Influential Women #02: Mary Jane McLeod Bethune

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune is one of the many women that are not talked about at all, yet was the source of many significant changes mostly in the USA. Not only did she single-handedly help improve education for all minorities in the USA, but she also played a very significant role in the USA’s battle for equal civil rights for all.

Bethune was born in July 1875, and grew up with 16 siblings. Her parents were slaves, and most of her siblings were born into slavery too. As she helped her mother deliver white people’s wash to their homes, she was sometimes allowed into the nursery of white children – that’s where she first came across a book. However, she was told that she’d never be able to read it by one of the children that lived there, and they took the book away. That’s when Mary Jane decided she would start to study.

And study she did. She first attended Trinity Mission School, and after one of her teachers helped her get a scholarship for college. Mary Jane first wanted to become a missionary in Africa, but she was told black missionaries were not needed, so she decided to settle on a career in education, especially focusing on educating minorities in the USA. She succeeded greatly in her plan: she eventually founded what is now known as the Bethune-Cookman College, one of the few colleges back then where African-American men and women could get a college degree.

She didn’t stop there: in 1924, Mary Jane became the leader of the National Association of Colored Women, and also started the National Council of Negro Women in 1935, which goal was to advance the opportunities and the quality of life of African-American women. Besides that, she aided several presidents, who often asked her advice regarding child welfare and minority affairs. She was personal friends with F.D. Roosevelt and his wife. She worked with the NAACP, and became the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration.

In short: Mary Jane McLeod Bethune influenced not only education, but several civil rights movements – she made an actual difference for the African-American minority in the USA. Wonder what became of that kid that took her book away from her and told her she’d never be able to read?

  • L. Parole


Influential Women #01: Hypatia of Alexandria

Many people think that before, say, the 18th century, there simply were no very influential female figures in philosophy or science. I’m here to prove them wrong. The exact dates are up for debate, but around 360 AD a woman was born in Greece. She was named Hypatia of Alexandria, and not only was she a well-known mathematician, but she was also an astronomer, an inventor and a philosopher.

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The Excuse for the Purposeful Exclusion of Women from Philosophy, History and Science

For the past few days I’ve spent my time studying philosophy, and there’s something I just really couldn’t help but notice… Of the 428 names mentioned in the book (not all of which philosophers, often also historical figures that somehow link back to philosophy) only 12 are women. Of those 12, only two, namely Rachel Carson and Margaret Mead, get more than a mention of their name and work between brackets. This means that less than 3% of the people mentioned in the book are female, and not even 0,5% of the people thoroughly discussed are women. Confronting, huh?

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So Do You Want to Be a Teacher for the Days Off?

The past few weeks a lot of people have been asking me the same exact question: why do you want to become a teacher? People in my proximity don’t seem to understand why anyone would commit their life to educating adolescents for a really no more than an average pay-rate, when a girl like me could easily work her way into media or communications and make so much more money. “You’re probably doing it for all the holidays, right?” Ha. Ha. Let’s sit down and have a talk, my friend.

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