In 1908, Oseola McCarty entered the world. She was conceived through rape, and sent to live with her grandmother and aunt, both of whom were washer women, struggling to survive. When Oseola reached the 6th grade, her aunt fell ill, and she quit school to take care of her and do her washing work.
From that day forward, Oseola worked long, grueling days over a tin wash tub that sat atop a fire. Soak, wash, boil, rub, ring, rub on the washboard again. Oseola worked from sun up to sun down over that tub, and then spent her evenings ironing until, hands raw and peeling, she couldn’t stand. The next day it would start all over again. Remarkably, Miss Oseola was known for her joyful spirit. She did her work with all her heart and counted it a blessing that she had a means of making a living.
She was also known for being very frugal – never owning a car, or subscribing to cable or even the newspaper. She lived well below her means, and she saved all she could. As she aged, her banker asked her what she intended to do with her estate. Together with him and attorney for whom she had washed clothes for years, Oseola hatched a plan. She would leave 10% to her church, 30% split among three relatives, and the remaining 60% she would give to the Univeristy of Southern Mississippi to be used a scholarship for someone like her, someone who worked hard but could not afford to further their education. Her gift amounted to $150,000, a remarkable feat for someone of such modest means. When word got out, several business owners banded together to create an endowment in her name for the university. In 1998, a year before she died, USM granted her an honorary degree, and President Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal.
Let nothing stop you.