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Willie Mae Hardy, One of the Oldest Women in the Country & Grandchild of a Slave, Dies at 111

Mary Scott
Dec 19, 2019
12:01 P.M.
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Willie Mae Hardy, who was born the grandchild of a slave in 1908, and who was also one of the country's oldest women, has passed away. Hardy was 111 years old and died last week in Atlanta, Georgia.


CNN reported that Hardy died in her sleep on Wednesday, December 11, at her Atlanta home. Her caretaker and granddaughter, Veronica Edwards, confirmed the news to the outlet in a statement.


Edwards told the news station that Hardy lived a "wonderful life" and "didn't want for anything." "She was involved in the community until her health declined. She was caring and had a loving heart," Edwards added of the late icon.

Before her death, Hardy remained active in her community, encouraging family and friends alike to vote even in her old age

Born on a former Georgia slave plantation on March 11, 1908, Hardy reportedly grew up listening to real-life stories about slavery from her grandmother Nancy.


Hardy lived quite an eventful life, living through 20 presidents, experiencing two world wars, the Great Depression, Jim Crow era, the civil rights era, and America's first black president, Barack Obama. She even got to meet his wife, Michelle.

Edwards told CNN that living in the Jim Crow rural South was not a pleasant experience for her grandmother, just like every other black person at the time. Hardy reportedly left school after third grade to help her family pick cotton in the fields.

It wasn't until the late 1930s that Hardy moved to Atlanta with her fiancé and daughter Cassie, per Essence. She then worked as a maid for wealthy white families.


Earlier this year, when Michelle Obama visited Atlanta during the book tour for her memoir "Becoming," Hardy got to meet the former First Lady. She was thrilled about it, as well, according to Edwards.

"[Michelle Obama] was really amazed at how well she looked, how healthy she looked, and how she could still articulate and talk about things," Edwards told Atlanta Journal-Constitution of the May meeting.


Hardy then got to pose for photographs with Michelle, whose husband she voted for in 2008. Edwards said her now-late grandmother could not believe that the country got its first African-American president and was happy to have witnessed it.

Before her death, Hardy remained active in her community, encouraging family and friends alike to vote even in her old age. Hardy reportedly participated in every vote, including local races.

According to Essence, Hardy's daughter Cassie reportedly died shortly before her 93rd birthday in March. Some family members, however, put her age at 94.

Hardy, one of the nation's few centenarians, is survived by five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, 31 great-great children, and four great-great-great-grandchildren.