Aetna Inc.

Calendar HistoryCalendar IndexFast FactsRelated LinksAetna FoundationCalendar Home
Picture of Mary McLeod Bethune
Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and government liaison for black rights, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina. She studied to be a missionary at Scotia Seminary in North Carolina and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, but was turned down for a post in Africa. As a result, she dedicated her life to teaching.

Bethune taught in Georgia and South Carolina before she moved to Florida and started the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute in 1904 with an endowment of $1.50. Her tireless work enabled the school to grow and merge in 1923 with the Cookman Institute and become a junior college. In 1943, Bethune-Cookman College graduated its first class of four-year students.

Bethune was active in Florida's black women's organizations during this time. She became president of the National Association of Colored Women in 1924 and became the first president of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in 1935. Through the NCNW, Bethune met Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt encouraged her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to appoint Bethune as an advisor to the National Youth Administration (NYA).

In 1936, Bethune took charge of Negro affairs of the NYA, the first Black woman to hold such a high position in the United States. The office provided minority students grants to continue higher education and wrote the NYA's nondiscrimination policy. Bethune also organized the Federal Council of Negro Affairs, known as the Black Cabinet, which promoted equality in federal hiring. In 1944, Bethune retired from the NYA, and in 1949 she resigned as NCNW president. She returned to Daytona Beach to live until her death.

Back to 1983