People called Mary McLeod Bethune "The First Lady of The Struggle." The struggle was improving life for African Americans.

Born in 1875 in a small cabin close to Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary was the fifteenth of seventeen children of formerly enslaved parents.

From a young age, Mary was inspired to learn. With encouragement from her parents, she'd walk five miles a day to attend the mission school nearby. The experience set a foundation for her life. "The whole world opened to me when I learned to read," Mary would say.

For Mary, her love for learning evolved into a profession of teaching. And after some years of being a teacher, Mary opened the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training Institute for Negro Girls in 1904. The initial class of six students learned from a curriculum that began at 5:30 am with Bible study and continued throughout the day, focusing on developing self-sufficiency skills until the school day ended at 9 pm.

Mary had a motto for life: "not for myself, but for others." Following this creed, she dedicated herself to many initiatives throughout life. Amongst educating young students, she opened a hospital and training programs for nurses, took an active role in politics - holding several positions including Director of Negro Affairs at the National Youth Administration, and helped integrate organizations such as the Red Cross.

Mary passed away in 1955. In her Last Will and Testament, she wrote nine maxims - "I leave you to love. I leave you to 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 use of power. I leave your faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you a responsibility to our young people."

Sources: Coursen, W. L. (William Ludlow), 1880-1967. Mary McLeod Bethune - Daytona Beach, Florida. 1915 (circa). State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.<>. / /

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