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Sister of Substance Spotlight: Mary McLeod Bethune (1875–1955)

Posted November 13, 2012 by The Candace B in Voices

Sister of Substance Spotlight | Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was a sociologist and a special adviser on minority affairs to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During the years of the Great Depression, Dr. Bethune was director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. She served on numerous presidential commissions under Presidents Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt.

In 1904 she founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls, which later merged with a school for boys to become Bethune Cookman College. Dr. Bethune was its president. She served as president of the National Association of Colored Women and later, in 1935, was a founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Among her many awards is the Spingarn Medal presented by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


Photos of Mary McLeod Bethune

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More About Mary McLeod Bethune

African American New Deal Official and Activist

Mary McLeod Bethune served on presidential commissions under presidents Calvin Coolidge (child welfare) and Herbert Hoover (child welfare, home building and home ownership), and through her activities came to the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. She became a personal friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, sometimes speaking on the same platform with her, and consulted with FDR on minority affairs. She played a key role in establishing, in 1936, the Federal Committee on Fair Employment Practice, to help reduce discrimination or even exclusion of African Americans by the growing defense industry.

Roosevelt appointed Mary McLeod Bethune to a position in the New Deal administration. Her position, 1936-1944, with the National Youth Administration, evolved into a directorship of the Division of Negro Affairs. From this position, she was able to advocate for equal pay for black NYA employees. She was more successful in ensuring that participation in NYA programs by black youth was in proportion to their presence in the American population. She was also in charge of disbursing scholarship money to African American students, the only African American in the New Deal administration who disbursed funds. Her spot

Mary McLeod Bethune also helped bring together a group of African Americans in the informal Federal Council on Negro Affairs, the “black cabinet” that advised FDR.

Bethune also worked with the Democratic Party, urging the party to include black women in party offices, advising the party on minority issues, and urging African Americans to vote Democratic.

During World War II, Bethune pressured the Secretary of War to commission black women as officers of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC, later the Women’s Army Corps or WAC). She assisted Oveta Culp Hobby in identifying and selecting such candidates to represent about 10% of the total candidates selected.

After World War II

After the war, Mary McLeod Bethune was appointed by President Truman as a delegate and advisor on interracial relations at the San Francisco Conference, which led to the organization of the United Nations and writing of the United Nations Charter.

In her late years, Bethune continued working for equal opportunity in hiring and education, and against segregation in public accommodations.


SOURCE: http://womenshistory.about.com/od/bethune/a/mary_bethune.htm


About the Author

The Candace B

Candace is Publisher of Sister Girl News and the co-Host of the Sister Girl News Radio Show. She is an active member of the Atlanta business community; serving on several boards and participating in many local, regional and national organizations. As the Publisher of Sister Girl News she strives to help readers explore new and exciting topics on women and the issues that effect their lives. Please reach out to Candace by email at Candace@SisterGirlNews.com.

One Comment


    Thank you for keeping the spirit of my grandmother alive. More of us need to know the greatness that dwells within us.

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