Rickman was born as Narcissus Elizabeth Jane Nicholson in a log cabin on a farm near Rosman, Transylvania County, North Carolina, USA, on 13 September 1855. Her parents were Evin Pearson Nicholson (1824–1884) and Rebecca Glazener (1830–1891). She had 10 siblings: James (1848–1936), Floyd (1850–1946), Sevier (1853–1946), Isaac William (1858–1863), Ellen Augusta Davis (1860–1901), Henry (1865–1959), Augustus (1868–1939), Ernest (1871–1957), Wit (1873–1977) and Lorena Rebecca (1876–1876). She was baptized in the river at the age of 13, during very cold weather. She went to school for less than a year. Her father participated in the American Civil War (1861–65). She remembered how while he was away from home, soldiers came and took her brother’s fishhooks, tore up things and threatened to burn their home if they didn’t reveal where their money was hidden. They took meat from the smokehouse, chopped up furniture and took some of the good horses. Her mother prepared supper for soldiers one night to prevent them from kidnapping her children.
In 1882, Rickman married her husband, Nicholas Osborne Rickman (1848–1901). The couple had four children who reached adulthood: Andrew Cornelious (1884–1960), Cannie Jane Bell (1886–1977), Sarah Rebecca Scruggs (1889–1982) and Bessie Lee Hensley (1890–1982). They also had a stillborn son. She taught at Sunday school.
Around the age of 60, Rickman was seriously ill, but managed to recover.
In late life, Rickman moved in with her granddaughter Nancy Lee Stansell (1912 – 2008), with whom she lived for the rest of her life. At the age of 95, she fell and broke her hip. She was hospitalized for 14 days and was able to walk again within a few months. At the age of 111, she fractured a few ribs, but completely recovered by the time of her 112th birthday. She was apparently always very short, being around 4 feet tall in her late life. She was a member of Blantyre Baptist Church in Transylvania County. She liked to read the Bible and encyclopedias and attributed her longevity to God. She spent her 113th birthday in 1968 at a hospital for a case of a common cold.
Rickman died in Hendersonville, North Carolina, on 21 October 1968 at the age of 113 years, 38 days. She was survived by her three daughters, 20 grandchildren, 43 great-grandchildren and an unknown number of great-great-grandchildren. Her younger brother, Wit, lived to be 103 years old.