Mary Jane McLeod, the 15th of 17 children, was born on July 10, 1875. Her parents were former slaves who recognized the importance of education and how it could open doors of opportunity for Blacks. Her excellent performance at school earned her a scholarship to North Carolina's Scotia Seminary, which served as a springboard for a distinguished career as an educator and activist. After a few years as a teacher, she married Albertus Bethune in 1898. In 1904, Bethune opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School with just five students. The institution eventually became the Bethune-Cookman College in 1929 after a merger with Cookman Institute. She also founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 to enable Black women to promote globally participate in efforts to promote social justice and human rights and was an influential advisor on "Negro affairs" to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1974, she became the first Black leader and first woman to be honored with a monument, a statue located in a public park in Washington, D.C.
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(Photo: The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers/Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)
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