Editor’s note: This is another in a series of stories on important women in American history, in celebration of March as National Women’s History Month. Information was provided by members of the Kaua‘i County Committee on the Status of Women. For more information, or to inquire about joining the committee, call Pat Hunter-Williams, 639-0888, or the Office of the Mayor, 241-6300.
The first person in her family to be born after slavery was abolished, Mary McLeod Bethune realized that, for African Americans, getting an education could provide the opportunity to succeed in life.
At the turn of the century, she started a small school for black girls in Florida.
She used her talent, energy, and strong will to turn the school into Bethune-Cookman College.
In the national arena in the 1920s, Bethune was founder and first president of the National Council of Negro Women.
During the Great Depression, she was appointed to a number of high-level government posts, and was a founding member of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt’s unofficial “Black Cabinet.”
As a frequent visitor to the White House and a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Bethune used her influence to challenge discriminatory policies in Congress and the government.