The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, a National Historic Site, was significant as a center for the
development of strategies and programs which advanced the interests of African American
women and the black community. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House was the residence of
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), renowned educator, national political leader, and founder of the
National Council of Negro Women from 1943 to 1955. She was one of America's most influential black women.
Mary McLeod Bethune House
Photo by Jack Boucher, HABS-HAER, NPS
On December 5, 1935, in New York, Bethune founded the National Council of Negro
Women. Expressing a desire to see black women united to "meet the unfolding of larger things,"
the organization decided on the following objectives: to promote unity of action among women's
organizations in matters affecting the educational, cultural, economic, political and social life in
America; to build a fellowship of women devoted to developing friendly relations among all
people in the world; to collect and preserve information about and affecting women; and to work
for the complete elimination of any and all forms of discrimination and segregation based on
race, religion, color, national origin and sex.
The Council's first office was located in Mrs. Bethune's living room at 1812 Ninth
Street, NW. Several years after the organization formed, the growing membership required a
larger headquarters, and the organization moved to this house at 1318 Vermont Avenue, NW. It
was at this Victorian townhouse that Mary McLeod Bethune, as the president of the National
Council of Negro Women, received heads of state, government officials, and leaders from around
the world. The house was the first national headquarters of the National Council of Negro
Women, and is now the site of the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial Museum and the National
Archives for Black Women's History.
The Archives, which houses the largest manuscript
collection of materials pertaining to black women and their organizations, contains extensive
correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia relating to Mary McLeod Bethune. Both the
museum and archives actively collect artifacts, clothing, artwork, and other materials which
document the history of black women and the black community.
Mary McLeod Bethune
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1318 Vermont
Ave., NW. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday year round and is closed on Sundays and on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The last tour starts at 4pm. Visit the National Park Service Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site website. There are no admission fees, but donations are accepted. For more information, please call 202/673-2402. Metro stop: McPherson Square.
Mary McLeod Bethune House
is the subject of an online lesson
plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Park Service
program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed
in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching
with Historic Places home page.