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EEW Magazine Profiles In Black History Series: Mary  
McLeod Bethune
Article By  Empowering Everyday Women // Black History Profile Series

FEBRUARY 10, 2017

Mary Jane McLeod was born into poverty on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. She was
one out of seventeen children born to former slaves Sam and Patsy Mcleod.

At a young age, Mary was inspired to learn, and she became the only child in her family to attend
school. Mary walked several miles each day just to be educated in a one-room black schoolhouse,
and she always shared her newfound knowledge with her family.

Mary later attended Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) on a scholarship, and graduated
in 1893. In 1898, she married Albertus Bethune, gaining her last name. The couple had one child
together before Albertus left the family in 1907.

For the majority of her life, Mary worked as an educator, believing that education provided the key
to racial advancement. She founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in
Daytona, Florida, in 1904.

The school, which started small and ran primarily on donations, eventually grew and merged with
the Cookman Institute for Men around 1923 or 1929. Even through the merger, Mary remained the
school president.

Mary was also involved in many women’s clubs, such as the Florida chapter of the National
Association of Colored Women. In 1924, she became the organization’s national leader. In 1935,
she founded the National Council of Negro Women, where she worked to improve the lives of black
women and their community.

She was also the only woman on Franklin Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet, which served as an advisory
board to the Roosevelt administration on issues facing black America.

Once Mary had retired from many of the duties she took on in her life, she died of a heart attack on
May 12, 1955.

She is remembered for her efforts to advance the rights of both African Americans and women.
Bethune has posthumously received many honors.

In 1973, Mary was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1994 the National Park
Service acquired Bethune’s last residence, the NACW Council House. The former headquarters
was designated as the Mary Mcleod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. And those are
just a few of the ways in which she has been payed tribute.

Here is one of her greatest quotes: “Faith is the first factor in a life devoted to service. Without it,
nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible.”
Copyright © 2017-2020 Empowering Everyday Women Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
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