Marie Woolfolk Taylor was one of the nine founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), the oldest Greek-letter organization established in America by Black college women. Just one generation removed from slavery, Taylor cofounded an organization that as of 2006 included more than 170,000 educated women.
Taylor was born in Atlanta circa 1890. She attended the Stoors School and one semester at Atlanta University before entering the Preparatory Department of Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1901.
In January 1908 Taylor and fellow Howard student Ethel Hedgeman Lyle presented plans for the establishment of AKA to Howard University’s administration and were given permission to function as a recognized campus group. At a subsequent meeting on February 21, officers were elected, and Taylor became the first secretary of AKA. She was also chosen to approach members of the sophomore class who had shown an interest in joining the sorority and who had been selected for membership by founder Beulah Burke. In addition to her AKA activities, Taylor was a lyric soprano in the university chorus and an active performer with the Dramatics Club.
Taylor graduated magna cum laude in 1908. She then attended the Schauffler Training School for Social Services in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was the only African American student. At Schauffler she majored in religion before returning to Atlanta to accept a position as a community assistant to Henry Hugh Proctor, the pastor at First Congregational Church. In 1919 she married Alfred G. Taylor, an Atlanta physician, and they had one daughter, Alfred Marie. In 1923 Taylor helped to organize the Kappa Omega chapter of AKA and became its first leader, or “Basileus.”
Taylor held her position at the church, where she was also an active member, for seven years while also assisting the Probation Office of the City of Atlanta with delinquent girls. She taught night classes at the R. D. Butler School for four years before becoming the head of the Inspection Department of the Standard Life Insurance Company for another four years.
In addition to her career and her participation with AKA, Taylor was active in many civic and social activities in Atlanta. In 1917 she was one of two Black citizens to work with the Red Cross following the great Atlanta fire. She served as a member of the board of directors of the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home, an orphanage founded by Carrie Steele Logan, and she chaired the finance committee of the YMCA. She was a member of the Board of the Community Planning Council and for many years was closely associated with the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She organized numerous community chest campaigns and an important anti-tuberculosis drive.
Taylor died on November 9, 1960, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.