Business and Commerce


Who was the first black woman bank president?

In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker (1865–1934) became the first black woman bank president on July 28, when she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia. The bank began as an insurance society in which Walker became active in 1886. When she retired in 1933, the bank was strong enough to survive the Great Depression, and continues to exist. The bank had a marked effect on black life in Richmond. Walker urged blacks to save their nickels and dimes, turning them into dollars, and to finance their own homes since white-owned banks would not do so. An ardent feminist, she also urged women to improve themselves educationally and economically. She fought for women’s suffrage and also worked in voter registration campaigns. She was instrumental in the formation of the Virginia Lily Black Republican Party. In March 1902 Walker founded The St. Luke Herald, a newspaper that illuminated black concerns and strengthened communication between the community and the Order of St. Luke, a black organization that dealt with the concerns of the race. The daughter of a former slave washerwoman, she became one of the wealthiest and most influential black women of the early twentieth century. Her spacious home in Richmond has been declared a National Historic Landmark.


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