5 Lessons From Oseola McCarty Lessons For You And Me


Hard work gives your life meaning, everyone needs to work hard at something to feel good about themselves. Every job can be done well and every day has its satisfactions...If you want to be proud of yourself, you have got to do things you can be proud of. Osceola McCarty

While I do love good fiction, some of my most favorite books are biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. I am challenged by the stories of real people who have faced their fears and overcome obstacles in their lives. I find these true accounts inspiring and they often make me want to be a better person. Two of my favorites are Tuesdays With Morrie: An Old Man, A Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson, By, Mitch Albom and All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir, By, Brennan Manning. Another favorite is The Story of My Life, By, Helen Keller.

We can learn so much for our journeys from those who have lived before us.

Many of these narratives are about people who are well-known. I wonder sometimes how many individuals have had an enormous impact on their sphere of influence , and yet few outside of that sphere have ever even heard of them.

Like Oseola McCarty, who was born on March 7, 1908 in Wayne County, Mississippi and died on September 26, 1999, at the age of 91, in Hattisburg, MS. I recently ran across an article about this incredible woman and was intrigued by her life journey.

Oseola’s life started in the most difficult way. Her conception began when her mother was raped on a wooded path in rural Mississippi as she returned from tending a sick relative. She was raised by her grandmother and her aunt. When her aunt became very ill, losing her ability to walk, Oseola dropped out of school in 6th grade. She soon became a washer woman to help the family make ends meet.  Oseola worked as a washer woman for seventy-five years. This job entailed washing everything out by hand using a rub board. She worked early in the morning to sunset every day. She saved every penny she could.  Even when automatic washers and dryers came along in the early 1960’s, she said they didn’t rinse well enough, and kept up the strenuous hand washing along with her 100 feet of clothes line. Soon after she retired from her labors, at the age of 86, she discovered to her great surprise that her scanty monthly savings had grown to nearly $300,000.00. Saving enough to live on, she shocked all who knew her by turning around and donating $150,000.00 to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) for a scholarship fund for African-American students with financial needs. She gave this money freely, not as a bequest, but immediately. Because of this generosity, Oseola McCarty made national headlines and was even honored at The White House! Today the university presents several full-tuition McCarty Scholarships every year.

Stephanie Bullock, first recipient of the McCarty Scholarship gives Oseola McCarty a hug of thanks.

Stephanie Bullock, president of her senior class, was the first recipient of McCarty’s Scholarship Gift. Bullock had supportive parents and a twin brother. She had her heart set on attending USM, but missed being eligible for a regular scholarship by one point on her entrance exams, and she knew that a scholarship was the only way she would have the chance to attend. After inquiring about financial aid options, she soon learned about Oseola McCarty and her recent decision to start a Scholarship Fund for African-American students with financial needs. Stephanie first met Oseola at a press conference and meeting her was like finding family, so Stephanie soon adopted her as an extra Grandma, especially since McCarty had never married or had children.


While reading about Oseola’s life, I determined there were a lot of lessons we can learn from her life. I have chosen five to share with you here:

  1. WORK HARD- “I knew there were people who didn’t have to work as hard as I did, but it didn’t make me feel sad. I loved to work, and when you love to do anything, those things don’t bother you.” O.Mc.
  2. SAVE MONEY-“I commenced to save money. I never would take any of it out. I just put it in. It’s not the ones that make the big money, but the ones who know how to save who get ahead. You got to leave it alone long enough for it to increase.” O.Mc.
  3. GET A GOOD EDUCATION- Even though Ms. McCarty did not go beyond sixth grade, it is clear she believed in the value of a good education by the way she so freely gave her life savings to help students who wanted to go to college but did not have the financial resources they needed. And if you are in a family who DOES have the resources or not, make every moment in your school experience count!
  4. SHARE WITH OTHERS-Like a lot of philanthropists, McCarty wanted the satisfactions of giving while living. And she succeeded in doing just that. Like a lot of folks who share, McCarty knew that giving is its own pleasure. When a journalist from People magazine asked her why she didn’t spend the money she’d saved on herself, she answered with a smile, “I am spending it on myself.”
  5. JUST BECAUSE A LIFE STARTS OUT ROUGH DOESN’T MEAN IT NEEDS TO END BADLY-As I shared above, Oseola was the  product of a violent rape, left school in 6th grade to help out with the household, and was not raised by her mother. And yet, she developed a work ethic that most big businesses would be proud to have emulated on their work team and she has left an incredible legacy of giving on the campus of University of Southern Mississippi. Digitally created bookcase

Make plans to visit your local library today.

What autobiography, biography, or

memoir will you read this summer to learn

from a life that has gone before yours?

What will you learn from this life that

will inspire you to become the best person you can be?

Earlier  Posts About Real People You May Have Missed:

Common Warriors: Part One

Common Warriors: Part Two

The Brevity Of Life: Holly Butcher

Fighter Jule Furr Takes Leave

Living Life: Aimee Copeland

My Heart Will Go On: Celine Dion

Every Beating Heart Has A Story: Joey Feek

A L’Arche Community: A Community Of Pure Love

Have Faith To See: Helen Keller

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