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Women’s History Month

Maggie Lena Walker was the first woman in America to become a local bank president. Born to former slaves in Richmond, Virginia, she worked first as a teacher, then as an agent for an insurance company. She also founded a newspaper. In 1903, she started the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank. When the Depression came along, she bought all the local black-owned banks in town and renamed the combined institution the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. For decades, her home in Richmond was a center for African-American business and social life. The home now belongs to the National Park Service. Today, there are more than 90,000 commercial bank offices and branches around the U.S.1

Although the news blurb above was produced for Black History Month by the U.S. Census Bureau, it pertains to Women’s History Month as well. Walker represents just one of thousands of female Virginians who influenced social, family, business, and political history within Virginia and throughout the world.

National Women’s History Month’s roots go back to March 8, 1857, when women from New York City factories staged a protest over working conditions. International Women’s Day was first observed in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1981 that Congress established National Women’s History Week during the second week of March. In 1987, Congress expanded the week to a month. Every year since, Congress has passed a resolution for Women’s History Month, and the president has issued a proclamation.

This year, try to make an effort to meet a woman who is involved in Virginia’s history. I was lucky – a very interesting woman named Ann Woodlief contacted me on 1 March, and I hope that we will develop a friendship. We definitely have interests in common – writing, genealogy, and Virginia’s Huguenots. Read more about Ann’s contributions to Virginia and to the Manakin Huguenot Society at James River Genealogy.

1 Profile America is produced by the Public Information Office of the U.S. Census Bureau. These daily features are available as produced segments ready to air on a monthly CD or on Internet at http://www.census.gov (look under the “Newsroom” button).

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