Mary McLeod Bethune

By K. Dorville

May 2016

Early Life

Mary McLeod was born in Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875, July 10th. In fact, she was the 15th child that had been child born free! That’s what made Mary Jane special. Mary always wanted to read, one night Mary held a book in her hands saying “God willing I will read.” One day she finally went to a school, which was Miss Wilson's School. Then she went to Moody Bible College in Chicago. After a while Mary wanted to teach in Africa.


Mary took a class in Georgia where she was going to teach instead of Africa. Until Mrs. Bethune heard that there were no schools for black children in Dayton beach Florida, and she wanted to make that happen. So, Mrs. Bethune went to Dayton beach and said “I want to start a new school for Negro girls.” But all she had was $1.50. It did happen, but it was a poor beginning. Finally Mary opened a brand new school on October 3, 1904. At the beginning she only had five students, but about a year later the school had three teachers and one hundred students! In 1925 she combined with cook man, which is an all-boys school. Then Mrs. Bethune was the school’s first president!

Black History Month Tribute to Mary Mcleod Bethune. Learn about Mary Mcleod Bethune for kids!


Mary’s life was a challenge. Mary Jane was a slave and picked up cotton in the fields with her sisters and brothers. One day Mary went with her mother into a large house. A young girl who lived there showed Mary around. Then Mary opened a book and the young girl yelled “Put that book down! You can’t even read any way.” Mary Jane was hurt when she said that. Mary stood up and said “God willing I will read.”


After a lot of work at the school, the president wanted Mrs. Bethune to serve in the National Youth Administration (NYA). This helped people find part time jobs. Mrs. Bethune was the first African American women to hold a job like that, and Mrs. Bethune was able to go in the white house whenever she wanted to. It was an honor to Mrs. Bethune. Mrs. Bethune was also great friends with the president’s wife, Franklin Roosevelt wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. Then on April 25th, 1945 Mary took a part in the United Nations.