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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Making A Difference ~ Osceola

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.

Oseola McCarty. 

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?



Kelley Dibble said...

Elma is one of mine. She came from a humble background, too, and poured her life into a little girl once: me. She was a gift.

Loved the introduction to Miss McCarty. Refreshing, inspiring, moving. I honestly have no clue what REAL tiredness is. Or selflessness, for that matter.

*hugs* from Hawaii,

Julia C. said...

Love your posts, sometimes they make me laugh, sometimes they make me think...but always love them...Julia from BA, Arg.
La Silla Chic
PD as you know English is not my language so sorry because of my mistakes, if you understand my comments everything is OK....communication is communication at least, hugs, Julia

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

What a beautiful spirit she is!

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

Oh I had forgot about her too. I remember seeing her story on a documentary once, what a special person indeed. Beautiful post, thanks. Hugs, Marty

Kathleen said...

I wonder what her mother was like? Talk about a life dedicated to service. It makes my occasional grumbling very selfish.

Vicki said...

My hero, since childhood, is Helen Keller. She accomplished so much even though her challenges could have been overwhelming. She intrigues me to this day. Thank you for sharing Osceola's story. I have heard it before, but hadn't thought of her in years. I appreciate the inspiration!

Dorothy said...

I hadn't thought of Osceola McCarty in a long while either. Two of my sons and myself were attending University of Southern Miss in 1995 when she gave this legacy to the college. I remember how amazed everyone was that this woman had saved so much money she had worked so very hard for and what she wanted to do with her earnings. She is truly an inspiration to women everywhere.
Thank you for sharing her story, it brings back good memories to me.

Lisa said...

Such a beautiful post Laura! And what a testament to a life well spent.

Auntie Em said...

There are many amazing women world over. One is sitting here reading my comment! It's you...and each and every woman you meet on the street or sit by in church or grew up with in your family. Some manage to gain fame by doing something that is news worthy or entertaining and that is all well and good, but the woman who is managing to raise her child to be a good human being, the woman who cares for an aging family member, the woman who is dealing with illness, mental or physical, who has suffered at the hands of others, is a hero as she gets up each day and does what she can to make the life of someone else just a little bit better. We need to smile at the woman at the coffee counter or the grocery checkout. We must stop to say hello to a neighbour or any other woman you meet. Each has a story and while it may not be glamorous or bring high honours from the public, it's her story and has shaped her life. I am so amazed at what some women have come through and then to see them going about day to day and living their life as if nothing is out of the ordinary today. You have to wonder what triggered Osceola to one day make up her mind she would work so hard, do without and make a strangers life better. Aren't women amazing?!? Aren't we lucky to be women! :)

Ricki Jill Treleaven said...

Osceola shames us all. I remember when she was featured on Oprah. What a legacy! Thanks for sharing.

Ceekay-THINKIN of HOME/Doublewide Decor said...

I was unfamiliar with this wonderful woman. My favorite woman of history first would be my grandma....but right after that, Helen Keller.

Laura Turner said...

Thank you for introducing this beautiful woman to me. I often think about the women of World War II--their sacrifices, work in the factories...and also the widowed women in the first half of the 19th century who had numerous children to provide for and came up with ingenious (albeit grueling) ways to support them. (Reminisce Magazine - esp the ones from ten years ago- is a great source of personal anecdotes.)

Laura from

Laura Turner said...

Come to think of it, my own mother was an absolutely amazing woman. Last of 13 children born to poor farmers in the Appalachians, she married at 18, had me at 19, had my brother, and then went to college when we were school age. She was the only person in her family to attend college. She obtained her master's degree in speech therapy, and overcame so many obstacles and crushing life difficulties. She now lives with Jesus. I will write about her some day on my blog. What a woman!

Laura from Sunday View

Cindy @ Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home said...

Beautiful post. What an inspirational story...such a sweet woman!

Vel Criste said...

WOW, what an inspiring story! never knew about her until you mentioned Osceola here, thank you, her story made me teary-eyed and so hopeful that poeple can be really THAT GOOD. THANK YOU LAURA!

Blondie's Journal said...

Your post gave me goose bumps. What an incredible woman and I thank you for bringing her to my attention. Her legacy makes me feel like I can do anything.


Lorrie said...

What an amazing woman. I love this story. What vision she had. It's humbling to me.

Sarah said...

Laura, thank you for sharing this beautiful story of a woman who should be a role model to us all. I recall her story, but like you hadn't thought of her in years. I need to see if I can find a copy of this book at the library. I know it is filled with photos of great women.

Pat@Life At Lydias House said...

What a wonderful post! I was not familiar with this story and I am so glad that you shared it! What an inspiration!

Jen said...

What an amazing story! I am so glad you shared it today ... it was seriously something that I needed.

Have a wonderful week!

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

An incredibly moving story about an amazing woman. I feel humbled and inspired. This post has made a difference to me. Thank you.

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

An incredibly moving story about an amazing woman. I feel humbled and inspired. This post has made a difference to me. Thank you.

Maureen said...

It's truly humbling to read about a woman who had so little and managed to have such a great and long lasting impact on the lives of others. She is a fine example of the kind of love and giving we all should strive for. You touched a chord with all of us with this post.

Louise said...

I had not heard of M$ McCarty, thank you for letting me know about her.

I have been feeling a little weary myself, and this puts it in perspective.

8)(8 said...


Sweet Auburn Life said...

I had never heard of this inspiring selfless lady, thanks for sharing.

openid said...

Love Osceola McCarty and thankful you gave a voice to her story.
Your Friend,

WendyBee said...

Oh my, this post takes my breath away...and gives me so much to think about....thank you.