Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)
“I plunged into the job of creating something from nothing.... Though I hadn't a penny left, I considered cash money as the smallest part of my resources. I had faith in a living God, faith in myself, and a desire to serve.”
For African American women, getting the vote often didn't mean being able to cast a ballot. But Mary McLeod Bethune, a well-known activist and educator, was determined that she and other women would exercise their rights. Bethune raised money to pay the poll tax in Daytona, Florida (she got enough for 100 voters), and also taught women how to pass their literacy tests. Even facing off with the Ku Klux Klan couldn't keep Bethune from voting.
Bethune's activities didn't stop there: she founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 to advocate for Black women. And during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, she accepted a position as director for the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration. This made her the highest-ranking African American woman in government. Bethune knew she was setting an example, stating, "I visualized dozens of Negro women coming after me, filling positions of high trust and strategic importance."