A Factory, a Paper, a Bank
1901 — Right Worthy Grand Secretary’s Report, The St. Luke Society, Independent Order of St Luke, Richmond VA
Right Worthy Grand Chief Officers and members of this grand body. The time has come again to give you an account of my stewardship, and I lay before you a detailed account of the transaction of this office as well as to acquaint you of some of the things necessary to place our order in the front rank with other beneficial associations.
Time and conditions change so rapidly that unless we keep on the alert, ever working, watching, improving and learning, we will be left behind in the race of progress.
Eternal vigilance is the price of success. Increasing in membership at a rate which is without precedent in the Order, bringing into our ranks men and women of the highest intelligence, standing and character, to stand still and keep in the same old rut, would be a positive crime, and downright refusal to use those powers, advantages and opportunities which God has given us to make our Order the strongest, best and most beneficial.
Since our last annual meeting 1,400 new soldiers, and twenty-nine more Councils are bearing aloft the glorified cross of our patron St. Luke. Into this army have come teachers, preachers, lawyers, doctors, business men, working men and women. We have invited all; and all have come. The good and true, the noble and pure men and women from every rank and walk of life.
But have these come to us simply because they wish us to administer to them in hours of pain, and wipe the death damp from their brow when dissolution cometh? Then, why have they come? They have come hoping and wishing for an opportunity to join hands, and still further cement our fraternal band. Shall we disappoint them? Shall we chill the enthusiasm by inactivity, or shall we bind still stronger and tighter by the thousands we have, and unite heart, hand and head in the development of our noble Order? What do we need to still further develop and prosper us, numerically and financially? First, we need a savings bank, chartered, officered and run by the men and women of this Order. Let us put our moneys together; let us use our moneys; let us put our money out at usury among ourselves, and reap the benefits ourselves. Shall we longer continue to bury our talent, which the Lord has given us, wrapped in a napkin and hidden away, where it ought to be gaining us still more talent?
R.W.G. Chief, brethren and sisters, let us awake. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars. Then, as our patron saint went about doing good, how easily can this great organization now start and do good in our ranks. Who is so helpless as the Negro woman? Who is so circumscribed and hemmed in, in the race of life, in the struggle for bread, meat and clothing as the Negro woman? They are even being denied the work of teaching Negro children. Can’t this great Order, in which there are so many good women, willing women, hard-working women, noble women, whose money is here, whose interests are here, whose hearts and souls are here, do something towards giving employment to those who made it what it is?
Brethren and sisters, we need to start and operate a factory for the making of clothing for women and children, men’s underwear and a millinery store. We have the means, the brains; we are simply waiting for the motion to be made, seconded, put and carried, and our Order will take a new lease of life. Do not understand that our sick and endowments are to suffer. Let us always, like St. Luke, the beloved physician, care for the sick and dying; but, at the same time, let us have a bank and a factory, and let our cry be: let us save the young Negro woman; let us feed and clothe her, and give her a chance in the race of life. . .
What we need is an organ, a newspaper to herald and proclaim the work of our Order. No business, no enterprise, which has to deal with the public, can be pushed successful without a newspaper, a trumpet to sound the orders, so that the St. Luke upon the mountaintop, and the St. Luke dwelling by the side of the sea, can hear the same order, keep step to the same music, march in unison to the same command, although miles and miles intervene.
This paper begun small, published monthly at first, can be developed into a paper of the Order, by the Order, and for the Order. We have the men, we have the women, we have the brain. Let us form the partnership of heads and brains, and actually do something.
Now, my dear brethren and sisters, I have faintly outlined and intimated some of the things we ought to do — ought to begin now, right here in this session. We need to get out of ruts; we need consecrated men and consecrated women. We will raise something else besides points of order. Do something else besides cavil on parliamentary questions. We need an Executive Committee whose duties shall be something more than the counting of money and adding of figures. We want an executive to run a factory, run a paper, run a bank, that will develop something and give some of the noble women work.
Brethren and sisters, let us arise, be strong, and work, and the Lord will abundantly bless our efforts.
Source: R.W. Grand Council I.O. of St. Luke, Fiftieth-Anniversary “Golden-Jubilee,” August 10-24, 1917, Richmond Virginia
Courtesy of the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Richmond VA