- NAME: Mary McLeod Bethune
- OCCUPATION: Educator, Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: July 10, 1875
- DEATH DATE: May 18, 1955
- EDUCATION: Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (now Moody Bible Institute)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Mayesville, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: Daytona, Florida
- Originally: Mary Jane Mcleod
- AKA: Mary McLeod Bethune
- Full Name: Mary Jane McLeod Bethune
- AKA: Mary Mcleod
Best Known For
Mary McLeod Bethune was an educator and activist, serving as president of the National Association of Colored Women and founding the National Council of Negro Women.
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Born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod Bethune was a child of former slaves. She graduated from the Scotia Seminary for Girls in 1893. Believing that education provided the key to racial advancement, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904, which later became Bethune-Cookman College. She founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Bethune died in 1955.
"Without faith, nothing is possible. With it, nothing is impossible."
Born Mary Jane Mcleod on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary Mcleod Bethune was a leading educator and civil rights activist. She grew up in poverty, as one of 17 children born to former slaves. Everyone in the family worked, and many toiled in the fields, picking cotton. Bethune became the one and only child in her family to go to school when a missionary opened a school nearby for African-American children. Traveling miles each way, she walked to school each day and did her best to share her newfound knowledge with her family.
Bethune later received a scholarship to the Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College), a school for girls in Concord, North Carolina. After graduating from the seminary in 1893, she went to the Dwight Moody's Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (also known as Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago. Bethune complete her studies there two years later. Returning to the South, she began her career as a teacher.
For nearly a decade, Bethune worked as an educator. She married fellow teacher Albertus Bethune in 1898. The couple had one son together—Albert Mcleod Bethune—before ending their marriage in 1907. She believed that education provided the key to racial advancement. To that end, Bethune founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida, in 1904. Starting out with only five students, she helped grow the school to more 250 students over the next years.
Bethune served as the school's president, and she remained its leader even after it was combined with the Cookman Institute for Men in 1923 (some sources say 1929). The merged institution became known as the Bethune-Cookman College. The college was one of the few places that African-American students could pursue a college degree. Bethune stayed with the college until 1942.
In addition to her work at the school, Bethune did much to contribute to American society at large. She served as the president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years. In 1924, Bethune became the organization's national leader, beating out fellow reformer Ida B. Wells for the top post.
Bethune also became involved in government service, lending her expertise to several presidents. President Calvin Coolidge invited her to participate a conference on child welfare. For President Herbert Hoover, she served on Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership and was appointed to a committee on child health. But her most significant roles in public service came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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