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Saturday, June 10, 2023

A Bowie State University Alumna From 1945 Reflects on Life, Educational Journey

Many older adults in communities have untold stories to share with people who may not know much about their lives or the era when they were born. Rosie Hutchinson, 96, offers a wealth of history and inspiration. 

“I’m blessed because I’m up and moving around,” Hutchinson said.

Harry S. Truman became America’s president in 1945. World War II ended in the same year.

Hutchinson is also one of the oldest known living alumna of Bowie State University (BSU). It was founded in 1865 and is the oldest Historically Black College/University in Maryland. Hutchinson completed Robert Moton High School at 15 years old before heading to college. She completed Bowie Normal School, which is now known as Bowie State University in 1945, when she was 19 years old. 

Hutchinson remarked that her high school principal, mother and the president of Bowie Normal School  crafted a plan to allow the young student to attend. Her age was recorded as 16 although she was younger.

“I could not go to college until I was 16 years old,” Hutchinson said, explaining a state requirement to begin college. “My mother said that I could only come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We didn’t have any money for me to come home because we were extremely poor and I couldn’t go and spend weekends with any of my friends. So, sometimes, I was on one wing of the dormitory by myself for the whole weekend.” 

Hutchinson grew up in a country environment and always wanted to become a teacher. She described her mother as “very strict.” Hutchinson—a retired teacher— grew up in Syksville, Maryland. Carrie Dorsey, her mother, was an entrepreneur. Edward Dorsey, her father, was a rail worker and cook. 

Hutchinson recalls the days of her family raising chickens and selling their eggs to a grocery store in exchange for flour and sugar. She said that her family could only afford to eat eggs during special holidays such as Easter.

“We were poor where money was concerned but rich in education. My mother believed in education and was determined that we would go to school. My mother’s philosophy was to get as much education as we could to live and function because there would be no future for particularly Black women who cleaned white people’s houses,” Hutchinson said. “She said work and buy your own house.”

Hutchison added that all 12 of her parent’s children succeeded in following parental advice. During the days of segregated education and one room schoolhouses, children of mixed ages learned together. 

Denise Johnson, goddaughter; Paula Hutchinson, daughter; and Rosie Hutchinson
Courtesy photo

“I had to go to another school in Johnsville in the sixth grade. I had to walk about a mile and a half to catch a bus to ride three miles to catch another bus to get to school,” Hutchinson said.

Before starting her school day, Hutchinson and her brothers and sisters ensured that their mother had water for washing and cooking, and also wood for heating their home. It was the only source of heat.

But Hutchinson needed to pay for college expenses in an era that predated scholarships and federal financial aid. Hutchinson cleaned dorms, worked in a store, and the mailroom to enable herself to attend college.

“I had to work the four years I was there [attending Bowie Normal School] because my mother could not afford to pay,” Hutchison said.

In 1943, Hutchinson was crowned Bowie’s May Queen. Back then, whoever sold the most tickets would be crowned to hold the title. Since Hutchinson’s mother did not allow her to have a boyfriend, she was dateless.

“My teacher at Bowie, Joseph Wiseman, was my escort,” Hutchinson said.

Wiseman reportedly hailed from Annapolis, Maryland.

Hutchinson’s first teaching job was in Frederick County at Doubs School. She lived in a boarding house in the area while beginning her teaching career. The boarding house was owned by an elderly woman who would instruct renters to do things such as attend church.

Hutchinson instructed Black children for seven years until she married Paul Hutchinson. The family moved to Baltimore.

“I taught in Baltimore City for 27 years,” Rosie said, adding that she taught fourth and fifth grade.

After retiring, Hutchinson worked at a private church-owned school as a principal. Today, Hutchinson enjoys listening to audio books as a hobby. Her caretakers are her daughter, Paula Hutchinson and goddaughter, Denise Johnson.

With confidence in her voice, Rosie remains a beacon of inspiration.

“I feel proud that I was able to go to school and encourage others, even my great nephews, to go to school and get a good education,” Rosie said.

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