Memorable Quotes from Maggie L. Walker

Selected quotes from Maggie L. Walker's speeches, interviews, diary, and other sources reflect her thoughts on race, banking, women's rights, faith, and activism during her lifetime.

 
a black and white portrait of an African American woman.
Maggie Lena Walker
Address to the 34th Annual Session of the Right Worthy Grand Council of Virginia (public speech, 1901)

"What do we need to still further develop and prosper us, numerically and financially? First we need a savings bank, chartered, officered and run by the men and women of this Order. 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."
Address to the 34th Annual Session of the Right Worthy Grand Council of Virginia, August 20, 1901.

"Time and conditions change so rapidly that unless we keep on the alert, ever working, watching, improving and learning, we will be left behind in the race of progress."
Address to the 34th Annual Session of the Right Worthy Grand Council of Virginia, August 20, 1901.


Boston Globe (1903)

“Down in the southland we are turning out the best material we can with our present educational machinery. What are we doing? We are trying to make the best of housekeepers, the best of nurses, the best of teachers. We are encouraging our girls to take up the studies which affect commercial branches. We are teaching them to emulate the best instances of character, intelligence, thrift and industry. We are making good stenographers, saleswomen, milliners and dressmakers. The next ten years will show the world a wonderful development among the colored people of the south. We will be carrying on a larger business, and with it will come that respect that must surely come to a progressive people.”
Maggie L. Walker, quoted in the Boston Globe, 1903.


Benaiah's Valor Address for Men Only (public speech, 1906)

“My friends, there is a lion terrorizing us, preying upon us, and upon every business effort we put forth. The name of this insatiable lion is PREJUDICE. Prejudice is the most unreasonable, the most inhuman, the most un-Christian animal, that stalks upon the face of God’s green earth. The lion of prejudice is ever ready to strike down the Negro.”
Benaiah's Valor Address for Men Only, March 1, 1906, Richmond, Virginia.

“Our white papers, our white pulpits and our legislature preach but one doctrine and that is the doctrine of separation.”
Benaiah's Valor Address for Men Only, March 1, 1906, Richmond, Virginia.

“I am only a woman; at best in a few short years my sun will have set. But whenever the sunset of my life does come, it will be with the consciousness that I have striven and toiled night and day, and not alone to build this pile of brick which towers up and around and above us, but with the thought ever pressing upon me, to help provide some means of employment for our women and our children.”
Benaiah's Valor Address for Men Only, March 1, 1906, Richmond, Virginia.

 
The Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress (public speech, 1906)

“Faith in God and faith in ourselves can work miracles. Sisters, let us join hands. Let us trust each other, let us believe in each other and half of the battle is won.”
The Negro Young People’s Christian and Educational Congress, August 5, 1906 Washington DC.


Women at the Sepulcher (public speech, 1907)

“We can do anything just as soon as we learn the lesson of UNITY.”
Woman at the Sepulcher, Washington DC, possibly 1907.


Stumbling Blocks (public speech, 1907)

"I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but a clothes basket almost upon my head." Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“Love is a plant which never grows and thrives unless it is watched, tenderly nourished, and watered with kind words and loving care – regularly and continuously.”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

"An indiscreet friend is worse than a bitter enemy.”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“Friends, like diamonds, are not picked up every day; and he who has just one friend is rich indeed.”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“Since marriage is an equal partnership, I believe that the woman and the man are equal in power...”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“Love your race and show it by your practice.”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“There is no such thing as standing still: you must go up or down: you must increase or diminish: you must grow or decay: you must spread out or shrink up – you can’t stand still.”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.

“No man in this world can show his love for Jesus, unless he shows it by loving and aiding and helping his fellow man...”
Stumbling Blocks, 1907.
 
Baltimore Afro-American (1908)

“Richmond has aptly been styled the Athens of the Negro race in America.”
Maggie L. Walker, quoted in the Baltimore Afro-American, 1908.


Traps for Women (public speech, pre-1909)

“The elevation of woman to her proper and rightful place in the scale of life has been the slowest work of the centuries.”
Traps for Women, date unknown (pre-1909).

“The wheel of progress, intelligence, and invention is steadily rolling in the land of darkness and ignorance, and in the dawn of the 20th century, the man or woman who has brains and uses them is the man or woman who succeeds.”
Traps for Women, date unknown (pre-1909).

“So much has woman been abused, and so low has been her station, that we have been taught to look upon woman as man’s inferior – intellectually and morally. And this is because the world has had, and has today – this afternoon in fact – two standards by which it judges: one of them for the man, pliant, flexible and forgiving, and another standard for you, my dear sisters and for me, harsh, inflexible and unrelenting. The world forgives the man and condemns the woman.”
Traps for Women, date unknown (pre-1909).

“The life of our women is the hardest life lived by any human being.”
Traps for Women, date unknown (pre-1909).

“We know there are but few of us who can give much; but there are thousands upon thousands who can give little, and the combining of the mites will produce the much, so necessary for success.”
Traps for Women, date unknown (pre-1909).
 
“Any woman who has executive ability, who is honest and who has a keen perception and tact in dealing with people can succeed.”
Maggie L. Walker interview, 1909.


Race Unity (public speech, 1909)

“We have the money, the brains, the capability. Let us arise and show the men and women of our race, nay, to the whole world... that we are watching, under God’s guidance, toward Race Unity.”
Race Unity, 1909.


Let Woman Chose Her Own Vocation (public speech, 1912)

"Woman's sphere, in truth and justice, should no more circumscribe every woman to the hearth, the broom, the wash tub, the ironing board and the cooking stove, than it should decree that every man should be a grocer, a banker, a printer, a mechanic, or a professional man."
Let Woman Choose Her Own Vocation, Maggie Lena Walker speech to the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, Hampton, Virginia, July 14, 1912.

“All a woman asks, is a man’s chance, a man’s opportunity, man’s environment, a man’s contact, a man’s training, and the elusion of woman’s inferiority flees like fogs that sulk away at the approach of God’s omnipotent sunlight.”
Let Woman Choose Her Own Vocation, Maggie Lena Walker speech to the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, Hampton, Virginia, July 14, 1912.

“Let woman choose her own vocation just as man does his. Let her go into business, let her make money, let her become independent, if possible, of man.”
Let Woman Choose Her Own Vocation, Maggie Lena Walker speech to the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, Hampton, Virginia, July 14, 1912.

“Business means work, successful business means money, and money answereth all things.”
Let Woman Choose Her Own Vocation, Maggie Lena Walker speech to the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, Hampton, Virginia, July 14, 1912.

“Woman is behind because she started last. Man started with creation’s dawn; woman started yesterday, and is today the standing wonder of the Business World.”
Let Woman Choose Her Own Vocation, Maggie Lena Walker speech to the Negro Young People's Christian and Educational Congress, Hampton, Virginia, July 14, 1912.
 
If Christ Came to Washington (public speech)

Our poor, oppressed, despised and hungry race – hungry financially, hungry intellectually, hungry religiously, MUST be fed.”
If Christ Came to Washington: Address to Amanda Smith Council of Washington, D.C., undated.

“If you can, individually, feed and clothe and help yourself, you can, combinedly, clothe and help others.”
If Christ Came to Washington: Address to Amanda Smith Council of Washington, D.C., undated.

“The pennies, dimes and dollars of a thousand individuals, change the weak-word - 'few' - into the powerful word 'many.'"
If Christ Came to Washington: Address to Amanda Smith Council of Washington, D.C., undated.


Nothing But Leaves (public speech)

“It is to the young that we must appeal for whatever radical and racial reforms which we hope to bring about.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“Whatever I have done in this life has been because, I love women. Love to be surrounded by them. Love to hear them all talk at once. Love to listen to their trials and troubles. Love to help them”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“It is an awful thing to hide our talent in the ground and refuse to work it.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“The opportunity for doing good is found in the home, in the church, and in the world.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“There is no reason why a single Coronella should stand by idly waiting, with folded arm, saying, there is nothing I can do. The young woman, who deep down in her heart wants to do something and wants to be something, and strives to that end will certainly find something to do.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“Make it a rule to save some part of every dollar you have, and the practice will become a habit – a habit which you will never regret, and of which you will never grow shame.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.

“The future of the race is in the hands of our women. I know that man is a very important consideration; man is great, but woman is greater. Man is greatness, but woman is greatness adorned, beautified and purified.”
Nothing But Leaves, address to the Coronella Literary Club, Richmond, Virginia.
 
A newspaper headline reading "The Independent Order of St. Luke."
Newspaper story about the Independent Order of St. Luke

The Washington Bee

Other Sources

“The greatest power on earth for the righting of wrongs, is the power of agitation. When the spirit and power of agitation die among a people, they are doomed beyond all hope of resuscitation and redemption.”
Maggie L. Walker in the St. Luke Herald, 1914.

"A good nights rest makes me fit for the days work. Yesterday I was perplexed, to day I understand that this is an uncertain and changeable life. that 'nothing in this world can last.'"
Diary of Maggie Lena Walker, Thursday, October 15, 1925.

“If I had my life to live over, I would ask no more than to be able to serve the St. Luke Order faithfully and to the best of my ability, as I have done in the past.”
Maggie L. Walker to her staff at the Independent Order of St. Luke, 1929.

“We did not know much about banking, but we had confidence in ourselves, and we gradually overcame the many obstacles that faced us.”
Maggie L. Walker to members of the Harlem Business Men’s Club on the early days of her bank, 1931.

“Richmond is the best City in the world, where whites and Negroes work side by side for the benefit of humanity. The hearts of the colored people of Richmond are just as large as those of the white people. Their desires and ambitions are just as great. They give freely of the little they have. Richmond cannot fail, she must set the example for every other city in the Union.”
Maggie L. Walker to a meeting of workers for the Richmond Community Fund, 1933.

Last updated: May 15, 2022

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

3215 E Broad Street
Richmond , VA 23223

Phone:

804 771-2017 x0

Contact Us

Stay Connected