Dr. Bennie Fleming, a 100-year-old Black woman from Rhode Island, celebrated her birthday and reflected on her past as a nurse during World War II. Looking at old photos from her youth, she remembered the challenges of being a wartime nurse, including facing segregation and being barred from the officer’s club.
Fleming met her husband, a doctor from Rhode Island, while stationed at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. After settling in Rhode Island, she made history by becoming the first Black nurse to teach in the state’s School of Nursing. She later worked in various hospitals and spent over 40 years educating Rhode Island youth before retiring at age 71.
Despite her age, Fleming remains active by walking two miles every day, gardening, and driving to Boston. She has been fortunate to remain relatively free of physical health issues and is determined to maintain her independence. In recognition of her years of service to the children of Providence schools, the Rhode Island Senate honored her with a resolution in 2002.