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Mary McLeod Bethune

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Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina to two former slaves. She was a dynamic figure and a tireless worker who devoted her life to the betterment of the lives of others, specifically the lives of blacks, women, and children during the Progressive Era. She was one of the few women in the world that served as a college president. Upon her death, columnist Louis E. Martin said, "She gave out faith and hope as if they were pills and she some sort of doctor."

Bethune began her career as a teacher, believing that the key to changing the lives of blacks was to educate black women, saying “I believe that the greatest hope for the development of my race lies in training our women thoroughly and practically." In 1904, she started the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona, which eventually became Bethune-Cookman College. She was president of the college from 1923вЂ"42 and 1946вЂ"47, one of the few women in the world who served as a college president.

In 1896, he National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was formed to promote the needs and rights of black women. In 1917, Bethune became the President of the Association’s Florida chapter, a position she held until 1925. During this period, among other things she attempted to get as many black women as possible to vote. From 1920 to 1925, she served as president of the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, an organization that served to amplify black women's voices for better opportunities. Her presence in these clubs helped earn her the NACW national presidency in 1924. Under her leadership, the NACW purchased a property for its headquarters, making it the first black-controlled organization represented in Washington D.C.

In 1935, Bethune combined 28 different organizations to form the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in New York City. The council aimed to improve the quality of life for women and their communities. About the organization, Bethune stated: "It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy." Bethune worked tirelessly with these organizations to improve conditions for black women.

Another organization Bethune was involved with was the National Youth Association, an organization that was created to help youth with unemployment and job opportunities during the Great Depression. Bethune lobbied to the organization for a minority involvement so hard that the Association gave her a job as an assistant. Within two years, her position had been upgraded to Director of Negro Affairs, and she was the only black member releasing funds. She was responsible for releasing NYA funds to help black students. The director of the NYA said in 1939, "No one can do what Mrs. Bethune can do." She was invited to attend the Child Welfare Conference called by President Calvin Coolidge in 1928, and in 1930 Herbert Hoover appointed her to the White House Conference on Child Health.

Aside from her work as a civil rights activist, she was also known for being a member of Franklin Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet”, whose purpose was to advise Roosevelt on affairs concerning black people. This was a result of her close friendship with the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt frequently referred to Bethune as “her closest friend in her age group.” Roosevelt respected Bethune so much that she had the segregation rules



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