Dr. Bennie Fleming, a Black woman from Rhode Island, recently celebrated her 100th birthday. Looking back on her life, she reflected on her time as a nurse during World War II and the challenges she faced while serving in the military. Despite facing segregation and being barred from the officer’s club, Fleming persevered through the difficult experience of wartime nursing.
It was during her time at Fort Huachuca in Arizona that Fleming met her husband, a doctor from Rhode Island. After settling in Rhode Island, she made history as the first Black nurse to teach in the School of Nursing in the state. She went on to work in various hospitals and educate young people 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. She is determined to maintain her independence and has been fortunate 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 school children.