Saturday, April 28, 2012

Influential Women in the Work Field: Rhetors- Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker: Businesswoman, newspaper editor, community leader, African American women's rights advocate.

Maggie Lena Walker was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 15, 1864 to Elizabeth Draper and Eccles Cuthbert. Later her mother remarried William Mitchell, who was a slave and her co-worker when they were working in the household of Elizabeth Van Lew. Maggie was the mother to four children: Russell Eccles Talmadge, Armstead Mitchell (died as infant), Melvin DeWitt, and Polly Anderson.

As a student Maggie joined the Independent Order of St. Luke, which was an African-American fraternal and cooperative insurance society. She graduated from Armstrong Normal High School, and proceeding graduation pursued a career in teaching until three years later, in 1886, when she married Armstead Walker Jr. At this time in American culture it was expected that when a woman got married she was to leave her working position and tend to her families needs. However, along with being married, the Independent Order of St. Luke still remained a priority to her. She held many important positions in the society from delegate to the biannual convention, to the top leadership position of Right Worthy Grand Secretary.

Maggie was also a member of many other clubs including the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the Virginia Industrial School for Girls, vice president and national board member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and finally the Virginia Interracial Commission.

In 1903 she established the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and served as President. When the bank became The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, she took the position of chairman on the board of directors. Maggie was the first woman president of any bank. The banks motive was to loan money to the community, and by 1920 it had financed over 600 homes.

In 1905 Maggie and other African American women from the Order of St. Luke started the department store, St. Luke Emporium.

Maggie Lena Walker died on December 15, 1934, yet she paved the way for women in the workplace by joining numerous organizations, and then going the extra mile and taking a role of leadership in them as well. She was not known as a rhetor for giving speeches, or for holding high political positions, but for presenting herself as an iconic figure that women were able to look up to during her lifetime and after. Maggie put herself in positions that were then only familiar to men, and she showed women that they were equally capable of accomplishing tasks in the workplace.

For more on Maggie Lena Walker, and her National Historical Site visit:

Bois, Danuta. "Maggie Lena Walker." Women's Biographies: Distinguished Women of Past and Present. 1998. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

Johnson Lewis, Jone. "Maggie Lena Walker." Women's History. The New York Times Company. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

Miller Branch, Muriel. "Maggie Lena Walker (1864–1934)." Encyclopedia Virginia: Walker, Maggie Lena (1864–1934). Virginian Foundation for the Humanities, 8 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

Walker?, Who Was Maggie Lena. "History and Culture." National Parks Service. National Parks Service, 19 Apr. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <>.

By: Molly Flaig

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