Humble Washerwoman Donated her Surprisingly Large Life Savings to Charity – 1999

Humble Washerwoman Donated her Surprisingly Large Life Savings to Charity – 1999

This day in 1999 marked the death of an unusual benefactor from the southern U.S. She lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and worked as a local washerwoman. Many were therefore surprised when she established a trust for helping poor students, leaving an astonishing 150,000 dollars for providing scholarships to promising students in need of financial assistance. Oseola McCarty lived a very frugal and humble life, gathering a large amount of money, which she wanted to use to help others.

Oseola McCarty was African-American (African-Americans make up 37% of the population of the state of Mississippi, more than in any other U.S. State). Unfortunately, Mississippi is also the state with the highest number of poor people in the USA, and also holds some other unenviable “records” (lowest average household income, lowest GDP per capita, lowest average life expectancy).

Oseola’s altruistic act was much needed considering the general economic state in Mississippi. She wanted her money to be used to help poor students at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). Her act motivated others to contribute to the trust, so that the available funds grew rapidly. Oseola also left part of her savings to her local religious community (10%), and to her three cousins (10% each).

She soon became known throughout the USA. President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizen’s Medal, and she was also granted a honorary doctorate at the University of Harvard. She died aged 91, having spent 75 years working as a washerwoman.

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