Thinkers50 Hall of Fame: Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934)

Maggie Lena Walker has been inducted into the
Thinkers50 Hall of Fame 2023.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Maggie Walker was one of the foremost female business leaders in the United States. She was the first woman of any race to charter and become president of an American bank, despite her mother being formerly enslaved. A teacher, entrepreneur, business and civic leader, philanthropist, and activist, Maggie also founded a newspaper and a department store.  

Born and educated in Richmond, Virginia, Maggie was initially a teacher but went on to publish The St. Luke Herald and create a community insurance company for women. In 1903, she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank which, by 1924, had more than 50,000 members and is still operating today. A role model for business leaders as activists for change in society, Maggie argued: “First we need a savings bank. Let us put our moneys together; let us use our moneys; let us put our money out at usury among ourselves and reap the benefit ourselves. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.”   

Hear more about how Maggie transformed African American business practices from Simone Phipps and Leon Prieto, recipients of the Thinkers50 2021 Breakthrough Idea Award. Simone and Leon joined Thinkers50 co-founder, Stuart Crainer, to discuss Maggie’s formidable legacy.

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