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The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, formerly the home of educator and civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), was the first headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune founded NCNW in 1935 and served as its first president. Prior to founding the organization, Bethune was active in the National Association of Colored Women and elected president in 1924. Bethune bought this home in 1943 and it became the official headquarters in 1955. Bethune was born in Mayesville, South Carolina. She attended Scotia Seminary in Concord, North Carolina, and Moody Bible School in Chicago. In 1904 she moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, where she transformed a cottage into the Daytona Educational and Industrial Institute for Negro Girls. In 1922 Bethune's school was merged with Cookman College, creating the Bethune-Cookman College.

While Bethune was leading the NCNW and Bethune-Cookman College, she was also becoming one of the country's most prominent public officials. She served as director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration from 1936 to 1943, and she served as advisor to four U.S. presidents: Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry S Truman.

The three-story Victorian Second Empire main house is a museum with permanent and changing exhibits interpreting the life of Bethune and black women's history and is operated by the National Park Service. The carriage house contains the National Archives for Black Women's History.

The house was built by white tobacconist William Roose and was occupied over time by a series of white owners attracted to the fashionable Logan Circle neighborhood: John J. McElhone, a reporter for the House of Representatives, and his wife Mary (beginning in 1875); journalist Frank G. Carpenter and his wife, Joanna (1892); and Alphonso and Anna Gravalles, who operated a ladies tailoring shop here beginning in 1912. Mary McLeod Bethune acquired the house in 1943. In 1966 the NCNW was forced to leave the building after a damaging fire. The house was listed on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites in 1975. It was rehabilitated and opened as the current house museum in 1979. The property was declared a National Historic Site in 1982 and acquired by the National Park Service in 1994.


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