Mary McLeod Bethune

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Mary McLeod Bethune(1875-1955)

Mary Jane McLeod (later known as Mary McLeod Bethune) (July 10, 1875 - May 1955) was born in Mayesville, South Carolina. She was the first American black woman to head a federal agency.

Early Life

Mary was the 15th child of 17 children. Though she was born into slavery, Mary was allowed to go to Maysville's one room schoolhouse. She was the teacher's star pupil. Mary attended Scotia Seminary and graduated in 1894. When she attempted to go as a missionary to Africa, she was told that there were "no openings for Negro Missionaries in Africa".In 1988, she was married to Albertus Bethune, a former school teacher. In 1899, Mary had a baby boy, who she named Albertus McLeod Bethune Jr.

Later Life

Mary and her son moved to a cabin located on a dump site. She opened it as a school in 1904. It soon became known as the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls. Not only was reading and writing taught there, but home economic skills were also taught at this school. In 1923, the school merged with Cookman Institute. It became known as the Bethune-Cookman Institute and is still located on Daytona Beach today. In May of 1955, Mary McLeod Bethune died. She was recognized, thirty years later, as the most influential African American woman.

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