On Tuesday I thought I woke up bone weary. I slowly put on my slippers and shuffled into the kitchen to begin another morning of breakfasts, packing lunches and doing the dishes.
I soon headed off to a three hour college class. Afterwards I walked towards the library as I needed to do some research for a paper. I glanced at a large banner promoting Women’s History Month and quickly continued on my way. At the entrance of the library was a small table display of books also promoting women. A few were on women who had made an actual difference in our world and the rest were celebrity biography’s. This irritated me but I moved on.
I wandered into the stacks of books and soon found what I was looking for, smiling at the coincidence of it all.
I began to flip through pages filled with images of a few faces I recognized, some that I did not and one that made me stop short and stare.
It had to have been at least 10 years or more since I had thought of her.
A quiet washer woman with a 6th grade education who spent 78 years doing other peoples laundry using a large pot, a scrub board and a clothes line. Miss McCarty lived in the same tiny home for 52 years. She never owned a car and had to walk over a mile to get groceries. Her clothes were often hand me downs as was the small black and white television she watched. The binding on her bible had layers of scotch tape on it so Corinthians wouldn’t fall out.
Over the course of 78 years of working as a washerwoman she managed to save a large portion of her earnings~ $150,000. On July 26th, 1995 she gave it all away to perfect strangers. She set up a scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi for poor deserving students so they could get the education she never did, so that they would not have to work as hard as she did.
She asked for only one thing in return.
That she be allowed to attend the graduation ceremony of a student who made it through college because of her gift.
USM went one better, they awarded Miss McCarty an honorary degree. A first for them.
Her generosity so stirred the business community of Hattiesburg that they matched her donation dollar for dollar creating a $300,000 scholarship fund.
Stephanie Bullock was the first recipient of the scholarship. Carletta Barnes was the second. Since then, many more have now followed.
Oseola McCarty was just one woman who made a difference (and continues even after her death to make a difference) using only a scrub board and a large pot. She was a woman who truly knew what the term “bone weary” meant. She makes me think of my electric washer and dryer and wonder why I am not doing more.
"I can't do everything, but I can do something to help somebody. And what I can do I will do. I wish I could do more." ~ Osceola McCarty
Osceola McCarty is my one of my heroes for Women’s History Month, who’s yours?