Case | HBS Case Collection | November 2008 (Revised January 2017)

Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke

by Anthony Mayo and Shandi Onise Smith


As America struggled to regain its balance in the aftermath of the American Civil War, Maggie Lena Walker did her best to actively effect change by finding solutions to the social and economic problems facing blacks and especially black women. Taking charge of the flailing Independent Order of St. Luke in 1899, Walker transformed the organization into a vibrant and thriving economic engine for blacks. With a vision of economic self-sufficiency, she established a newspaper in 1902, chartered the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, becoming the first woman bank president in the United States, and opened a store run by and for blacks. Throughout her life, Walker persevered and thrived despite personal, social, and professional obstacles.

Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Leading Change; Ethnicity; Race; Social Entrepreneurship; Personal Development and Career; Welfare or Wellbeing; Business and Community Relations; Gender; Banks and Banking;


Mayo, Anthony, and Shandi Onise Smith. "Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of St. Luke." Harvard Business School Case 409-057, November 2008. (Revised January 2017.)