A Life Dedicated to Economic Empowerment
More than 50 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, a woman by the name of Maggie Lena Walker was leading a protest against segregated street cars in Richmond, Virginia.
Walker (1864-1934) was a pioneer in almost every aspect of her life and career. A teacher, civil rights activist, newspaper editor and businesswoman, Walker made history as the first woman, and first Black woman, to charter and run a bank. The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, opened in 1903, was dedicated to the financial advancement of the Black community in Richmond, as well as the empowerment of Black women who made up the majority of bank employees. By 1920, the bank had financed more than 600 home and business loans for Black families.
Walker’s impact extends beyond banking and can be seen in the many of the movements that have significant relevance today. In 1904, Walker opened the St. Luke Emporium department store, and urged Richmond residents to buy from Black-owned businesses, a precursor to today’s Buy Black movement.
While the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank closed its doors in 2005, it has held the distinction of the longest continuously operating Black-owned bank in U.S. history. Walker was ahead of her time in this respect as well. Today, the vision of using community banking to provide capital to underserved communities is seeing renewed focus as we look to close the racial wealth gap that has persisted for generations.
Walker’s many contributions to society were remarkable and are a testament to the essential role women of color play in community building and advancing progress. Her legacy deserves to be shared, celebrated and used as inspiration for future generations as we continue in the fight for racial and gender equity.
The PayPal Maggie Lena Walker Award
To celebrate Maggie Lena Walker’s contributions, and those of the many underrepresented women who have created opportunities for advancement in their communities, PayPal is establishing the Maggie Lena Walker Award.
“At a time when Black people in the United States were denied opportunities for wealth creation, Maggie Lena Walker made it her life’s mission to advocate for economic independence in her community. Her story is one of perseverance, dedication and bravery. In this spirit, we are honoring Walker and her contributions through an award program that recognizes inspiring women who are leading and advancing economic empowerment for underserved communities today. - Dan Schulman, president and CEO, PayPal
The Maggie Lena Walker Award will recognize and promote the achievements of underrepresented women who have blazed new paths in their industries, demonstrated a commitment to economically empowering those in their communities and are ultimately creating a more inclusive, dynamic and equal world.
This award is an extension of PayPal’s mission to foster an inclusive economy and builds on our $535M commitment to racial equity and closing the racial wealth gap.
“The family is ecstatic that PayPal is choosing to honor the contributions of women in underrepresented communities through Grandma Walker’s legacy. It’s critical that we highlight the stories of women that often go hidden in history and use them to inspire the next generation of women leaders.” - Liza Mickens, great-great-granddaughter of Maggie Lena Walker and co-founder of Vote Equality
The award will recognize women who are part of underrepresented minority groups defined in the U.S. as African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders and those of two or more races that include one of the above. Each year, we will select award recipients in each of the following categories:
- Maggie Lena Walker Achievement Award: An individual with a noteworthy career, or pioneer in their field, with a focus on economic empowerment and breaking down barriers for those in their community.
- Maggie Lena Walker Emerging Leader Award: An individual in the early- to mid-stage of their career who is blazing a new path in their industry and creating opportunities for advancement in their community.
Awardees will be nominated and selected by a panel composed of members of the PayPal community, and members of civil rights organizations, nonprofits and academic institutions.
Awardees from each category will receive access to resources and mentorship from the PayPal community, as well as a monetary reward to put towards their work and vision.
While the award will initially have a U.S. focus, in the coming years, we plan to expand the award to our global community.
We will announce our inaugural winners later this year in August and look forward to recognizing and supporting exceptional leaders and rising talent from underrepresented communities for years to come.