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Archive for the ‘Historical Women’ Category

We have been doing a series on amazing black women FIRSTS. We have admiration for Bessie Coleman, early pilot, daredevil and stunt flyer; Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader; Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut; Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon; Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist; Ida B. Wells, first woman to challenge the bigotry of the transportation system by boarding a train in the ‘white’ section in 1884. Rosa Parks challenged the ‘Jim Crow’ laws in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a bus. These women were all very great women of courage and much to be admired.

We must include the story of Maggie Lena Walker – the first woman bank president in the United States. Maggie was also a caring Christian woman whose work enabled many black people to lead better, happier lives. She is especially remembered for her concern for the welfare of black youth.

Maggie Lena Draper was born on July 15, 1864 in Richmond, Virginia to Elizabeth Draper, a former slave. Maggie attended the Richmond Colored Normal School, dedicated to the education of black children. It was while attending this school that Maggie joined the order of St. Luke’s.

Maggie married Armstead Walker, Jr. in 1886. Maggie and Armstead has three sons; tragically baby Armstead died while still an infant. Melvin and Russell were born later.

In 1901 Maggie became the grand secretary of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an organization dedicated to the social and financial advancement of blacks. When Maggie joined St. Luke’s it was struggling financially. With her incredible abilities, Maggie turned it around and made it into a flourishing organization.

Maggie made the organization a success by doing these things:

In 1902 she founded a newspaper, the St. Luke Herald to spread the to local chapters and to help with the educational work.

In 1903 she opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. She remained the president until 1929. Under Maggie’s leadership the bank served a membership of over 50,000 in 1500 local chapters. Though many other banks failed during the Great Depression, Maggie kept her back alive by merging with two other banks in 1929.

In 1905 she opened the St. Luke Emporium, a department store that offered employment to black people along with a source of less expensive goods.

While doing all of this Maggie was active in social work. She took part in many educational efforts.

In 1925 in recognition of her efforts in the spiritual, civic, industrial and fraternal forces of the community and at large, the Virginia Union University awarded the honorary degree of Master of Science to Maggie.

For the last few years of her life, Maggie Walker was ill and confined to a wheelchair. She died from the complications of diabetes on December 15, 1934 at age 70. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Richmond. In 1979 her home on East Leigh St. was purchased by the National Parks Service and became a National Historic Site.

 

 

I am so happy to put links to pictures of Maggie Lena Walker. Go to these links for her amazing story. Both productions are beautiful and interesting.

“Maggie Lena Walker”, by Marion Newton, YouTube, 11 minutes, 30 seconds.

Published on Oct 1, 2015

The First Black Woman in the United States to become a president of a local bank, Maggie’s story is told in “her voice” by a narrator. There are many great quotes. The pictures tell the story in a very memorable way. Her Christian faith became the most important thing in her life.

https://youtu.be/iRVHvWchnXI

Another great link:

“Carry On: The Life and Legacy of Maggie Lena Walker”

https://youtu.be/QR3CexPZXEk

 

 

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“Lucy Laney is an excellent builder. Her contribution to American life is that of building character.”     Attorney James C. Waters, Former Secretary of the Law School, Howard University.

Lucy Craft Laney was a true builder of society. Remembered as the founder and principal of the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia for fifty years, Lucy is one of the most famous educators in the United States. She founded the first kindergarten and the first nurses’ training school in Georgia.

Lucy Craft Laney was born a slave in 1854 in Macon, Georgia. She spent most of her childhood in Savannah where her father, Reverend David Laney was a preacher or exhorter. He became an ordained Presbyterian minister and pastored a church. Lucy’s mother, Louise was a very godly woman who raised not only her own large brood of children but took in the Laney cousins and many orphans. Lucy loved being around other children. She would continue to love the company of children her whole life long.

Lucy was very bright and was taught to read at the age of four by Miss Campbell, the master’s sister. Miss Campbell recognized Lucy’s giftedness and in spite of the local prejudice against blacks undertook to educate Lucy herself. Thanks to Miss Campbell Lucy was later able to attend Atlanta University at the tender age of fifteen. In 1873 Lucy was a member of the first graduating class of Atlanta University. She then began a teaching career in Savannah.

After teaching for 10 years, Lucy began her own school in the basement of Christ Presbyterian church in Augusta. On the first morning there were six pupils, three little girls, one older girl, and two boys. At first, Lucy had only wanted to take girls but her heart was too big for poor children and she accepted many underprivileged boys. When the boy would show up at her door, Lucy had the gift to see past the child’s raggedness to what the boy could become.

By the end of the first year Lucy had 75 students. At the end of the second year she reported 234. In 1886, Lucy visited the Presbyterian Board’s annual meeting to seek funds. The Board was impressed with her work but only voted to give her the funds to get home. However, while attending the Board conference Lucy made friends with Mrs. Francine Haines who would become a great benefactor. The little school which had been called Miss Laney’s school was renamed in honor of Mrs. Haines. Later it would be chartered and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.

By 1893 the institution had become a large boarding school, furnishing a home for 60 – 70 girls and some rented cottages for 15 – 20 boys. In 1906 an administration building, McGregor Hall was erected. Miss Laney believed that girls should get a good education for a teaching career but should also be self-sufficient. Therefore, the school ran a model garden.

Soon the school would boast 26 teachers and 713 students. Graduates would go on to attend Atlanta University, Fisk U., Howard U., Shaw U., and Taladega College. Her students would be found in all walks of life throughout the United States.

One of Lucy’s most important contributions to the community was the introduction of trained nurses into Atlanta. Lucy convinced the city to give her an old “pest house” where patients with infectious diseases were kept, to use as a hospital. She brought a white trained nurse from Canada to be superintendent. Ten girls at Haines studied nursing. Later when the city built a new two-hundred bed hospital, one of these colored girls was made its superintendent.

Besides all of her work at the school, Lucy was involved with efforts to alleviate the prejudice against blacks in her community. She helped to found the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1918. She was active in the Interracial Commission, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Niagara Movement. She helped integrate into the community the work of the YMCA and the YWCA. Many prominent blacks were her friends including Madame C. J. Walker (see post 5/2/17) and Mary McLeod Bethune (story posted on 4/11/17).

In recognition of her accomplishments Lucy was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by Lincoln University in 1904; by her alma mater, Atlanta University, in 1923; by South Carolina State College in 1925; and by Howard University in 1930.

Lucy passed away in 1933. In 1974, she was honored to have her portrait placed in the Georgia state capitol by Governor Jimmy Carter, along with portraits of Rev. Henry McNeal Turner and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lucy’s portrait bears tribute to “the mother of the children of the people,” …. a woman who knew that “God didn’t use any different dirt to make me than the first lady of the land.” Lucy was inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1992.

I really love looking at old pictures of people and I found this wonderful video on You Tube. You will get a few more details of Lucy’s story as well as the enjoyment of seeing much that can be explained better in pictures than in my short biography. I know you will really enjoy this story of a truly great American educator. It’s a little over 9 minutes long and the production is professionally done. Author – Tina Calhoun.

https://youtu.be/lRiEJdz6tco

You should also consider checking out the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History if you are ever in Augusta.

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For the last few weeks we have focused on the contributions to society made by black women. Bessie Coleman, early stunt flyer and first black woman with an international pilot’s license (post April 4, 2017), Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader (April 11); Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut (April 18); Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon (April 25); (May 2) Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and last week (May 9) Rosa Parks, courageous mother of the civil rights movement.

This week I would like to share an article from Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) about Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, written by Sarah Rodriquez. The title is – “Journey into Priesthood: Egalitarian Women Making History”, published on March 22, 2017. There are many stories of courageous women at CBE’s website. Please consider joining the organization and supporting their work. They also have a book store and you will find many of the books that I have reviewed on this site there. http://www.cbeinternational.org/

In shining a light on these women’s stories, we will defy patriarchy’s attempts to marginalize the historical contributions of women. Instead, we will unashamedly celebrate their courage and persistence.

This week’s article will focus on Rev. Emily Awino Onyango, an Anglican priest ordained in her native Kenya.

Emily was born and raised in a Christian home. She spent her childhood learning Christian values, having family prayers, and attending church. At the age of ten, Emily attended a children’s camp. It was at this camp that Emily first decided to have a personal relationship with Christ.

As she grew older, the people around her encouraged her in her faith. For instance, she said, “When I was in secondary school, I was greatly inspired by my Christian religious education teacher, Lorna Mwanga, who was very passionate about her faith. I also greatly admired the life and vocation of the prophets that she was teaching about.”[1] Emily learned much from her religious teachers, and she grew to greatly admire the female evangelists and administrators in her church.

I also asked Emily to list some female missionaries who inspired her. She named Olive Owen, the wife of Archdeacon Owen who worked in Nyanza, Kenya in the 1940s. Olive Owen supported the women in her community and fought for women’s rights in the community and in the church. Thus, it is easy to see why she inspires Emily, as Emily has faced her share of uphill battles while entering church ministry in Kenya.

According to Emily, “Olive Owen said that her main mission was to liberate the girls in her community who were suffering. She was one of the people who worked hard for the establishment of a girl’s school… and supported the girls who were being forced into marriage with older men.”[2]

Emily felt that God had called her to church ministry, so she applied to St. Paul’s United Theological College, from which she graduated in 1983. Next, she became a Sunday school coordinator in the diocese and a lay reader at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Kisumu, Kenya. She describes this work as “very fulfilling, as [she] had the opportunity to influence the worldview of the children.”[3] Emily advanced in church leadership when she was appointed as a deacon on July 29, 1984. She was eventually ordained as a priest on December 15, 1985.

Naturally, Emily faced much resistance as she climbed church leadership. Although the Lambeth Conference in 1978 allowed for women to be ordained in the Anglican Church, each diocese was allowed to choose whether or not they were going to ordain women as priests.

The Diocese of Maseno South decided to affirm women’s ordination, and Rev. Lucia Okuthe became the first female Anglican priest in Kenya. Of course, Rev. Okuthe’s ordination was not without controversy. According to Emily, “People found [women’s ordination] difficult to accept because it was against African culture . . . Even as I was teaching, they had stereotypes, like ‘women are stupid’ and ‘women cannot keep secrets.’”[4]. Emily had to contend with a great amount of gender-based prejudice when she started going through the process of ordination, something most women in ministry experience in pursuing their calling.

Many disagreed with the ordination of Rev. Lucia Okuthe, but according to Emily, she still had an advantage over Emily. She said, “People argued that Lucia was in a better position because she was a widow and she was past menopause, while I was young and single.”[5] The clergy of the church in which Emily was ordained mainly objected to Emily’s marital status, because they believed that marriage made women distinguished and respectable in society. Nevertheless, Emily was ordained as a single woman.

When Emily first entered ministry, she saw a great gender disparity. She had graduated with men who immediately began earning twice as much as she did. Moreover, she did not receive housing allowances like the men. When she started teaching in a Bible school, “it was evident that most of the ordinands, who were predominately men, were against having women in the ministry.”[6]

Every area of the world faces different challenges to gender equality. Emily noted that some parts of her culture have perpetuated gender disparity in the church. She said that African traditional culture contains “negative stereotypes and myths [about women] that inform the worldview of the people.” Emily believes that these beliefs, along with a patriarchal interpretation of Scripture, have impeded the growth of egalitarianism in Africa.

Nevertheless, Emily still remains positive. While she encountered resistance to her ordination, she also met many Christians and parishioners who encouraged her and praised her spiritual gift for ministry.

Emily is currently researching gender inequality. She aims to devise a curriculum that will empower members of the clergy and the laity to understand gender issues. She also continues to train clergy, evangelists, and others, as well as perform advocacy work in her community. Emily is one of the many women forging a path for other women in church leadership.

Notes

[1] Emily Onyango, interview by Sarah Rodriguez, October 6, 2016.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.

 

 

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We cannot recount the stories of so many courageous black women without telling the story of Rosa McCauley Parks.

 

 

 

 

We have admiration for Bessie Coleman, early pilot, daredevil and stunt flyer (April 4, 2017);

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and leader (post, April 11);

 

 

 

 

 

Mae Jemison – first female black astronaut (April 18);

 

 

 

Katherine Johnson,

 

 

Dorothy Vaughan,

 

 

 

 

and Mary Jackson – achievements in the space industry and instrumental in getting the first Americans in space and on the moon (April 25);

 

 

 

Last week (May 2) Madame C. J. Walker, entrepreneur and philanthropist.

 

 

 

 

Ida B. Wells (post May 13, 2015) did in 1884 what Rosa Parks did in 1955 but on a train. Ida suffered humiliation and abuse as a black woman. A turning point for Ida came one day in 1884 when she was riding the train between Memphis and Nashville. She had bought a first class ticket and expected to use it. Ida got into the first class compartment for whites only. The train officials told her to get in the “Negro”* car instead and she refused to move. The railway men physically removed her. Ida sued the railroad and won a settlement, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned it.

Ida B. Wells became an activist seventy years before Rosa Parks. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of a bus where the “colored”* people were supposed to sit. Rosa’s act of defiance was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

Rosa McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. She met Raymond Parks and they married when she was 19 years old. They lived in Montgomery Alabama.

Raymond was a barber and Rosa worked at a department store. She joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1943. She was the secretary for the organization.

 

During this period of time, segregation laws forced black people to sit at the back of buses. If the seats for white people were full, black people had to give up their seats or get off of the bus. On December 1, 1955 Rosa got on the bus after work as usual and sat in the black section. As the bus began to fill up the bus driver moved the “colored” sign further back and told Rosa to move back. She refused. The bus driver got off and called for the police.

 

Rosa was arrested and charged with breaking Montgomery’s segregation laws. She went to jail until some friends could bail her out.

 

Inspired by her courage and the preaching of Martin Luther King Jr., a bus boycott began. Beginning on Monday, December 5 thousands of people stayed off of the buses. They found other ways to get to work sometimes even walking for miles. The bus companies began to lose a lot of money. After 381 days the city of Montgomery got rid of the busing segregation laws. This was a huge victory for the Civil Rights movement.

But it caused hard times for Rosa and Raymond.
They both lost their jobs. They suffered harassment and threat of bodily harm. Finally, they made the decision to move to Detroit, Michigan.

 

 

 

As the Civil Rights movement grew Rosa continued to work for equality for African Americans. In 1987, Rosa founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. She also received many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1996. In 1999, she received the Congressional Gold Medal.

 

Rosa died at age 92 on October 24, 2005. She was honored greatly by being buried at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. More than 50,000 people attended her ceremony.

Rosa is one of those people whose lives changed history. She is a hero to all.

*In the 1800’s African Americans were referred to as “Negroes” or Blacks. In the mid-twentieth century the term “colored” was common.

 

I watched a movie produced about Rosa Parks starring Angela Bassett called “The Rosa Parks Story”. It was released in 2002 by Xenon Pictures. It was beautifully done. Rosa was just an ordinary person who took an extraordinary stand against injustice.

The movie tells of her early life, romance, and marriage. The struggles that Rosa went through affected her relationship with Raymond, but they weathered the storms together. I hope you will see the movie. You will be inspired and touched.

 

 

 

 

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Madam C. J. Walker (1867 – 1919) is known as the first black woman millionaire in America. She created a successful line of hair care products that are still being sold today. Born Sarah Breedlove, she was orphaned by age 8, married by age 14, a mother by age 17 and a widow at age 20.

Sarah’s story is told by her great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles in “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker” (Pocket Books, NY, 2001). I highly recommend this book as incredibly interesting and informative.

 

Sarah was working as a laundress when she discovered that her hair was falling out uncontrollably. “I was on the verge of becoming entirely bald,” Sarah said. Desperate for a solution she prayed to the Lord. She claims that her answer came to her in a dream. A black man told her what to put in a mixture for her scalp. She concocted the ingredients and rubbed them into her scalp which began to heal. Soon she had gorgeous hair. The treatment really worked!

She began to bottle and sell her product. Marketing her product was easy as everyone could see the results of the “Walker system” on the beautiful heads of hair on the women who had formerly had scraggly, rough hair. Sarah took ads out in newspapers but her best advertisement was testimonials of thousands of happy women. Sarah traveled many miles selling her product directly to black women. She was warm and friendly and not only won loyal customers but a fleet of thousands of enthusiastic saleswomen.

She taught her ladies a good sales pitch using a familiar agricultural lesson. “Do you realize that it is as necessary to cultivate the scalp to grow hair as it is to cultivate the soil to grow a garden?” she queried. Everywhere her saleswomen went they were successful because Sarah’s product and methods were successful. In a day when there were so many “snake oil” salesmen running around, people could recognize when something really worked and were glad to pay for it.

Other hair treatment manufacturers were selling products to straighten hair, but Sarah would have none of that. She always maintained that her products were for growing healthy hair. She started a salon and trained beauty culturalists to work with women helping them to have healthier practices. She taught them to massage and clean scalps so that hair would grow. She eventually had over twenty products for healthy hair and skin.

Sarah grew very rich doing this but she gave much of her money away. She started clubs for her employees and encouraged them to be generous in charitable giving. She donated to the WMCA; she encouraged black soldiers during WW1. She knew Ida B. Wells (see posts on this blog May 9 and 13, 2015) and worked to stop the illegal lynching of black people. Sarah also donated $5000 to Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute, founded by Mary McLeod Bethune (see post April 10, 2017).

Sarah literally wore herself out. When she became ill in 1919 her doctor told her to rest. That was hard for her to do. Finally, one day her kidneys failed. Before Madam went into a coma she said, “I want to live to help my race.” Sarah died Sunday morning, May 25, 1919.

Today Sarah’s legacy is remembered in two landmarks – her Irvington-on Hudson, New York, mansion and the Madam Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis, Indiana (where she built her manufacturing plant). The center includes a museum and sponsors theatrical and musical performances. Her papers and letters are archived at the Indiana Historical Society in Indianapolis.

The original Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing company was sold in 1986. She was recently honored by the American Health and Beauty Aids Institute when they inducted her into their hall of fame. In 1998 the U.S. Postal system released a stamp as part of the Black Heritage Series.

I enjoyed going to her website – www.madamcjwalker.com. You will find her story as well as the story of what has become of her company and where you can buy some products!!

A great video production from “People Plan”, February 23, 2014) with many pictures and great biographical information is from:

“Madam CJ Walker – First African American Female Self Made Millionaire”

Sarah Breedlove (McWilliams Davis) Walker’s life is told beautifully with an emphasis on her character. Her business acumen, philanthropy, love and care for her race, including empowering over 25,000 women to get good jobs is recounted. Her selfless giving is to be admired. She was an inspiration to others to give also. Madam was also active in politics, WWI, and social issues including the struggle against the illegal lynching of blacks. One of the most successful entrepreneurs of all times, her legacy continues to be admired.

Here is the link:

https://youtu.be/w64zkMY5H94

 

 

 

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Hidden Figures – This video is the remarkable true story of women who crossed racial and gender lines to contribute important work to NASA.

Katherine Goble. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are some of the many forgotten women, especially black women, who achieved amazing things in spite of the prejudice and road blocks thrown at them. All extremely brilliant women, they were the brains behind the launch of John Glenn into space in the 1960’s space race. Their work helped our country to put a man on the moon.

The movie is great and I hope you will see it. It does a pretty good job of telling what the women went through – early childhood and education, what they suffered in order to be accepted in society, and obstacles they encountered at work. The extras in the special Blu-Ray edition relate more of the many achievements of these incredible women. Here are a few highlights (some of the information obtained through my further research):

Katherine Goble Johnson

Katherine was a math prodigy who graduated from West Virginia State College summa cum laude at only age 18. She married and had three children. Sadly, Mr. Goble died of a brain tumor. Later she remarried.

Katherine was an aerospace technologist. She verified the computer’s numbers for John Glenn’s orbit around the earth in 1962, calculated the historic Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and worked on the calculations that helped bring Apollo 13 safely back to earth after it malfunctioned in 1970.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan

Dorothy received her training at Wilberforce University in Ohio in 1929. She married Howard Vaughan and they had six children. In 1943, Dorothy went to work at Langley as one of the African-American women who were hired due to President Roosevelt’s executive order forbidding racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in the defense industry as he sought to fill the jobs needed for the war effort. Dorothy was one of the countless female human “computers” who did the math for the space industry.

Later when IBM introduced digital computers to replace the human computers, Dorothy was smart enough to figure a way to keep her job and the jobs of all of the other women. She taught herself and them the Fortran programming Language for the IBM 704 mainframe computers that NASA was installing. (Just look at that room full of machines in the movie and realize that your cell phone has more computing power than all of that!!)

Mary Jackson

Mary graduated from Hampton Institute with bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and physical science. Frustrated and unhappy about the discrimination against her in the work place, Mary almost resigned. However, her supervisor, Kazimierz Czarnecki encouraged her to train as an engineer. Mary had to fight racial prejudice but she successfully finished the course and was promoted to aerospace engineer in 1958 at the age of 37. She wrote many papers and studied data that helped to improve US planes. Mary achieved the most senior rank in the engineering department, but took a demotion to become a human resources administrator until her retirement in 1985. She spent her time helping other women and minorities to advance their careers.

One of the things that is downplayed a bit in the movies is the tremendous religious faith of these three wonderful women. They all just wanted to succeed and were willing to put up with the prejudice against them. In that era, blacks were often just happy to have a job. Their gratitude for what they had should put those of us who have never encountered their obstacles to shame. They are an inspiration!

It is finally time after 55 years that Katherine, Dorothy, and Mary are recognized for their achievements. Though things have changed a lot since the 1940’s and 50’s, there is still a struggle for full racial and gender equality. The stories of these women will go a long way to erase the idea that women, especially black women are inferior.

Here is a trailer to the movie:

http://www.ign.com/videos/2016/08/15/hidden-f

 

 

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Through love and faith and determination I have been persistently facing obstacles, small and large, and I have made them stepping stones upon which to rise.          Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is remembered as an educator and an activist. Mary was born with three strikes against her – she was poor, black, and female. This indomitable woman who believed that “Love, not hate, has been the fountain of my fullness” spent her life building a better world.

Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875 near Mayesville, South Carolina. This was during the period of ‘reconstruction’ in the South. Tempers often ran as hot as the weather and as the nation adjusted, unfair anti-black violence escalated. Through it all many black men and women maintained their faith in God. There was a strong belief that education would raise the status of black people in the perceptions of others and would result in better jobs.

Originally Mary trained at Moody Bible Institute (as it is called today) to become a missionary to Africa. It seems incredible to us now, but she was told that black women were not allowed to go on the missionfield. This didn’t stop Mary for long. Realizing that this setback was only a ‘stepping stone upon which to rise’ she put her heart and soul into educating poor black children, starting with girls. Mary believed that as the mothers in the homes, girls would grow up to have a profound impact on their children’s education.

Mary married Albert McLeod Bethune in 1898. They had one son. Sadly, due to disagreements that couldn’t be reconciled Mary and Albert ended the marriage in 1907.

Mary founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls in Daytona, Florida in 1904. She started with only five students but the school grew to over 250 students in only a few years. Mary remained the president and leader until 1942. In 1923 the school combined with the Cookman Institute for Men. The newly combined school, called the Bethune-Cookman College, was one of the few places where African-American students could get a college degree.

Besides her important work at the school, Mary also became politically involved. She was president of the Florida chapter of the National Association of Colored Women for many years.  Mary worked with presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt to improve life for African-Americans. She served on many committees and started up her own organization – the National Council of Negro Women. In 1936 President Roosevelt appointed her to be the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. In this position Mary was able to help young people find jobs. At this time Mary also served as an advisor to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

In 1942 Mary retired from Bethune-Cookman college. She moved to Washington DC and lived there for several years. She was an early member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the early 1950’s, President Truman appointed her to be the official delegate to Liberia for the inauguration of their new president.

Eventually Mary returned to Florida to retire. She passed away on May 18, 1955.

Before she died Mary wrote “My Last Will and Testament.” She wanted to leave her people with a legacy of serving. Here are her ‘bequests’.

             I leave you love.
             I leave you hope.
             I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another.
             I leave you a thirst for education.
             I leave you a respect for the uses of power. (This power should be placed on the side of human justice.)
             I leave you faith.
             I leave you racial dignity.
             I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men.
             I leave you finally a responsibility to our young people.

Faith Courage, brotherhood, dignity, ambition, responsibility – these are needed today as never before. We must cultivate them and use them as tools for our task of completing the establishment of equality for the Negro.

If I have a legacy to leave my people, it is my philosophy of living and serving. As I face tomorrow, I am content, for I think I have spent my life well. I pray now that my philosophy may be helpful to those who share my vision of a world of Peace, Progress, Brotherhood and Love.

 

In 1973, eighteen years after her passing,  Mary McLeod Bethune was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1974, a seventeen-foot bronze sculpture commemorating Mary’s work in education was erected in Lincoln Park, Washington DC. It is the first statue ever dedicated on federal land to honor either an African-American or a woman.

 

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor in 1985.

 

The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site was opened in 1994.

 

 

 

I found a wonderful video production of Mary’s life on YouTube. It is in three parts totaling a little over 26 minutes. It gives great historical background and contains many contemporary photos. I highly recommend it!!

 YouTube:

  1.  Mary McLeod Bethune Part One desktop, Jan. 24, 2009, Brian Stewart 9:42

https://youtu.be/CTEYr8cd1us

2. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Two desktop, 9:46

https://youtu.be/-6zHh9U8ZYI

3. Mary McLeod Bethune Part Three desktop, 6:44

https://youtu.be/encR1RbFk3w

 

 

 

 

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