July 15: Happy Birthday to Pioneer Businesswoman Maggie L. Walker

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Happy Birthday to Pioneer Businesswoman Maggie L. Walker!!!

Maggie Lena Walker was a teacher and businesswoman.

Walker was the 1st female bank president of any race to charter a bank in the United States.

As a leader, she achieved successes with the vision to make tangible improvements in the way of life for African Americans and women. Disabled by paralysis and limited to a wheelchair later in life, Walker also became an example for people with disabilities.

Ms. Walker received an honorary Masters degree from Virginia Union University in 1923.

Worker’s restored and furnished home in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia has been designated a National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service.

CAREER:
In 1902, she established a newspaper for the organization, The St. Luke Herald. Shortly thereafter, she chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Mrs. Walker served as the bank’s first president, which earned her the recognition of being the first black woman to charter a bank in the United States. Later she agreed to serve as chairman of the board of directors when the bank merged with two other Richmond banks to become The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, which grew to serve generations of Richmonders as an African-American owned institution.

Tragedy struck in 1915 when her husband was accidentally killed, leaving Mrs. Walker to manage a large household. Her work and investments kept the family comfortably situated. When her sons married they brought their wives to 110½ East Leigh Street, her home in Richmond’s Jackson Ward district, the center of Richmond’s African-American business and social life around the start of the 20th century.

LEGACY:
?In Maggie’s honor Richmond Public Schools built a large brick high school adjacent to Virginia Union University. Maggie L. Walker High School was one of two schools in the area for black students, during the period of racial segregation in schools. The other was Armstrong High School. After generations of students spent their high-school years there, it was totally refurbished in the late 20th century to become the regional Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.

?The National Park Service operates the Maggie L. Walker Historical Site at the former Jackson Ward home. In 1978 the house was designated a National Historic Site and was opened as a museum in 1985. The site states that it “commemorates the life of a progressive and talented African-American woman. She achieved success in the world of business and finance as the first black woman in the United States to charter and serve as president of a bank, despite the many adversities. The site includes a visitor center detailing her life and the Jackson Ward community in which she lived and worked and her residence of thirty years.The house is restored to its 1930’s appearance with original Walker family pieces.”

?She was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2002.

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