Maggie Walker devoted her life to civil rights advancement, economic empowerment, and educational opportunities for Jim Crow-era African Americans and women. As a bank president, newspaper editor, and fraternal leader, Walker served as an inspiration of pride and progress. Today, Walker’s home is preserved as a tribute to her enduring legacy of vision, courage, and determination.
In spite of humble beginnings in post-Civil War Richmond, Virginia, Maggie Lena Walker achieved national prominence as a businesswoman and community leader. Her business acumen, personality, and lifelong commitment to a beneficial burial society fueled her climb to success. She was the first African American woman in the United States to found a bank. As a leader her successes and vision offered tangible improvements in the way of life for African Americans and women.
In 1902 Mrs. Walker established a newspaper, The St. Luke Herald, to promote closer communication between the Order and the public. In speeches Mrs. Walker had reasoned, "Let us put our money together; let us use our money; Let us put our money out at usury among ourselves, and reap the benefit ourselves." In 1903 she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Mrs. Walker served as the bank's first president, which earned her the recognition of being the first African American woman to charter a bank in the United States. In addition to her work for the Independent Order of St. Luke, Maggie Walker was active in civic groups. As an advocate of African American women's rights, she served on the board of trustees for several women's groups. Among them were the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the Virginia Industrial School for Girls. To assist race relations she helped to organize and served locally as vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was a member of the national NAACP board. She also served as a member of the Virginia Interracial Commission.
The residence at Maggie L Walker NHS was built in 1883. The address was a prime location in the heart of Jackson Ward, the center of Richmond's African American business and social life at the turn of the century. The Walkers purchased the house in 1904.
The National Historic Site was established in 1978 to tell the story of the life and work of Maggie L. Walker, the first woman to serve as president of a bank in the United States.