Originally published at the Huffington Post on February 13, 2015.


Maggie Walker was the first woman of any race to own a bank. What makes this achievement remarkable is that she was born in 1867 to a former slave in Richmond, Va. Her mother was widowed and left destitute when her father was murdered. She and her mother survived by doing laundry for whites families in the area, an experience that shaped her understanding of wealth and race inequality. But Maggie was a brilliant student and finished high school at 16. She became a teacher, but was forced to quit when she married as it was unlawful for married women to teach.