Maggie L. Walker and staff from the St. Luke’s Penny Saving Bank, 1917

Collections in the Classroom

Grade Level

Elementary, High, Middle

Time Period

1900-1950: Early 20th Century


African American History, Economics, Jim Crow

Resource Type

Primary Source

Download Collections in the Classroom: Maggie L. Walker and St. Luke’s Penny Saving Bank (pdf)


  • How do you learn about how to manage your money?
  • Why would Maggie L. Walker want to start a bank in her community?
  • What obstacles can people face when they are trying to achieve financial success?


Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) was the first Black woman to charter and serve as president of a bank in the United States after founding the St. Luke’s Penny Savings Bank in 1903. She established the bank to build a community with economic stability.The Independent Order of St. Luke was established in Baltimore in 1867 as a cooperative, fraternal society for African Americans. It concentrated on educating and helping African Americans manage their business, homes and families. When the headquarters moved from Baltimore to Richmond in 1889, Maggie L. Walker was asked to be executive secretary. In 1899, she was elected Right Worthy Grand Secretary, the society’s top leadership position. She held this position until her death. She was a local advocate for Black Richmonders running for state office, and she worked to register Black women to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. During the time that she ran the Order, Mrs. Walker emphasized the importance of Black Richmonders supporting Black businesses. She also taught financial literacy: how to save, buy property and invest.