Dr. Bennie Fleming, a 100-year-old Black woman from Rhode Island, recently celebrated her birthday and took time to reflect on her past as a nurse during World War II. Looking at old photos from her youth, she remembered the challenging experience of serving as a wartime nurse, facing segregation and being denied access to 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 became the first Black nurse to teach in the School of Nursing in the state. She also worked in various hospitals and later dedicated over 40 years to educating Rhode Island youth until her retirement at age 71.
At 100 years old, Fleming remains active by walking two miles every day, gardening, and driving to Boston. Despite her age, she is determined to maintain her independence and has been fortunate enough to remain relatively free of physical health issues. In 2002, the Rhode Island Senate honored her with a resolution recognizing her years of service to Providence schoolchildren.