The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House-Washington DC


Mary McLeod Bethune House
Photo by Jack Boucher, HABS-HAER, NPS

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.

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.

Mary McLeod Bethune
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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.

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.