Work at Home
As the head of the Independent Order of Saint Luke (IOSL)and the president of St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, Maggie Lena Walker had offices at the St. Luke Hall and her bank building in Jackson Ward. She often took work home, particularly after diabetes limited her mobility in her later years.
The first floor library in Mrs. Walker's home doubled as her private office. It featured glass-fronted bookshelves stocked with business journals, historical anthologies, self-help books, and the classics. She drafted many eloquent speeches at her Empire-style desk, surrounded by photos of civil rights leaders and friends. More...
Not to be impaired by her diabetes, Mrs. Walker eventually used a traditional style wheelchair in public. At home, she commissioned a “rolling chair“ made of a comfortable armchair on a four-wheeled base with a footrest and detachable desktop. When Mrs. Walker’s mother, Elizabeth Mitchell, died in 1922, her bedroom was converted into an upstairs sitting room. Here Mrs. Walker conducted business and board meetings.
The daughter of a former slave and laundress, Maggie Walker was no stranger to domestic labor. As a young girl, she did laundry and delivered heavy loads of clean clothes. By 1905, Mrs. Walker’s laundry days were over. Presiding over her bank, newspaper, emporium, and the IOSL, Mrs. Walker had little time for housekeeping. Her adopted daughter and cousin of Armstead, Margaret “Polly” Anderson Payne, lived with the family and did most of the cooking and cleaning with some help from the grandchildren. Maggie Laura Walker, the oldest grandchild, later recalled that to earn her allowance she had to scrub floors, clean the back bathroom, and keep her own room clean and presentable.
Whether buzzing with official business or the daily operations of a 28-room house, 110 ½ Leigh Street reflected Maggie L. Walker’s exemplary work ethic.