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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

Florida Women Who Have Made History: Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

Born on July 10, 1875, Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was an educator, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist who founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935. Growing up in South Carolina, Bethune moved to Pakatka in 1899 to run a mission school. She would later move to Daytona for economic opportunity, establishing what would eventually become Bethune Cookman University in 1904.

During the Great Depression, Bethune was appointed national advisor to president Franklin D. Roosevelt to head the African-American division of the National Youth Administration (NYA). Established in 1936, the NYA was a federal agency created by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to provide programs to promote relief and employment for young people and women. A co-founder of the United Negro College Fund, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was called the “The First Lady of The Struggle” due to her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans.

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