Tough Broads – Oseola McCarty

IMG_3587In 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.

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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.

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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.

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Let nothing stop you.

Tough Broads – Nancy Wake

In 1939, Nancy wake was newly married to Henry Fiocca, a handsome, wealthy, socialite. The pair settled in Marseille and enjoyed the parties and dancing that filled their glamorous evenings. 

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A year later, they were leading a resistance movement that helped thousands of Jewish refugees and Allied servicemen escape to Spain. Nancy was particularly good at flirting her way through checkpoints and charming intelligence out of unsuspecting soldiers.

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Nancy’s reputation soon grew among the Nazi’s, who called her “White Mouse,” and she became one of their most sought after targets. Fearing for the safety of her husband, she fled without his knowledge and made her way across the Pyrenees to Spain. When she arrived, she learned that the Gestapo had tortured and killed Henry in the hopes of finding her.

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With new determination, Nancy was trained as a special agent in Britain and then parachuted into France where she would coordinate attacks on German troops and lead a band of 7,000 resistance fighters. She was known to garner the respect of her men by challenging them to drinking contests. She invariably won.

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Nancy once killed a German guard with a single karate chop to the neck, shot her way past roadblocks and biked 70 hours to a checkpoint to deliver codes to the Allies. When she died in 2003, her ashes were scattered at the location of a raid that she had led on the Gestapo.

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Let nothing stop you.

Tough Broads – Tori Murden McClure

Tori Murden became a fighter at an early age.  As a child, she often had to steel herself, plant her feet and take on the world in defense of her mentally handicapped older brother, Lamar. “I learned how invisible a person can be if they are on the margins of society,” she says of the way people treated her brother. Those days and Lamar’s struggles, taught Tori that she would let nothing and no one stand in the way of her living to life to the fullest.

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Tori went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard, a Juris Doctorate of Law from the University of Louisville and a Master of Fine Arts at Spalding, but she was not satisfied. Tori not only had an incredible mind, she had a heart that longed for adventure. 

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Tori has climbed mountains on five continents. She lived with the Masai tribe in Kenya while she attended the National Outdoor Leadership School. She has climbed Alaska’s glaciers, and kayaked Prince William Sound, The Indian Ocean and the route from the Canary Islands to Barbados. In 1989 Tori skiied 750 miles in 50 days to become the first woman and the first American to reach the geographic South Pole over land. She did not stop there.

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In 1998, Tori set off in a 23 foot row boat from North Carolina. Her goal was to be the first woman and the first American to row across the Atlantic alone. A week into her trip, the boat capsized, and though it righted itself, the communications systems were lost. For 78 days Tori could not contact the outside world. She was fully and completely alone in the Atlantic and headed, unknowingly, straight into a hurricane. In the 50 foot swells, she capsized 15 times, dislocated her shoulder and came face to face with certain death. She refused to activate her beacon because she did not want people to risk their own lives for hers. She was eventually picked up by a carrier and returned home in defeat, broken.

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A year later though, through her work, Tori met Muhammad Ali, who heard her story and told her that she didn’t want to go down in history as “the woman who almost made it across the Atlantic.” No. She did not. She would try again.

On December 3, 1999, after rowing 3,333 miles, Tori Murden made history by being the first woman to make it across the Atlantic under the power of her own arms and two oars.

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Let nothing stop you.