Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women: Mary McLeod Bethune

The following is a reflection by Carol McSween-Brooks as part of #TeamBrandy’s Conventional Wisdom vs. Unconventional Women series. McSween-Brooks is a resident of Wheaton.

Mary McLeod Bethune followed a path of being “unconventional” throughout her life. Did you know Mrs. Bethune:

  • Started a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida.
  • Was president of Bethune-Cookman College (the consolidation of the school for African-American girls and the Cookman school for boys) from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947.
  • Instituted standards that led Bethune-Cookman College to become Bethune-Cookman University.
  • Was a national leader in the 1930’s, working with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt on issues of education and social justice not just for African Americans but for all people.
  • Was National Advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt as part of the Black Cabinet.
  • Has a memorial sculpture in Lincoln Park in Washington, DC.


Mrs. Bethune said of the National Council of Negro Women in New York City, which she founded:

Photo by Carl Van Vechten

“It is our pledge to make a lasting contribution to all that is finest and best in America, to cherish and enrich her heritage of freedom and progress by working for the integration of all her people regardless of race, creed, or national origin, into her spiritual, social, cultural, civic, and economic life, and thus aid her to achieve the glorious destiny of a true and unfettered democracy.”

Mrs. Bethune is a personal heroine of mine, and I’m excited to share a purely wonderful story of remembrance and discovery.

Mary McLeod Bethune was a living hero for my mother who told me of Mrs. Bethune’s accomplishments in detail from when I was very young. My mother encouraged me to learn and Mrs. Bethune was always at the forefront whenever she told me what I could accomplish. Yet it wasn’t until doing research for this blog series that I discovered the depth of who Mary McLeod Bethune was. Both personally and publicly, I owe a great deal of my strength and determination as a Black woman to the things Mary McLeod Bethune set in motion in education and community.

She challenged conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in education for Black people.

Brandy Brooks challenges conventional wisdom as an unconventional leader in community and government. It is this strength in challenging convention to build thriving, powerful, and socially just communities all across Montgomery County that makes a “YES!” vote for Brandy Brooks for County Council At-Large on June 26, 2018 the right thing to do.

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