Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman and the first African-American woman to found and be president of a chartered bank in the United States. She was born into poverty on July 15, 1864, in Richmond, Virginia, to parents who worked in the mansion of the abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew. At the age of 14, Walker volunteered for the Order of St. Luke, a mutual aid society that provided financial and educational support to African-Americans in need.
As an entrepreneur, Walker founded the St. Luke Herald newspaper, the St. Luke Emporium, and the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, and she later became chairman of the board of the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. Walker died in Richmond, Virginia on December 15, 1934.
In 1937, Maggie L. Walker High School was built and named in her honor; it was one of two schools for black students in the Richmond area during the time of racial segregation. In 2001, the high school, which had been abandoned since 1990, reopened as Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.
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