The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House is a national historic site in Washington, D.C. preserving the memory of one of the most prominent African American women in history. The site is a three-story Victorian townhouse and a two-story carriage house, in which the National Archives for Black Women’s History is housed. Since the years Bethune resided here from 1943 to 1955, much of the interior has been left unchanged.
Mary McLeod Bethune was largely interested in education ever since she was young. As the child of slave parents, she was the first in the family to attend school—a missionary school five miles away. By 1893, she graduated from Scotia Seminary through scholarship and eventually began her career as an educator. She started a private school in Daytona Beach, Florida for African American girls—which later merged with the Cookman Institute for boys, creating the Bethune-Cookman College.
Much of Bethune’s work was focused on the advancement of African American women, and she was consequently involved in such organizations as the National Association of Colored Women, the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs—both of which she served as president—and the National Council of Negro Women, which she founded in 1935. Bethune’s residence became the Council’s headquarters, occupying the first two floors, and was simply known as Council House.
After Bethune’s death the National Council of Negro Women continued to operate in the house. It was officially registered as a historic place in 1975 and thus underwent a restoration of the property; years later it opened as a research archive and museum. In 1994, Council House was bought by the National Park Service and renamed to the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. Her home in Daytona Beach has also been designated as a U.S. National Historical Landmark.