Susannah Mushatt Jones was born on July 6th, 1899 in Alabama, and she’s still alive and living in a nursing home in East New York. Guinness World Records bestowed her the title of World’s Oldest Person on June 17, and is one of just two people remaining on Earth confirmed to have been born in the 1800s.
Her parents were Alabama sharecroppers, and one of her grandparents had been a slave. Dissatisfied with that life, she moved to New York in 1923. She worked as a housekeeper, and used her earnings to found a scholarship fund for students at her Alabama high school. She was married briefly, from 1928 to 1933, and has no children. In fact, one of the secrets to her longevity is that she “didn’t have a husband,” which seems like a joke but is probably true. She did, however, have strong ties to her family and community. She has over 100 nieces and nephews. She never drank or smoked, but she eats bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning. She’s blind and almost deaf and doesn’t speak much anymore, but she only takes medication for high blood pressure and a multivitamin every day. She’s not only 116, she’s a healthy 116.
To put Ms. Jones’ incredible lifespan in an NYC perspective, she was born the year after the incorporation of New York City and five years before the the Subway was constructed. The Mayor when she moved here was John Francis Hylan. The first election she voted in could have been the first election where women were enfranchised. She came to New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Her marriage ended the year FDR became President. She retired in 1965, the year Martin Luther King, Jr. marched from Selma to Montgomery in her home state of Alabama, Lyndon Johnson established Medicare and Medicaid, and Malcolm X was assassinated. She was already a centenarian on September 11, 2001.
Happy birthday, Ms. Jones. May you live to be 117.
(Photo: Stephen Schnibbe)