On this day in history, December 15, 1934, Maggie Lena Walker, the daughter of two former slaves, died in Virginia. Walker was known for her climb to become the first female bank president and the first woman to charter a bank.

At 14, Walker joined the Grand United Order of St. Luke, a cooperative insurance society that helped its members get proper health insurance. She later became its executive secretary-treasurer and created a newsletter titled the St. Luke Herald to publicize the organization’s activities.

In 1903, she opened and became president of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank to give loans to members of the community. By 1920, the bank helped with the purchase of 600 homes, and by 1924, the renamed Independent Order of St. Luke had assets of almost $400,000.

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When the Penny Savings Bank took over the other Black-owned banks in Richmond, Virginia, it became the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, and Walker became chairman of its board.

Walker also advocated for various social issues. She was a member of the International Council of Women of the Darker Races, the National Association of Wage Earners, National Urban League and the Virginia Interracial Committee. She also cofounded the Richmond branch of the NAACP. Walker founded and became president of the Richmond Council of Colored Women, which raised money for the support of Janie Porter Barrett’s Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls. She died on December 15, 1934, due to complications from diabetes.

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