In honor of Black History Month, and this year’s theme, “Black Women in American Culture and History,” I wanted to honor one of the many amazing and heroic women who made a difference in our country, and who is remarkably like one of my own heroines, only more accomplished! Truth is better than fiction, and this is one woman all Americans can admire and be proud of for all she did, and still does today as role model and hero.
Maggie Lena Walker (1867-1954), Entrepreneur & Philanthropist
The first female bank president in the United States, as well as the leader of a black insurance company, founder of a black department store, and promoter of financial security – particularly for African American women.
I have great admiration for this woman’s work, accomplishments, and vision. Her story is amazing for her time and our time. But she did what we can still do today – take advantage of public education, work hard, gather other women around us, encourage them to lead, run for office, make money, and give back. Maggie did it all! I love that she did it with a vision and goal to give back to the community in a way that brought wealth, self-reliance, and self-respect. She elevated the dignity of all women and all African Americans. And just to make it clear, she started as a young tween working as a delivery girl in her mom’s laundry business, and by her tenacity and hard work created a fortune that enabled her to own a twenty-two room home! How many of us have done that? It’s a city block! Luminaries like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Mary Mcleod Bethune were guests. You can still visit her home today in Richmond, Virginia.
She understood the need to keep family together, but she truly gave other women that ability too. In her words, her first work “was to draw around me women.” Her goal, “put their mites together, put their hands and their brains together and make work and business for themselves.”
You go girl! Now it’s our time to do the same. Be inspired and don’t give up! There is always a way.
Learn more about Ms. Maggie and tour her lovely home at The Maggie Lena Walker Home and Site.