Dr. Bennie Fleming, a Black woman from Rhode Island, recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Looking back on her life, she reflected on her past as a nurse during World War II and the challenges she faced while serving. She remembered how segregation prevented her from accessing the officer’s club and made her time in the service difficult.
Despite these challenges, Fleming met her husband, a doctor from Rhode Island, while stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. After settling in Rhode Island, she became the first Black nurse to teach in the state’s School of Nursing. She also worked in various hospitals and later educated Rhode Island youth for over 40 years until her retirement at age 71.
At 100 years old, Fleming remains active by walking two miles every day, gardening and driving to Boston. Her determination to maintain independence has been a constant throughout her life, and she has been fortunate enough to remain relatively free of physical health issues. In recognition of her years of service to Providence schools’ children, the Rhode Island Senate honored her with a resolution in 2002.