We’re a week away from the birthday of a Richmond legend: Maggie Lena Walker. She was born in the River City on July 15, 1864 — 158 years ago.
Here’s some of what Richmonders should know about her contributions to the Black community, business, education + women’s rights while living in Jim Crow era Richmond.
Major Maggie milestones
- 1890-1897: Adopted a daughter Polly + had three sons.
- 1883-1886: Was a schoolteacher at the Valley School until she was married, due to school policy
- 1895: Established the Juvenile Branch of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an African American fraternal organization which helped Black Richmonders access jobs, resources, and senior care. The Juvenile Branch focused on youth development, leadership + community service.
- 1902: Published the first issue of the St. Luke Herald, a newspaper for the Order.
- 1902: Employed Richmond architect Charles Thaddeus Russell to build the St. Luke Building to house the Order organization.
- 1903: Was the first woman of any race to charter a bank + be its president, leading the St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank (known as the Consolidated Bank and Trust Co. through 2010.)
- 1904: Moved into her family home on 110 ½ E. Leigh St. in Jackson Ward, now a National Historic Site
- 1905: Operated the St. Luke Emporium, which offered retail, employment + training opportunities for Black women
- 1921: Campaigned on an all-Black political ticket for Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction
- 1925: Received an honorary master’s degree from Virginia Union University
- 1937, 1991: Had two schools named after her, Maggie L. Walker High School + still active Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies.
- 1978: Added Jackson Ward home as a National Historic Site
- 2000: Named in the inaugural class of Virginia Women in History
Mark Maggie’s birthday
MLW National Historic Site | 110 ½ E. Leigh St. | Open Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. | Get an inside look at two floors of Maggie’s family home, restored to what it would’ve looked like in the early 20th century. Guided tours run five times a day.
MLW Memorial Plaza | W. Broad St. + N. Adams St. | Visit the 10-foot bronze likeness of Maggie, dedicated in 2017. The ten benches surrounding it are inscribed with her many accomplishments. She also is represented in the Virginia Women’s Monument on Bank St.
St. Luke Building | 900 St. James St. | Now home to apartments, the city’s oldest Black-affiliated office building was where Maggie worked, organized events, led meetings + ran the Penny Savings Bank.
VMHC | 428 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd. | Explore artifacts from Maggie Walker + her contemporaries in exhibits like “The Story of Virginia,” “Treasures of Virginia” and “History Matters.”
The Valentine | 1015 E. Clay St. | Take a historic tour of “Quality Row,” a street where African American lawyers, doctors, bankers + ministers lived during the Jim Crow era.
Library of VA | 101 E. Franklin St. | Dig deep into multitudes of Maggie Walker research from biographers, historians + city records.
Pennies to Dollars: The Story of Maggie Lena Walker | Read this 1997 biography written by Richmond author Muriel Miller Branch + Dorothy Marie Rice.
Maggie’s Resting Place | Evergreen Cemetery, 50 Evergreen Rd. | Leave a flower or pay your respects at the family plot at this historic African American cemetery.