The women who won the war: Frances Fisher

Stories from some local ‘Rosie the Riveters’

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 29, 2015

 Frances Fisher, of Clinton Township, shows off a photo of herself as a young woman.

Frances Fisher, of Clinton Township, shows off a photo of herself as a young woman.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Editor's note: This story about a local 'Rosie the Riveter' is one of a handful included in a full-length C & G Newspapers feature commemorating the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, the end of World War II in Europe. The war in Europe ended with the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945. Click here for more V-E Day stories from our coverage area.

Frances Fisher, 90, Clinton Township

Don’t ask her if she’d like an egg salad sandwich. After more than 70 years, Frances Fisher still can’t even stand the smell of that particular meal. When she was wrapping bandages at the American Red Cross to be shipped to war zones overseas, that was the meal that volunteers were served night after night — and Fisher just can’t stomach another one.

“Well, I’m not sure if they served that every night, but it sure was enough,” Fisher said with a laugh. “I’ve never had an egg sandwich since. I can still smell that smell.”

At that time, Fisher was working at Parke-Davis pharmaceutical company right on the Detroit River. Her first husband, Edward Weinstein, was away fighting in the war, so after her shift labeling drug bottles Fisher would volunteer her time at the Red Cross.

“I’d take the streetcar and go wrap bandages,” she said. “You would just get sheets of bandages — they had a certain width — and you’d tear the sheets and wrap them.”

Fisher remembers taking the streetcar all over the city, in fact. She moved to Detroit as a girl from a farm in Charleston, Missouri, and found the downtown life somewhat glamorous. When she wasn’t working or volunteering at the Red Cross, she kept herself busy on Belle Isle or at a roller rink on Woodward Avenue.

Though wartime raged on around her, Fisher said she was so young at the time, she didn’t really let the gravity of the situation sink in until years later. She remembers vividly when Pearl Harbor was bombed — she was a student at Southeastern High School in Detroit, and outside the newsboys were shouting “Extra, extra!” to declare the attack.

Like it was for others, rationing was an everyday part of life in Fisher’s house. Nylons were luxuries that were hard to come by.

“We used to paint our own legs with Bonnie Belle makeup. You’d have a white spot on the back of your legs when you crossed your legs from where it had wiped off,” she giggled.

A few years later, Fisher married her sweetheart despite her mother’s pleas to wait.

“He was the lifeguard at the local pool, and I was a smart aleck. I was running around and he told me to stop running, and I said, ‘Try to stop me,’” she remembered. “My mom tried to talk me out of it. She said, ‘Why don’t you wait until after the war?’ I guess because she knew what might happen.”

Just as her mother feared, Weinstein — a ball turret gunner in the Air Force — died in a German hospital in September 1944, just six months after the couple was married. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“Right away, they didn’t know his whereabouts. I was at home when I got the letter (that they had found him),” she said. “You don’t dwell on things when you’re that age. At least I didn’t. Now I look back, and it was so sad. I look back at that time and I can’t stop crying.”

Fisher’s brother also served, but in the Army, and luckily he returned safely. She said he was involved in the invasion at Normandy and described watching his peers “being slaughtered like sitting ducks.”

Eventually the war ended, and Fisher remembers the celebration well.

“Everyone was hugging and kissing — people they didn’t even know,” she said.

She remarried that year, went on to have three children, then six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. After a short time training to be a nurse’s aide, she worked as a bank teller until her retirement and devoted much of her life to the church.

She’s as active today as she was in her youth tooling around Detroit in the streetcar, but now she’s hitting the links at the golf course instead of the roller rink.

“We were as poor as Job’s turkey growing up, but we were always happy. I was always a happy person and I’m still a very, very busy person. I’m high energy; I can’t sit around and do nothing for any length of time.”