Unity through Diversity

Mixis Living Trailblazers

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MAGGIE LENA WALKER, was born July 15, 1867 in Richmond, Virginia, to an Irish born father and former slave mother. She attended the newly formed Richmond Public Schools and helped her mother by delivering clean laundry to white clients and, through observation, learned to see what life was like on “both sides of the track.” Fortunately, she was able to complete her studies and graduated as a trained teacher. She eventually married and had to give up teaching but, after joining the Independent Order of St. Luke, she rose through the Order’s ranks to influence many of the young African American people of her day, instilling a sense of community consciousness and confidence in them, stressing importance in education and giving back to the community. She believed, “As the twig is bent, the tree is inclined.”

She devoted her life to building the Order, enlarging membership and resources, expanding activities in business (chartering a bank and becoming known as the first Woman bank president, creating a newspaper and building a department store) and social service, and keeping the financial operations efficient. It was through this consolidation of communication, money, and industry that the African American community could become economically independent, mobilized, and self-sustaining. Within five years, Walker guided each of these enterprises to fruition. She achieved successes with the vision to make tangible improvements in the way of life, not only for African Americans, but for all women.