Born in St. Louis on 11 September 1895 to Joseph and Nancy (McLaughlin) James; Gladys Rose James died on 23 September 1989 in Miami, Dade County, Florida, with burial at Lake Charles Cemetery in St. Louis. Gladys married Fred Carter in 1920 in St. Louis. This couple had two children: Thomas Carter and Donald Carter.

Gladys grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, where her father served as a police officer. Upon his death in 1910, Gladys and her family returned to St. Louis to be close to their extended family. Within ten years, the family of eight had only two survivors due to tuberculosis and the 1918 flu epidemic.

Having completed eighth grade, Gladys started working at the Switzer Candy factory located on Laclede’s Landing. After six years of making candy, Miss James started a new job at Liggett & Meyers Tobacco Company, located at Tower Grove and Vandeventer Avenues, where she worked for forty-eight years. Just before retiring, she appeared on a television show, What’s My Line. The panel was unable to guess her occupation, which was rolling twists of tobacco.

Over the years, Gladys shared stories with her family. As a child, she traveled to Lebanon, Missouri, by train with her mother and siblings to visit family. Uncle Otto McLaughlin picked them up at the train station in a hay wagon to complete their journey to Plato, Missouri.

    • In 1904 as a nine-year-old, Gladys visited the St. Louis World’s Fair with her mother and siblings, while her father worked security at the Fair. Due to the free admission via her father’s part time job, she was able to visit several times.
    • While not a vain person, Gladys told of how she won a dance contest on the Admiral during the time it plied the Mississippi. Over the years, her house was always filled with music.
    • She also shared how she and a date could go to the theater for one quarter; five cents each for admission, five cents each for bus fare, leaving five cents for sundries, such as popcorn.
    • Voting became an opportunity for women in 1920 with Gladys voting that year and every year thereafter until she moved to Florida in 1983.
    • In 1929, Gladys became a single mother of two young sons.
    • In 1953, Gladys learned to drive and certainly enjoyed her new-found freedom.
    • In the 1950s, Gladys started bowling to keep up with her son, Don. She continued to bowl until age eighty-eight.

During her retirement years, Gladys flew to Florida via TWA to visit her son. Transportation opportunities certainly changed during her lifetime.

Despite numerous hardships, Gladys was a sharing, loving, stylish, and an independent-thinking woman who worked hard at home and at the factory.

(Documentation includes personal knowledge and family papers.)

Written by Ann Carter Fleming
November 2016

© 2016 St. Louis Genealogical Society


Gladys Carter
Gladys Carter
Photo in the collection of Ann Carter Fleming
Used with permission
James Family
James Family
Photo in the collection of Ann Carter Fleming
Used with permission

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Last Modified: 25-Oct-2018 21:57