Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Frances C. Melville Carter, 1850-1940
By Noreen Merten, Independent Historian
Frances C. Melville was born in Sturgis, Michigan on January 22, 1850. She and her husband, Nereus M. Carter, moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma in 1898. She believed in education and libraries; her many causes are a shining example of that and she was always learning something new. She even gave the address at the celebration for the twentieth anniversary of Guthrie Public Schools in 1909.
Frances Carter belonged to the Pioneer Woman's Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, Oklahoma and Indian Territory Federal Woman's Club, Ladies Circle, Sorosis Club, and the Shakespeare Club to name a few. She held a love of women's clubs often writing in newspapers and publications about their importance to society, noting that the ideal woman is the club woman. In the journal, Oklahoma State Capital: Art Edition, she wrote the following on May 26, 1900: "Women everywhere is an important factor . . . in the economic life of a city or of a people."
Frances also served in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Recognized as a pioneer worker, she presented papers, attended conventions, and served on the board of legislation and petition as State Superintendent. Her activities in the WCTU pushed her toward women's suffrage and she began to lead discussions, such as "Why Should We Agitate Woman's Suffrage in the W. C. T. U.?" In 1906 the National American Woman Suffrage Association established a chapter in Guthrie. The organization held a suffrage convention in Oklahoma City where Frances was voted in as second-vice president from 1907-1908. She recruited for the cause through the many clubs she belonged to by adding numbers of suffragists to the local chapter.
After women obtained the right to vote through the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Frances continued her community work. She entered local politics in the 1920s, becoming a chairwoman for the local Republican Party. She attended her duties well into the 1930s. After losing two children and her husband, Frances C. Carter left this world in 1940. She was ninety years old.
Rex Harlow, comp., Makers of Government in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, OK: Harlow Publishing Company, 1930), 361.
Smith's First Directory of Oklahoma Territory for the Year August 1, 1890 (Guthrie, OK, 1890), 44.
N. M. Carter, "Culture Clubs of Guthrie," The Oklahoma State Capital: Art Edition (Guthrie, OK) 26 May 1900.
"Frances C. Carter" (1850-1940). Find A Grave. Accessed July 10, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/50456036/frances-c-carter.
Oklahoma Library Commission, Reports of the Oklahoma Library Commission and Survey of Public Libraries, 1919-1922 (Oklahoma City, OK: Warden Company, 1922), 116.
Abbie B. Hillerman, History of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory, and State of Oklahoma1888-1925 (Sapulpa, Oklahoma: Jennings Printing and Stationary Company, 1925), 43, 47, 57, and 83.
Shawnee Daily Herald (Shawnee, OK) 15 May 1910.
Oklahoma State Register (Guthrie, OK) 21 October 1909.
The Oklahoma State Capitol (Guthrie, OK) 27 September 1898.
Mattie Louise Ivie, Woman Suffrage in Oklahoma 1890-1918 (Chickasha, Oklahoma: Oklahoma College for Women, 1957), 24.