Mary McLeod was born on July 10, 1875 in Maysville, South Carolina--the fifteenth child of seventeenth brothers and sisters. Mary's parents, Samuel and Patsy Macintosh McLeod, were former slaves. One worked on their land to cultivate cotton and the other continued work with the former slave owner.
McLeod first started school at the African American Girls School in Daytona Beach, Florida. In 1894, Mary was awarded a scholarship to the Dwight Moody's Institute for Home and Foreign Missions located in Chicago. She had been recommended by her teacher for her outstanding skills.
Later Mary taught school in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina. Her major contributions was to the African American Society.
On May of 1898, Mary McLeod married a former schoolteacher named Albertus Bethune and on February 3, 1899 she had son named Albertus Bethune Jr.
She became first the American women to be involved with the White House. First, in 1928 she assisted Calvin Coolidge with the child care conference. In 1929, under President Herbert Hoover, she became a member of two important commissions. In 1933 she helped Franklin D. Roosevelt with the National Youth Administration; and in 1951, Mary traveled to Africa with Harry Truman.
After Mrs. Bethune died of a heart attack on May 18, 1955, she was honored with several landmarks like 640 Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd. and the Council House.
She founded the Bethune-Cookman College.