Susannah Mushatt Jones, the world’s oldest person and last American from the 1800s, has died in Brooklyn, New York, at the age of 116.
Jones was born in a farming town near Montgomery, Alabama, in 1899, and was one of 11 siblings.
She attended a special school for young black girls and when she graduated in 1922, worked full-time helping family members pick crops. She left after a year to work as a nanny, heading north to New Jersey and eventually making her way to New York.
“She adored kids,” Lois Judge said of her aunt in an interview last year. Jones never had any children of her own and was married for only a few years.
Family members said last year that they credited her long life to love of family and generosity to others. Judge said at the time that she believed it helped that her aunt grew up on a rural farm, where she ate fresh fruits and vegetables that she picked herself.
After she moved to New York, Jones worked with a group of her fellow high school graduates to start a scholarship fund for young African-American women to go to college. She was also active in her public housing building’s tenant patrol until the age of 106.
Jones became Guinness World Records’ official oldest person when 117-year-old Misao Okawa died in Tokyo last year.
Robert Young, a senior consultant for the Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group, which tracks and maintains a database of the world’s longest-living people, said Jones was “the very last American from the 1800s.”
Emma Morano, of Verbania, Italy, also 116 but born a few months after Jones, was now the unofficial world’s oldest person, he said.