- NAME: Maggie Lena Walker
- OCCUPATION: Activist, Entrepreneur
- BIRTH DATE: July 15, 1864
- DEATH DATE: December 15, 1934
- EDUCATION: Lancaster School, Richmond Colored Normal School, Independent Order of St. Luke
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Richmond, Virginia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Richmond, Virginia
- Maiden Name: Maggie Lena Draper
- AKA: Maggie Lena Mitchell
- Nickname: Lizzie
- Nickname: "Lame Lioness"
- AKA: Maggie L. Walker
- AKA: Maggie L. Mitchell
- AKA: Maggie Mitchell Walker
- AKA: Maggie L. Draper
- AKA: Maggie Walker
- AKA: Maggie Draper
- AKA: Maggie Mitchell
- Full Name: Maggie Lena Draper Walker
- AKA: Maggie Lena Walker
Best Known For
Maggie Lena Walker was grand secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization dedicated to the social and financial advancement of African Americans.
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Maggie Lena Walker was born on July 15, 1864, in Richmond, Virginia. She attended school and graduated in 1883, having been trained as a teacher. She married a brick contractor in 1886 and left her teaching job, at which point she became more active within the Independent Order of St. Luke, an an organization dedicated to the social and financial advancement of African Americans. In 1899,
"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow."
"A healthy community is one in which the elderly protect, care for, love and assist the younger ones to provide continuity and hope."
"I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but a laundry basket practically on my head."
Maggie Walker became grand secretary of the organization—a position that she would hold for the rest of her life. During her tenure, she founded the organization's newspaper, and opened a highly successful bank and a department store. By the time she died, on December 15, 1934, Walker had turned the nearly bankrupt organization into a profitable and effective one.
Maggie Lena Walker was born Maggie Lena Draper on July 15, 1864, in Richmond Virginia. Her mother, Elizabeth Draper, was a former slave and the assistant cook for Elizabeth Van Lew, an abolitionist on whose estate Maggie was born. Maggie's biological father was Eccles Cuthbert, an Irish American who had met Elizabeth on the Van Lew estate. The two were never married, and shortly after Maggie's birth, Elizabeth married William Mitchell, the butler of the estate. In 1870, the Mitchells had a child, Maggie's half-brother Johnnie.
Soon thereafter, William obtained a job as the headwaiter at the St. Charles Hotel in Richmond, and the family moved away from the estate and into a small house of their own. Tragedy struck, however, when in 1876 William was found drowned in the river. His death was ruled a suicide by police, though Elizabeth maintained that he had been murdered. William's death left Elizabeth and her children in poverty. To make ends meet, Elizabeth began a laundry business, with which Maggie assisted by delivering clean laundry to their white patrons. It was during this time that she first developed an awareness of the gap between the quality of life for whites and blacks in the United States—a gap that she would soon devote her life to narrowing.
In her teens, Maggie attended the Lancaster School and, later, the Richmond Colored Normal School, both institutions dedicated to the education of African Americans. While attending the latter, she also joined the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal organization dedicated to the advancement of African Americans in both financial and social standing.
Maggie graduated in 1883, having completed her training as a teacher. She returned to the Lancaster School to teach and remained there until 1886, when she married Armstead Walker Jr., a brick contractor, and was forced to leave her job, due to the school's policy against married teachers. Over the next decade, Maggie Walker's life was split between family and her work for the Order of St. Luke. In 1890, she gave birth to her first son, Russell, and in 1893, Armstead, who died while still an infant.
In 1895, Walker, who had been rising quickly through the ranks of the Order, became grand deputy matron.
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African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
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