FLGenWeb Digital Library and Archives
BETHUNE, Mary M.
Transcribed from: The History of Florida: Past & Present, The Lewis Publishing Co., Vol.
Presented by Nancy Rayburn
III, page 371, 1923.
BETHUNE, MARY M. The Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls is a noble
Southern institution that well expresses the personality, the fine ideals and able achievement
of the noble and talented woman who was its founder and is its executive head-MARY McLEOD
BETHUNE. In this circumscribed article it is impossible to enter into details that fully
indicate the true story of the inception, development and splendid service of this well ordered
institution, but it is gratifying to offer an outline of its history and a brief record of
the career of its founder.
MARY McLEOD BETHUNE was born in a little log cabin at Mayesville, South Carolina, July 10,
1875, one of the seventeen children of SAMUEL and PATSY McLEOD, both of whom were slaves,
the father having been given his freedom prior to the Civil war and by his own work having
raised funds to purchase his wife from her master. SAMUEL McLEOD owned his modest little
home and did his best to provide properly for his large family. His wife was an earnest
Christian worker who gave forty years of service as a stewardess of the African Methodist
Episcopal Church. There were sterling characteristics in this humble and worthy couple,
whose lives offered lesson and incentive to their children. Mrs. BETHUNE early gave evidence
of distinct individuality, and she made rapid progress in her studies in the little mission
school, and her excellent qualities won her a scholarship that enabled her to advance her
education. At Scotia Seminary, Concord, North Carolina, she was graduated in both normal
and scientific courses; thereafter she was for two years a student in the Moody Bible School,
Chicago, in which likewise she was graduated. In connection with this special phase of her
career the following statements have been written: "While there MAY (sic) McLEOD was sent
on a special car as soloist of a band of Gospel singers. They established Sunday schools
in Minnesota, Dakota, Iowa and Illinois, and the young woman thus gained exceptional experience
and training for the work that she was soon to do for God and humanity." In 1919 Mrs. BETHUNE
received from Wilberforce University the degree of Master of Arts, and in 1922 a similar
honor was conferred upon her by the South Carolina State College.
The initial service of Mrs. BETHUNE as a teacher was given South Carolina and in connection
with Haines Institute at Augusta, Georgia. Thereafter she did a remarkable work in connection
with a mission at Palatka, Florida, where she gave much time to uplift work in jails and
county prisons. From an interesting brochure issued by the institution of which she is the
principal are taken the following extracts: "In 1904, impelled by a resistless impulse, Mrs.
BETHUNE went to Daytona, Florida. Single-handed, with only $1.50 in her pocket, she was,
never the less, 'Obedient to the Heavenly vision,' the vision of innumerable Negro girls
whose hopeless faces and dull eyes called to her to help them to get a broader view of life,
girls who longed for something better than they had known. Having induced a good-natured
man to rent her a little house on credit, she gathered five little girls and began her life
work by founding The Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute. Through years of toil and
struggle, of doubt and misunderstanding, the brave little woman worked on, and to-day the
little school has grown into a flourishing institution whose splendid truck farm, eight
fine buildings (two of which are modern brick structures) and beautiful campus are valued
by a conservative estimate at $353,050. A full high school course is offered, with teacher
training and seven industries: Cooking, sewing, home gardening, nurse-training, basket-
making, rug-weaving, chair-caning.
"A community center for boys and men near the school, a thriving mission at Tomoka, on a
little turpentine farm whither she goes with her girls to teach the little neglected ones,
are among the community activities inaugurated and managed by this energetic, useful woman."
Well named a "mercy spot" is the McLeod Hospital and Training School for Nurses, which was
founded and is still financed by Mrs. BETHUNE and which has helped and blessed the Negroes
of the entire east coast of Florida. A heart attuned to deep human sympathy and tolerance
enables Mrs. BETHUNE to see and respond to needs among her people, and hers is in the most
significant sense a life of human service-better than which can be claimed by none.
Pertinent are the following statements: "As soon as Mrs. BETHUNE's splendid ideals for
the education of the girls of her race became known, she and her school attracted the
attention of many of the best thinking people in the country. Students flocked to the
institution, and Mrs. BETHUNE gained a great influence in educational circles, not only
in Florida but also in other sections of the country." Of characteristics modesty is
the statement of Mrs. BETHUNE to the effect that she gives her negligible time to the cause
of serving humanity. She has served as president of the Florida Federation of Colored
Women's Clubs, the Florida Association of Colored Teachers and the South Eastern Federation
of Colored Women's Clubs, besides having been elected a member of the executive committee
of the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, and also a member of the
National Urban League. In 1921 she was prominently concerned in the founding of an
industrial school for delinquent Negro girls at Ocala, Florida.
Mrs. BETHUNE maintains a voluminous correspondence, has been called upon to speak before
many distinguished assemblies and institutions in leading cities of the Union, and she
counts among her friends many representative men and women of both the white and colored
races, the angle of her benignant influence thus having a constantly broadening tendency.
Mrs. BETHUNE gave large, generous and effective service of patriotic order during the
period of American participation in the World war, and in the interests and under the
auspices of the Red Cross she traveled extensively, day and night, in a work that inspired
the colored people of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia, as well
as other Southern districts, to zealous loyalty and patriotism. In delivering an address
at the Belasco Theater in Washington, D. C., she was introduced by Secretary of Agriculture
Wilson as the "female Booker T. Washington of America". As a result of her work thousands
of members were added to the American Red Cross.
In significant and merited appreciation may well be entered a further quotation as a fitting
conclusion of this brief tribute to a great institution and a great woman: "Thus this brave
woman goes on from day to day, 'spending and being spent' in the service of her Master and
her race, her whole life an expression of the motto that she gave to her school in those
early days-those dark days of suffering and toil-'Not to be ministered unto, but to minister'".
It should be stated that Mrs. BETHUNE is a devoted member of the African Methodist Episcopal
Church. At Sumter, South Carolina, in 1899, was solemnized her marriage to ALBERTUS BETHUNE,
who made a successful record as a teacher. The one child of this union is a son, ALBERT
This page created May 1, 2010
© 2010 Fran Smith