Oseola McCarty

Oseola McCarty, photo by Nancy Jacobs

Oseola McCarty, photo by Nancy Jacobs

Major Works

  • Simple Wisdom for Rich Living

Biography of Oseola McCarty

by Tolitha Clark (SHS)

In many ways Oseola McCarty is different from the other Mississippi writers presented in this project. For one thing, she was unable because of family circumstances to get a formal education beyond the sixth grade. Her aunt became ill and to help with family finances, Oseola McCarty quit school to help make ends meet. She never was able to go back . However, this amazing lady, who lives today in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by Harvard University for her interest in giving others the opportunity for the education that she never had.

Born in 1908, Oseola McCarty worked for seventy-five years as a laundress beside her grandmother, who died in 1944; her mother, who died in 1964; and her aunt, who died in 1967. Her father had died in 1926 when she was a little girl . Alone since 1967, Oseola McCarty continued to take in laundry until 1996, when at the age of eighty-six, arthritis forced her to retire. All through her life she has taken pride in her work, had faith in God, and saved her money. Her philosophy for living, working, and believing in God are expressed in her book Simple Wisdom for Rich Living.

cCarty talks with SHS student Tolitha Clark

McCarty talks with SHS student Tolitha Clark

When she retired two years ago in 1996, friends at Trustmark Bank encouraged Oseola McCarty to begin planning for her care and the management of her property if she should need it. She informed them of her desire to give some of her money to her church, some to her family, and $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, her home town! According to her, she was then “just a little old colored woman who walked everywhere.” McCarty’s life has changed since her gift was announced. She has been interviewed by ABC, CNN, NBC, BET, and MTV. Numerous magazines and newspapers have written articles about her, including Newsweek, People, Life, Ebony, The New York Times, Essence, and Jet. In addition, she has received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the Wallenberg Humanitarian Award, the Avicenna Medal from UNESCO and the previously mentioned honorary doctorate of humane letters. She also made Barbara Walters’s 10 Most Fascinating People in 1995!   Oseola McCarty died September 26, 1999, of liver cancer at the age of 91.

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A Review of Simple Wisdom for Rich Living

by Tolitha Clark (SHS)

University of Southern Miss presents McCarty with honorary doctor of humane letters in 1998..  Photo by Steve Coleman

University of Southern Miss presents McCarty with honorary doctor of humane letters in 1998.. Photo by Steve Coleman

Simple Wisdom for Rich Living by Oseola McCarty is the philosophy of life of an amazing woman. She tells her philosophy of work, her philosophy for saving money, for having faith, for good relationships, and for good living. She has always believed in hard work. She says, “…there is time enough for all the things that a person really wants to do. When I was working, I got only three or four hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I worked straight through for two or three days. I had goals I was working toward. That motivated me and I was able to push hard”(7). How did she save so much money? She began saving as a little girl just to have candy money. Then she started saving for her future by going to the bank once a month. She would hold out just enough to cover expenses, and put the rest into her savings account. She says, “Every month I’d save the same and put it away. I was consistent” (17). Oseola McCarty recognizes that there is a difference between “wanting and needing.” She says, “I was happy with what I had.”

Oseola McCarty expresses her beliefs in Simple Wisdom for Rich Living in simple terms. Her belief in the Bible is clear and unwavering. She states that the Bible “means the same today that it meant yesterday…Everything that is happening now was going on then. It can still tell us how we should live.”

Fame seems not to have changed her much although she now travels to receive awards, sign her book, and make appearances on TV. McCarty , a shy, quiet , private person, has made the transition from obscurity to public hero well. For example, in her book she says, “People tell me now that I am a hero…I am nobody special. I am a plain, common person…no better than anybody else…I don’t want to be put up on a pedestal; I want to stay right here on the ground”(48).

She gives her views on life in her book, but she also enjoys life. Spring is her favorite season, and she loves flowers. She is supposed to take a computer class at the University of Southern Mississippi , and in her book she states,”I still have lots of learning to do….I visited one class. I had so much fun. Everybody was laughing, talking, and showing each other how to do things. I felt like a child again” (74). Her small book is an inspiration to all who read it.

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