eyes of the seer. It bears the
unmistakable stamp of power.

In this whole review of this sculptor's work we have indicated only the
chief titles. She is an indefatigable worker and has produced numerous
smaller pieces, many of these being naturally for commercial purposes.
As has been remarked, while her work was at first romantic and often
even horrible, in recent years she has been interested rather in social
themes. There are those, however, who hope that she will not utterly
forsake the field in which she first became distinguished. Through the
sternness of her early work speaks the very tragedy of the Negro race.
In any case it is pleasant to record that the foremost sculptor of the
race is not only an artist of rank but also a woman who knows and
appreciates in the highest possible manner the virtues and the beauties
of the home.