Mary McLeod Bethune - Classroom Resources | Idella Bodie S.C. Women


Boarding House – A house that provides food and lodging
Commemorate – to honor the memory of
Doubting Thomas – one who is habitually doubtful
Fret – to cause to be uneasy
Hankering – to have a longing, crave
Ignorance – without education or knowledge
Kerosene – a thin oil distilled from petroleum; used as a fuel
Knowledge – understanding gained through experience or study
Obstacle – one that opposes, stands in the way of, holds up progress
Rural – of or pertaining to the country; rustic
Sharecropper – a tenant farmer who gives a share of his crop to the landlord in lieu of rent
Taunt – to deride or reproach with contempt; mock; jeer at
Threaten – to express a threat against; to endanger
Utensils – an instrument used in a kitchen; silverware
Yearn – to have a strong or deep desire; be filled with longing



“I found myself yearning for the things that were provided for the white children with whom I had to chop cotton every day…”

“Put that down…you can’t read fired a determination in me to learn to read.”

“I was called from the farm field and asked if I would like to go to Scotia. I pulled my cotton sack off, got down on my knees, and thanked God for the chance that had come.”

“It was the first time I had had a chance to know white people. They had a mixed faculty at Scotia.”

“This married life was not intended to impede things that I had in mind to do.”

“The whole world opened to me when I learned to read.”



  • Mary McLeod was born on July 10, 1875 at her parents’ home, The Homestead.
  • The new one room school house was called the Trinity Mission School.
  • Scotia Seminary is located 25 miles north of Charlotte.
  • Mary was an instructor alongside Emma Jane Wilson.
  • Mary and Albertus Bethune decide to live in Florida.
  • Though the Bethunes were successful in opening the school, the marriage failed. They never divorced. Albertus moved back to South Carolina while Mary lived in Florida. They had one son, who attended her school. Mary began with 5 students and hoped more would attend.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune was the first African-American woman to be honored with a statue on public park land in Washington, D.C.
  • Mrs. Roosevelt broke a segregation law so that Mary could sit with her at a public conference.  


Classroom Activities

Related to the study of the abolition of slavery and equal rights for all
Related to the study Mary McLeod Bethune


Research: Individual students or small groups. Students utilize a variety of research materials to create a short presentation about the different stages of Mary McLeod Bethune’s life: as a child living in Mayesville, as a young lady going to college, as an educator, and as an important figure in the process of equality for all. Explain why Mary was important to the state and nation. Reports should be presented to the class or larger group. 

Character Education: After researching Mary McLeod Bethune, the students should list the qualities that enabled her to achieve her goals as well as the obstacles she faced. Compare Mary McLeod Bethune with one of today’s leaders in education.

Bulletin Board: Create a class bulletin board of Mary McLeod Bethune’s life. 

Compare and Contrast: Compare and contrast the physical appearance, both inside and out, of Mary McLeod Bethune’s first school and your school today. Which time period would you rather live in and why? Explain.
Analysis: What risks did Mary McLeod Bethune face by starting a school for African American girls? What consequences might have occurred in this process?

Design Postage Stamp: Just as Mary McLeod Bethune had a United States postage stamp commemorating her life, design a stamp commemorating the life of a special woman in your life. Display on school bulletin board.

Debate the conflicting roles of African American women in the early 1900’s. How did the attitudes toward African American women impact social, culture and historical perspectives of that time? 

Map Skills: Locate Mayesville on a South Carolina state map. Create driving directions from your school to Mayesville, South Carolina.

Field Trip: Take a trip to the South Carolina State Museum to visit the African American History Collection or other local museum with African American History artifacts.

South Carolina State Museum, 301 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC 29201.



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