In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker founded St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia making her the first African American woman to charter a bank in the United States. Her bank not only focused on adult clientele, but also marketed to children and encouraged them to save their money.
Walker was born on July 15, 1864 in Richmond to parents who were slaves. During her early years, her father died and she had to help her mother financially by working.
In 1902, however, she had become a journalist and began writing for the The St. Luke Herald where she encouraged African Americans in Richmond to harness their economic power by establishing their own institutions. She focused her efforts on accounting and math, and as a result, she established her first business which was a community insurance company for women.
Just one year later, she had established her own bank, and in 1924, St. Luke Penny Savings Bank began attracting customers from other parts of Virginia. During the Great Depression when other banks collapsed, her banks managed to stay afloat.
More than just a business woman
Walker was very active in civil rights organizations like the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where served as the Vice President of the Richmond chapter.
As for the fight for rights, she fought arduously for women’s rights as well and served as a board member for the Virginia Industrial School for Girls.
Sadly, she died on December 15, 1934 due to diabetes complications, but her bank eventually consolidated with two other large bank and moved to downtown Richmond. It is still in operation today!