The Riches of Oseola McCarty (1998)

The Riches of Oseola McCarty

While retired laundress Oseola McCarty has become well known because of her endowment of a one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar scholarship fund to the University of Southern Mississippi, Coleman instead focuses upon the life and faith that made such a gift possible. Illustrated with handsome but appropriately modest block prints, the book, based upon interviews with McCarty, tells of Ola's growing up in the care of her grandmother and her aunt, who took in laundry from Hattiesburg's white citizens. While Coleman is honest about the oppressive Jim Crow laws under which Ola (born in 1908) and her family lived, her focus is on the pride the women took in their work. And rather than preach, she details that work ("Ola would tuck the corner of a sheet between the wringer's two rollers") with a respect that confirms its dignity. While Ola worked, she saved. And saved. And thus the scholarship endowment given upon the occasion of Ola's retirement at the age of eighty-seven. The account is plainspoken and easy to read; the chapter-book format is appealing. Coleman evokes a world few contemporary children will know and introduces a heroine they will greatly admire.

Author of The Riches of Oseola McCarty