Keeper Bio: Fannie Mae Salter

Fannie Mae Salter at Turkey Point Lighthouse

Date of Service: 1925 – 1947

1882: Born in Mathews County, VA.
1904: Marries Clarence Walter “Harry” Salter. Had three children – two daughters – Jessie Olga Salter Crouch and Mabel Salter Best; one son – Charles Bradley Salter.
1922: Husband serves as Keeper of Turkey Point Lighthouse, North East, Maryland.
1925: Keeper Salter passes away. Mrs. Salter is appointed Keeper of Turkey Point Lighthouse at age 43 on personal behest of President Calvin Coolidge. Mrs. Salter maintained a radio watch and learned how to use a radiotelephone from an accompanying manual. She was on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Her beginning salary was $1140/year.
1943: Electricity comes to Turkey Point Light
1947: Lighthouse is automated. Mrs. Salter retires after 22 years of steadfast service at the age of 65. She was the last civilian woman lighthouse keeper in the United States. Her ending salary was $2229/year. She moves six miles away but could still see the beam from the lighthouse.
1966: Passed away on March 11 at age 83 in Baltimore, MD. She is buried next to husband Clarence at St. Paul United Methodist Church Cemetery, Susan, VA.

Keeper Fannie Mae Salter Anecdotes:

Turkey Point Lighthouse was in service for 114 years. Women keepers were responsible for 86 of those years. Fannie May was the last civilian woman lighthouse keeper, not only on the Chesapeake Bay but in the nation. There were four lady keepers at Turkey Point – Elizabeth Lusby who served for 18 years (1844 to 1861). Rebecca Crouch who served for 22 years (1873 to 1895) and was succeeded by her 16-year-old daughter, Georgianna Brumfield who maintained the light for 24 years (1895 to 1919).

Fannie May served for 22 years – 1925 to 1947. Once she had to manually strike the fog bell when it suddenly failed, as a steamer was heading to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal in a fog. She rang the bell four times a minute for 55 minutes until the steamer had safely passed. Fannie went on to say, “I was never more exhausted in my whole life”.

Historian Virginia Thomas wrote women light keepers received equal pay to men. Upon her retirement, Fannie May said – “Oh, it was an easy-like chore, but my feet got tired, and climbing the tower has given me fallen arches”. Her retirement home was close enough to her beloved Turkey Point Light that she could see the beam at night.

Source: Turkey Point Light Station, Inc.; Lisa Sutton; Women Who Kept the Lights – An Illustrated History of Female Lighthouse Keepers by Mary Louise Clifford and J. Candace Clifford. Bay Beacons by Linda Turbyville, Lighthouse Directory web site: http://www.unc.edu/~rowlett/lighthouse/mde.htm

Permanent link to this article: https://cheslights.org/keeper-bio-salter-fannie-mae/