Mary McLeod Bethune, 1940s

I found this photograph in Ebony magazine, many issues of which are now available via Google books. Although the photo is undated, I think it comes from the 1940s. It shows first lady Eleanor Roosevelt with her friend, the noted educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

Born in 1875, Mary Bethune founded a well-known school for African American girls at the beginning of the twentieth century.  This grew into the co-educational Bethune Cookman University in Florida, which still exists today.  She was also active in the Roosevelt administration and in many organizations for African American women.  Read more about her here.

I think Mary Bethune takes the fashion prize in this photo.  At least in her mid-sixties here, she looks sharp in her man-tailored jacket.  As a woman with a heavy chest, the vertical stripes are a good choice to slim down her silhouette.  The defined lapels—so 1940s!—draw your eyes up to her face.  By contrast, Eleanor Roosevelt looks a little dowdy in her lady-like droopy collar with a big bow.

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