Maggie Lena Walker Portraits
"I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth but a laundry basket practically on my head.” - Maggie Lena Walker
Mrs. Walker, beloved African-American entrepreneur, community leader, and civil rights activist was born on July 15, 1864 in Richmond, Virginia, capital of the Confederacy. Her mother, Elizabeth Draper, a former slave, worked for abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew, Richmond’s most notorious Union spy during the Civil War. Mrs. Walker’s biological father, a 22-year old Irish immigrant, Eccles Cuthbert, was a Confederate soldier and nurse at Richmond’s Chimborazo Hospital complex. In 1868, when Ms. Draper married a fellow Van Lew servant, William Mitchell, her daughter took his name. After Mitchell’s murder in 1876, to make ends meet, his widow washed laundry with the help of her children. .
After graduating from Richmond Colored Normal School in 1883, Maggie Mitchell taught for three years at a public middle school. Her marriage to a local businessman, Armstead Walker, ended her teaching career, as married female teachers were required to tender their resignation. More...
Maggie Lena Walker succeeded in spite of adversity. She started her bank 17 years before American women had the right to vote. She established a protocol for black entrepreneurialism when Jim Crow laws threatened African American progress. Mrs. Walker persevered through the murder of her adoptive father, accidental killing of her husband by her oldest son and the loss of two children, She lost the use of legs to the ravages of diabetes. These misfortunes, rather, than slowing her down, strengthened her resilience