About Frances B. Turner (1854–1946)
Photo of Frances Turner from Grand Rapids Herald, September 10, 1899.
On September 1, 1896, one year after her husband’s death, Frances Turner won the Eleventh Ward Grand Rapids Board of Education race with 670 votes, a majority of 372 votes over Charles Chadwick’s 208. Turner shared her victory with Josephine Goss, who won in the Second Ward. Their victories were reported throughout Michigan, including an article in the Saginaw News that celebrated Turner and Goss for each “defeating a horrid man.” Turner was reelected in 1898 in a close race and with a majority of just 22 votes.
Frances Turner was born on August 5, 1854, on a farm near Fulton, Missouri, where she attended a young ladies’ academy. Her academic aspirations drew her to the University of Michigan in 1876. There she studied Greek, Latin, Mathematics, and English and met her future husband, Isaac M. Turner. The couple graduated together in 1878 and married in Ann Arbor on October 14, 1879. Later, they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Isaac practiced law and Frances engaged herself in public and civic affairs.
In 1887, Turner was elected to the board of directors of the Grand Rapids Unitarian Society; in 1893 she served as president of the Unitarian Church board of trustees; and from 1895 to 1898 she served on the board of directors of the Michigan State Federation of Woman’s Clubs. Turner was also active in local literary clubs. She served for two years as president of the West Side Literary Club and as president and later vice president of the South End Ladies’ Literary Club. And from 1895 to 1896, Turner served as president of the Grand Rapids Woman’s Club. Finally, in 1901 Turner accepted a position as a librarian at the Ryerson Public Library (now the Grand Rapids Public Library), a job that she held for thirty-eight years until her retirement in 1939 at the age of eighty-nine.
On July 27, 1946, at the age of ninety-one, Frances Turner died in Grand Rapids at St. Mary’s Hospital. A university graduate, candidate for local office, board member, clubwoman, and librarian, Turner left her mark on Grand Rapids history.