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Remember our Rosie the Riveter

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If you’ve met Homewood resident Frances Carter in her past two decades, she probably told you about Rosie the Riveter.

“Grocery stores, drugstores, airports, anywhere – she was usually talking about the American Rosie the Riveter Association, since its inception in 98,” her daughter, Nell Branum said. “She was like, ‘Look in your family tree and see who your Rosie is.'”

Frances died in May at the age of 99. She spent her last 12 years as a resident at Brookdale Senior Living, directly across from Samford University, where she taught elementary and early childhood education and home economics for 27 years.

Frances was a “Rosie,” one of the millions of women who worked on the home front in the 1940s while the men fought in World War II. She was a riveter on B-29 planes in Birmingham.

Her late husband, John Carter, proposed while he was fighting in Berlin.

“Of course she was thousands of miles away in Hattiesburg, Mississippi,” he writes in his book “Some Side Lights of Operation Dragoon”.

“But I sent some money to a jewelry store in Hattiesburg, and she went down alone and picked out her engagement ring, and had her own little private ceremony in her dorm.” By this time, Frances had quit her riveting job and was back to school at the University of Mississippi.

From then on it was still Dr John and Dr Frances, their daughter said. “You can’t really tell my mom’s story without talking about my dad,” Branum said. “They did pretty much everything together. “

They shared an office together in Samford. If they were both giving evening classes at the same time, their daughter would wait in their office until they were done and buy some snacks from the nearby vending machine. Their office was also a “program lab” with teaching resources, and Branum said she would explore often. “I really think that was one of the ways I learned to read,” she said. “There were advantages to being on campus all the time. “

Both were thorough in their teaching, she said. Over the years, their students told Branum that they remembered opening each class with a prayer. They were also known to take an interest in the success of their students.

“They loved to teach. They loved the students and the atmosphere.

Frances took early retirement and became a writer for the Woman’s Missionary Union until John also retired.

“She was one of the few moms I knew who worked,” Branum said. “I might have been in elementary school before I realized that not everyone’s parents had doctorates. I’m probably exaggerating, but that’s exactly what I thought.

Frances was 76 when she founded the American Rosie the Riveter Association. She was taking a nap on a Sunday afternoon when her friend called her and told her about a Rosie the Riveter program in Georgia.

They went to the program and on the way home Frances said to John, “We have to have our own club.

John thought Frances meant a local club in the Birmingham area, Branum said. But Frances had something bigger in mind: a national organization.

Frances and her husband also took lecture tours, where they talked about WWII, showed off their books and even dressed up, with John wearing his original parachutist costume and Frances sporting the classic Rosie the Riveter look. . Together, they have conducted approximately 400 programs in 18 states.

In a 2019 article, Frances told The Homewood Star that it meant everything to her to be a Rosie during her lifetime.

“We found that we could do things that we didn’t know we could do,” Carter said. “It has completely changed our life. “

But while Frances is well known for starting the American Rosie the Riveter Association, she and her husband did a lot more before that, Branum said. Frances was an active member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, and pretty much everywhere she lived since the age of 12, she taught Sunday School.

According to her obituary, she and her husband have led more than 15 mission trips to China, Indonesia, Russia, Honduras, and Mexico. They also taught at both Anhui Normal University in Wuhu, China, and Hong Kong Baptist University.

They started a book project and sent thousands of books in English to China. John started a fellowship group for teachers interested in missionary work. He also started a correspondent project for Chinese students to write letters to people in the United States, and Frances helped with that.

Frances liked things creative, said Branum. According to Frances’ parents, when she was Rosie, she would take extra rivets, stick them on cards, and send them to her friends with the message, “I think you’re fascinating!”

She had a determined personality, Branum said. She stayed busy until the end.

“They were both forces of nature,” Branum said of his parents.

Branum and his brother, Lt. Col. Wayne Carter, spent time during the summer rummaging through their mother’s belongings. Branum said it was “amazing” to get all the memories back.

In a June 2021 newsletter honoring the life of Frances, the American Rosie the Riveter Association wrote that the organization now has more than 7,000 members.

“Fran has said on several occasions how proud she is that the next generations continue to carry on,” the newsletter said.

For more information on the American Rosie the Riveter Association, visit rosietheriveter.net.


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