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Mary Bethine

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Mary Jane McLeod was born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina, the 15th of 17th children. Growing up in a poor, but loving household, her parents, Samuel and Patsy McLeod, were slaves on a cotton plantation. The years following emancipation, Samuel McLeod succeeded at locating and arranging the return of several of his children who had been sent to work on distant plantations. Samuel bought five acres, which he built a home and business.

At the age of 11, Mary was fortunate in that she was able to gain a formal education, at the Scotia Seminary. Bethune had originally hoped to become a missionary in Africa after completion of the Dwight Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois; however, she was surprised to find no openings. Far from being discouraged at seeing her dream of being a missionary in Africa let down, Mary chose to keep pushing ahead. When she returned to South Carolina for a teaching position it was a joyous homecoming for Mary, who had first begun to find her identity so many years earlier. It was around then Mary would meet her husband, Albertus Bethune and had a child soon thereafter, Albertus McLeod Bethune Jr.

Mary had immense faith in God and believed that nothing was impossible. It was perhaps inevitable that Mary would ultimately found her own school. In 1904, Bethune opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls with only $1.50 in her pocket. The school opened with five girls as students and no means of supplies.

Now, after many years of immersing herself in the cause of education, Mary controlled a vast resource. It would become a beacon to thousands of blacks as, for the next two decades, she presided over the school. Mary remained the president of the school for more than 40 years. In 1923, she oversaw the school's merger with the Cookman Institute, thereby forming the Bethune-Cookman College.

With her school a success, Mary became increasingly involved in political issues. In 1924, Mary became president of the National Association of Colored Women, at that time the highest national office a black woman could desire. And in 1935, she formed the National Council of Negro Women to take on the major national issues affecting blacks.

Mary served as director of the National Youth Administration's Division of Negro Affairs (1936), Vice-President of the NAACP (1940), and served on President Truman's



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