Mary McLeod Bethune dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women of all races. As the Special Assistant to the Secretary of War in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Administration, she helped to establish the Women's Army Corps - known as WAC. Mary McLeod Bethune was known as the "first lady of the struggle" equal parts politician, social visionary, and educator. With just $1.50, she founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls in 1904 which later became known as Bethune Cookman College. It remains open today in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was one of the most prominent black women of the first half of the twentieth century. To this day, she's a personal hero of another woman of influence, former Savannah Chatham Superintendent of Schools, Virginia Edwards Maynor.
Even as a little girl, Virginia Edwards Maynor wanted to be a teacher. "In the classroom is really where the joy is and once you step into the classroom it's hard to be plucked out once that passion is there," said Virginia Edwards Maynor.
She spent decades educating children in Chatham County as she worked her way up the ranks from teacher to curriculum specialist, assistant principal, principal, deputy superintendent and ultimately the first black female superintendent of schools for Savannah Chatham County. Under her leadership, the school system flourished.
Students reached many academic milestones including record high SAT scores. I have never seen so many awards and honors in my life. She has definitely accomplished great things in and out of the classroom. Maynor is prominently featured in two books and in 2004, the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum unveiled a portrait of Maynor and her image remains on display in the museum acknowledging her place in history. "You can get many rewards like plaques and that's good. I appreciate all of them that I have received, but the real testament is from the people who take the time to call you to write you and to say thank you for what you did," said Maynor.
She has boxes of letters and cards from former teachers, staff and students to show their gratitude. Maynor cherishes every single message. Although she retired back in 2001 after 34 years as an educator, she continues to look out for the best interest of children. Maynor even served on the state board of education. "You may retire from a position, but you don't retire from life you keep on giving," added Maynor.
She is inspired by the life of Mary McLeod Bethune who long before women had the right to vote, openly fought for women's rights and started a school for blacks. "To be triumphant in all of her efforts by providing education to people during that time when it was virtually against the law to even teach blacks to read, but she persevered and showed what determination, integrity and being forthright and committed , you can accomplish. The legacy that she left for many of us to follow will stand tall. She taught us to give back and most of all, she encouraged future generations to not give up on the young people, but to invest in youth because that's where our future lies."
Since retiring, Maynor started a new chapter personally too, she and a former classmate, William, who she has known since they were in grade school, re- united at a class reunion and got married.
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