" Next to God we are indebted to women,first for life itself, and then for making it worth living."-Mary McLeod Behtune
To the left, is a photographed portrait of Mary McLeod Bethune by Carl Van Vechten. Published 1949. Mary looks strong and kind in this picture. This photograph potrays her as being very stern and serious also.
Mary McLeod Bethune lived a long and very distinguished life. Her actions resonated among every race, particularly to the young womens lives she fought to improve. Throughout her life, she was a strong believer in equal education for both genders, and her life's work was based on that principle.
Mary McLeod Bethune was born in Mayesville, South Carolina on July 10, 1875. She was born to former slaves Patsy and Samuel McLeod. Mary had fifteen siblings in total. In her early years, Mary and most of her siblings worked on their family’s farm, in the cotton fields. She was 11 years old when she first attended school at the Presbyterian mission school in Mayesville.
When she was older, Mary attended the Scotia seminary, where she graduated in 1893,and the Moody Bible Institute, as a scholarship student. After graduating from the Moody Bible Institute, Mary wanted to work as a missionary in Africa, but couldnt. Instead, Bethune worked as an educator for many years in several different schools. Mary met her husband, Albertus Bethune, in 1897 at Kindall Institute, one of the schools at which she had taught. They married and had a son.
Her biggest accomplishment, though, was when she decided to found an African American girls school in Daytona Florida. Her intentions were sincere, but her resources were very limited. She had only five girls when she opened its doors, but the school quickly grew and expanded. From the day it was founded, Mary was very involved in the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training school for Negro Girls. In 1923, the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training school for Negro Girls merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, and became coed. In 1924, the school became affiliated with the United Methodist Church. And, in 1931, it became a junior college renamed Bethune-Cookman College. Mary stayed president of the school from the day it was founded up until 1942 when she resigned from her position as president, only to return for one last year from1946-1947. While she was still President, she was appointed by President Roosevelt to be the director of African American Affairs in the National Youth Administration, in 1936.
At the end of her life, Bethune never ceased to be recognized by very distinguishing honors. After she had retired, she was awarded Haiti’s most honorable award and merit, The Haitian Medal of Honor and Merit, in1949, for her work in education. She also served as Vice President on the National Council of Negro Women. Mary died of a heart attack on May 18, 1955, she was buried in the campus of Bethune-Cookman College, a place very dear to her heart. Until the Day she died, Mary led a committed life striving to better the education of many Americans.