Person

Elizabeth Draper Mitchell

Elizabeth Draper painting wearing a black dress
Elizabeth Draper was a laundress, midwife and mother to Maggie Lena Walker

NPS Photo/Maggie L. Walker NHS

Quick Facts

Elizabeth Mitchell lived at 110 E. Leigh Street in Richmond Virginia and lived there with her daughter, Maggie L. Walker, her two grandsons and great-grandchildren and served as a source of inspiration and love for the whole Walker family.

Elizabeth Mitchell was born Elizabeth Draper in Powhatan County, Virginia, and was one of at least four siblings.  Though details about her early life are scarce, Elizabeth was likely born into slavery but had been freed by the time she began working as a servant for Elizabeth Van Lew in Richmond. On July 15th, 1864, Elizabeth would give birth to her daughter, Maggie Lena Draper, now called Maggie Lena Walker. The nature of Elizabeth's relationship with her daughter's biological father, Eccles Cuthbert, is unknown. She married a fellow Van Lew servant named William Mitchell soon after Maggie was born. Together, Elizabeth and William had a son in 1870 named John B. Mitchell, affectionately called Johnny. Following William’s sudden death in 1876, Elizabeth worked as a laundress raising both her children and ensuring her daughter graduated from high school in 1883.


Following Maggie Lena's marriage to Armstead Walker, Elizabeth lived with her daughter and son-in-law. She would move to 100 E. Leigh Street in 1905 with her daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons. she worked as a midwife and helped an ever-growing family, by 1920 her two grandsons would be married and she would now have two great-grandchildren with her in the home. Elizabeth Mitchell passed away in 1922 surrounded by her large and loving family at 110 E. Leigh Street. Elizabeth’s hard work and sacrifice inspired Maggie L. Walker, her sons and the rest of her family, who made sure her later years were filled with love and luxury.

Last updated: August 7, 2021