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Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod-Bell Family Papers, 1916-1961

details | guide | text

Author

Finding aid prepared by Ashley Sorrell

Title

Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod-Bell Family Papers

Date

1916-1961

Repository

University of Kentucky Special Collections

Arrangement

Collection is arranged chronologically.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to researchers by appointment.

Preferred Citation Note

2009ms132.0069: [identification of item], Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod family papers, 1916-1961, University of Kentucky Special Collections.

Extent

10.35 Cubic feet

23 boxes

Abstract

The Penrod Family Papers (1916-1962; 10.35 cubic feet; 1,500 letters) of the Wade Hall American Letters Collection primarily consists of letters sent to Gladys Bell Penrod, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, from her mother, Emma Bell; sisters, Gayl Bell Harkleroad, Oda Bell, and Mildred Bell; brother, Kenneth Bell; sister-in-laws Doris W. Bell and Ruth Bell; and various friends. The letters document family life, including parent-child relationships, especially abusive situations; gender roles and relationships; women’s involvement in politics; and women’s friendship in the early- and mid-twentieth century.

Biography/History

Gladys Penrod of Indiana, Pennsylvania, was born Gladys Bell (1902-1987). Her parents were Harry Bell (1874-?) and Emma Bell (1876-1959) and her siblings included Mildred Bell (1904-?); Gayl Bell Harkleroad (1806-1959); Oda Bell (1912-?); Kenneth Bell (1914-1987), a veteran of World War II; and John Hudson Bell (1908-1969). Kenneth Bell married Doris Wilson Bell (1922-2012), and John Hudson Bell married Ruth Butler Bell (1913-2010). Gladys Bell Penrod was a homemaker and intermittently a school teacher who lived with her husband, Marlin W. Penrod (1895-1971), an oil salesman. The two married in 1925 and had two sons, Weir Penrod (1926-2001) and Delane Penrod (1929-2003). Gladys' husband, Marlin, had a brother named Harvey Reid Penrod (1880-1956), a farmer living in the Niagara Township of Wisconsin from the late 1940s to the 1950s.

Both the Penrod and Bell families lived in Pennsylvania. Gladys and Marlin Penrod, whom she married in 1925, lived in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and the Bell family lived in a rural area of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. During the Great Depression and into the 1940s, Gladys attempted to help her mother with Mildred, who had epilepsy. They put Mildred into Passavant Memorial Homes in Rochester, Pennsylvania, but she stayed only a few months before returning home. With the onset of World War II, Gladys became politically active, joining the Democratic Party and participating in women’s democratic clubs locally and nationwide. Her brothers, Hudson and Kenneth, were drafted in 1942. Kenneth went overseas in 1943.

American Letters collector Wade Hall is a native of Union Springs, Alabama. Since 1962, he has lived in Louisville, where he has taught English and chaired the English and Humanities/Arts programs at Kentucky Southern College and Bellarmine University. He has also taught at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida. He holds degrees from Troy State University (B.S.), the University of Alabama (M. A.), and the University of Illinois (Ph.D.). He served for two years in the U.S. Army in the mid-fifties. Dr. Hall is the author of books, monographs, articles, plays, and reviews relating to Kentucky, Alabama, and Southern history and literature. His most recent books include A Visit with Harlan Hubbard; High Upon a Hill: A History of Bellarmine College; A Song in Native Pastures: Randy Atcher’s Life in Country Music; and Waters of Life from Conecuh Ridge.

Scope and Content

Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod-Bell family papers (1916-1962; 10.35 cubic feet; 1,500 letters) primarily consist of letters sent to Gladys Bell Penrod, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, from her mother, Emma Bell; sisters, Gayl Bell Harkleroad, Oda Bell, and Mildred Bell; brother, Kenneth Bell; sister-in-laws Doris W. Bell and Ruth Bell; and various friends. The letters document family life, including parent-child relationships, especially abusive situations; gender roles and relationships; women’s involvement in politics; and women’s friendship in the early- and mid-twentieth century. The letters are organized by month and date and comment on many transformative events, including the interwar, Great Depression, World War II, and post-war periods. The collection also includes letters from Harvey Reid Penrod detailing the weather in Niagara Township, Wisconsin.

The Penrod family papers detail gender and family relationships during the interwar, Great Depression, World War II, and post-war eras. Letters during the interwar period (1920s) and before Gladys married Marlin Penrod, demonstrate her ambition as a woman wanting to find meaningful work that addressed societal morality. Included in this period are letters from a female friend, Elsie Rearick (1898-?) who was married, but expressed deep love and affection toward Gladys. Also during the interwar period, there are a number of detailed letters from her mother, Emma Bell, describing the alcohol and domestic abuse of her father, Harry Bell. Her mother was a frequent correspondent, often expressing her disdain for married life, housework, and Gladys’s epileptic sister, Mildred Bell.

Letters from the Great Depression period detail economic hardship for Gladys’s family, who lived in rural Pennsylvania. During the Depression, Emma Bell often resorted to writing her letters on toilet paper, detailing how she was struggling to buy food. Letters include commentary on New Deal programs and their benefits for the family, like the Rural Electrification Administration, but also criticism of the programs’ limited reach into rural areas. Gladys’s brother, Hudson obtained a few temporary jobs through the Public Works Administration. Tense family relationships are central in the correspondence from Emma Bell to her daughter.

Letters written during World War II detail the upheaval and grief it caused on the home front for mothers, wives, and sisters of soldiers serving overseas. The correspondence also details the roles women took on in wartime, as Gladys went back to teaching and Kenneth’s wife, Doris enlisted in the Army Nursing Corps.

Letters from the postwar period mention the number of labor strikes occurring and how these strikes affected the men who worked in the coal mines in rural Pennsylvania. Also included in the series are a number of letters related to the suburbanization of society in the 1950s and the technological and medical advances related to the advent of the television and penicillin, as well as the polio vaccine.

Gender relationships are central throughout this collection. Many of the letters express frustrations women had for their husbands, but particular for their roles as domestic housewives. This is particularly evident in the 1950s, as Gladys’s mother and sister-in-law, Doris, express feelings of exhaustion and frustration with household work and taking care of their husbands.

The Penrod Family Papers is part of the Wade Hall Collection of American letters, which includes correspondence and diaries from all over North America covering the time period of the Civil to Korean Wars. The materials were collected by Wade Hall and document everyday men and women.

Subjects

  • Bell family, Rural Valley (Penn.)
  • Penrod family
  • Bell, Emma, 1876-1959
  • Hall, Wade H.
  • Penrod, Gladys, 1902-1987
  • Alcoholism--United States--History--20th century
  • Domestic Life--United States--20th century
  • Families--History--20th century
  • Family--United States--History
  • Female Friendship--United States--History
  • Letters.
  • Man-woman relationships--United States--History--20th century
  • New Deal--1933-1939--Pennsylvania
  • Pennsylvania--History--20th Century
  • Rural Women--United States--Social conditions
  • Wife abuse--United States
  • Women--Political activity--Pennsylvania--20th century
  • Women--United States--History.
  • World War, 1939-1945--Social aspects--United States

Collection Inventory

1916-1918
[Box: 92, Folder: 1]
1919
[Box: 92, Folder: 2]
1920
[Box: 92, Folder: 3]
1921
[Box: 92, Folder: 4]
1922
[Box: 92, Folder: 5]
1923 January
[Box: 92, Folder: 6]
1923 February
[Box: 92, Folder: 7]
1923 March-April
[Box: 92, Folder: 8]
1923 March-April
[Box: 92, Folder: 9]
1924 January-March
[Box: 92, Folder: 10]
1924 April-September
[Box: 93, Folder: 1]
1924 November-December
[Box: 93, Folder: 2]
1925 January-March
[Box: 93, Folder: 3]
1925 April-July
[Box: 93, Folder: 4]
1925 August-October
[Box: 93, Folder: 5]
1925 November-December
[Box: 93, Folder: 6]
1926 January-May
[Box: 93, Folder: 7]
1926 June-December
[Box: 93, Folder: 8]
1927 January-February
[Box: 93, Folder: 9]
1927 March-May
[Box: 94, Folder: 1]
1927 June-August
[Box: 94, Folder: 2]
1927 September-December
[Box: 94, Folder: 3]
1928 January-May
[Box: 94, Folder: 4]
1928 June-September
[Box: 94, Folder: 5]
1928 October-December
[Box: 94, Folder: 6]
1929 January-March
[Box: 94, Folder: 7]
1929 April-June
[Box: 94, Folder: 8]
1929 July-October
[Box: 94, Folder: 9]
1929 November-December
[Box: 94, Folder: 10]
1929 undated
[Box: 94, Folder: 11]
1930 January-February
[Box: 95, Folder: 1]
1930 March-April
[Box: 95, Folder: 2]
1930 May-June
[Box: 95, Folder: 3]
1930 July-August
[Box: 95, Folder: 4]
1930 September-October
[Box: 95, Folder: 6]
1930 November-December
[Box: 95, Folder: 7]
1930 undated
[Box: 95, Folder: 8]
1931 January-February
[Box: 96, Folder: 1]
1931 March
[Box: 96, Folder: 2]
1931 March 23
[Box: 96, Folder: 3]
Scope and Content Note:

Letter on toilet paper.

1931 March 23
[Box: 96, Folder: 4]
Scope and Content Note:

Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.

1931 March 30
[Box: 96, Folder: 5]
Scope and Content Note:

Letter on toilet paper.

1931 March 31
[Box: 96, Folder: 6]
Scope and Content Note:

Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.

1931 April
[Box: 96, Folder: 7]
1931 May-June
[Box: 96, Folder: 8]
1931 June 10
[Box: 96, Folder: 9]
Scope and Content Note:

Letter on toilet paper.

1931 June 10
[Box: 96, Folder: 10]
Scope and Content Note:

Copy of letter on toilet paper.

1931 July-September
[Box: 96, Folder: 11]
1931 October-December
[Box: 96, Folder: 12]
1931 undated
[Box: 96, Folder: 13]
1932 January-February
[Box: 97, Folder: 1]
1932 March-April
[Box: 97, Folder: 2]
1932 May-August
[Box: 97, Folder: 3]
1932 September-December
[Box: 97, Folder: 4]
1932 undated
[Box: 97, Folder: 5]
1933 January-February
[Box: 97, Folder: 6]
1033 March-April
[Box: 97, Folder: 7]
1933 May-June
[Box: 97, Folder: 8]
1933 July-August
[Box: 97, Folder: 9]
1933 October-November
[Box: 98, Folder: 1]
1933 December
[Box: 98, Folder: 2]
1933undated
[Box: 98, Folder: 3]
1934 January
[Box: 98, Folder: 4]
1934 February-March
[Box: 98, Folder: 5]
1934 April-June
[Box: 98, Folder: 6]
1934 July-August
[Box: 99, Folder: 1]
1934 August 7
[Box: 99, Folder: 2]
Scope and Content Note:

Letter on toilet paper.

1934 August 7
[Box: 99, Folder: 3]
Scope and Content Note:

Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.

1934 September-December
[Box: 99, Folder: 4]
1934 undated
[Box: 99, Folder: 5]
1935 January-February
[Box: 99, Folder: 6]
1935 March-April
[Box: 99, Folder: 7]
1935 May-July
[Box: 99, Folder: 8]
1935 August-October
[Box: 99, Folder: 9]
1935 November-December
[Box: 99, Folder: 10]
1935 undated
[Box: 99, Folder: 11]
1936 January-February
[Box: 100, Folder: 1]
1936 March-April
[Box: 100, Folder: 2]
1936 May-August
[Box: 100, Folder: 3]
1936 September-October
[Box: 100, Folder: 4]
1936 November-December
[Box: 100, Folder: 5]
1937 January-February
[Box: 100, Folder: 6]
1937 March-April
[Box: 100, Folder: 7]
1937 May-July
[Box: 100, Folder: 8]
1937 August-October
[Box: 100, Folder: 9]
1937 November-December
[Box: 100, Folder: 10]
1937 undated
[Box: 100, Folder: 11]
1938 January-March
[Box: 101, Folder: 1]
1938 April-July
[Box: 101, Folder: 2]
1938 August-September
[Box: 101, Folder: 3]
1938 October-December
[Box: 101, Folder: 4]
1938 undated
[Box: 101, Folder: 5]
1939 January-April
[Box: 101, Folder: 6]
1939 May-August
[Box: 101, Folder: 7]
1939 September-October
[Box: 101, Folder: 8]
1939 November-December
[Box: 101, Folder: 9]
1940 January-March
[Box: 102, Folder: 1]
1940 April-December
[Box: 102, Folder: 2]
1940 undated
[Box: 102, Folder: 3]
1941 January-February
[Box: 102, Folder: 4]
1941 March-July
[Box: 102, Folder: 5]
1941 August-December
[Box: 102, Folder: 6]
1941 undated
[Box: 102, Folder: 7]
1942 January-February
[Box: 102, Folder: 8]
1942 March-April
[Box: 102, Folder: 9]
1942 May-July
[Box: 102, Folder: 10]
1942 August-September
[Box: 103, Folder: 1]
1942 October-December
[Box: 103, Folder: 2]
1942 undated
[Box: 103, Folder: 3]
1943 January-February
[Box: 103, Folder: 4]
1943 March-April
[Box: 103, Folder: 5]
1943 May-June
[Box: 103, Folder: 6]
1943 July-August
[Box: 103, Folder: 7]
1943 September-October
[Box: 104, Folder: 1]
1943 November-December
[Box: 104, Folder: 2]
1943 undated
[Box: 104, Folder: 3]
1944 January-February
[Box: 104, Folder: 4]
1944 March-June
[Box: 104, Folder: 5]
1944 July-September
[Box: 104, Folder: 6]
1944 October-December
[Box: 104, Folder: 7]
1944 undated
[Box: 104, Folder: 8]
1945 January-February
[Box: 105, Folder: 1]
1945 March-April
[Box: 105, Folder: 2]
1945 May-June
[Box: 105, Folder: 3]
1945 July-August
[Box: 105, Folder: 4]
1945 September-October
[Box: 105, Folder: 5]
1945 November-December
[Box: 105, Folder: 6]
1945 undated
[Box: 105, Folder: 7]
1946 January-March
[Box: 105, Folder: 8]
1946 April-June
[Box: 105, Folder: 9]
1946 July-August
[Box: 105, Folder: 10]
1946 September-December
[Box: 105, Folder: 11]
1946 undated
[Box: 105, Folder: 12]
1947 January-March
[Box: 106, Folder: 1]
1947 April-July
[Box: 106, Folder: 2]
1947 August-October
[Box: 106, Folder: 3]
1947 November-December
[Box: 106, Folder: 4]
1947 undated
[Box: 106, Folder: 5-6]
1948 January-February
[Box: 106, Folder: 7]
1948 March-April
[Box: 106, Folder: 8]
1948 May-June
[Box: 107, Folder: 1]
1948 July-August
[Box: 107, Folder: 2]
1948 September-October
[Box: 107, Folder: 3]
1948 November-December
[Box: 107, Folder: 4]
1948 undated
[Box: 107, Folder: 5]
1949 January-February
[Box: 107, Folder: 6]
1949 March-April
[Box: 107, Folder: 7]
1949 May-June
[Box: 107, Folder: 8]
1949 July-August
[Box: 107, Folder: 9]
1949 September-October
[Box: 107, Folder: 10]
1949 November-December
[Box: 107, Folder: 11]
1949 undated
[Box: 107, Folder: 12]
1950 January-February
[Box: 108, Folder: 1]
1950 March-April
[Box: 108, Folder: 2]
1950 May-June
[Box: 108, Folder: 3]
1950 July-August
[Box: 108, Folder: 4]
1950 September-October
[Box: 108, Folder: 5]
1950 November-December
[Box: 108, Folder: 6]
1951 January-February
[Box: 108, Folder: 7]
1951 March-April
[Box: 108, Folder: 8]
1951 May-June
[Box: 108, Folder: 9]
1951 July-August
[Box: 108, Folder: 10 ]
1951 September-October
[Box: 109, Folder: 1]
1951 November-December
[Box: 109, Folder: 2]
1951 undated
[Box: 109, Folder: 3]
1952 January-February
[Box: 109, Folder: 4]
1952 March-April
[Box: 109, Folder: 5]
1952 May
[Box: 109, Folder: 6]
1952 June
[Box: 109, Folder: 7]
1952 July-August
[Box: 109, Folder: 8]
1952 September-October
[Box: 110, Folder: 1]
1952 November-December
[Box: 110, Folder: 2]
1952 undated
[Box: 110, Folder: 3]
1953 January-February
[Box: 110, Folder: 4]
1953 March-May
[Box: 110, Folder: 5]
1953 June-August
[Box: 110, Folder: 6]
1953 September-October
[Box: 110, Folder: 7]
1953
[Box: 110, Folder: 8]
1953 undated
[Box: 110, Folder: 9]
1954 January-February
[Box: 111, Folder: 1]
1954 March-May
[Box: 111, Folder: 2]
1954 June-July
[Box: 111, Folder: 3]
1954 August-September
[Box: 111, Folder: 4]
1954 October-December
[Box: 111, Folder: 5]
1954 undated
[Box: 111, Folder: 6]
1955 January-February
[Box: 111, Folder: 7]
1955 March-June
[Box: 111, Folder: 8]
1955 July-August
[Box: 111, Folder: 9]
1955 September-October
[Box: 111, Folder: 10]
1955 November-December
[Box: 111, Folder: 11]
1955 undated
[Box: 111, Folder: 12]
1956 January-March
[Box: 112, Folder: 1]
1956 April-June
[Box: 112, Folder: 2]
1956 July-September
[Box: 112, Folder: 3]
1956 October-December
[Box: 112, Folder: 4]
1956 undated
[Box: 112, Folder: 5]
1957 January-February
[Box: 112, Folder: 6]
1957 March-April
[Box: 112, Folder: 7]
1957 May-June
[Box: 112, Folder: 8]
1957 July-August
[Box: 113, Folder: 1]
1957 September-October
[Box: 113, Folder: 2]
1957 November-December
[Box: 113, Folder: 3]
1957 undated
[Box: 113, Folder: 4]
1958 January-March
[Box: 113, Folder: 5]
1958 April-June
[Box: 113, Folder: 6]
1958 July-September
[Box: 113, Folder: 7]
1958 October-November
[Box: 113, Folder: 8]
1958 December-1958 Undated
[Box: 113, Folder: 9]
1959 January-February
[Box: 114, Folder: 1]
1959 March-April
[Box: 114, Folder: 2]
1959 May-June
[Box: 114, Folder: 3]
1959 July-September
[Box: 114, Folder: 4]
1959 October-December
[Box: 114, Folder: 5]
1959 undated
[Box: 114, Folder: 6]
1960 January-February
[Box: 114, Folder: 7]
1960 March-June
[Box: 114, Folder: 8]
1960 July-September
[Box: 114, Folder: 9]
1960 October-December
[Box: 114, Folder: 10]
1960 undated
[Box: 114, Folder: 11]
1961
[Box: 114, Folder: 12]
Harvey Penrod letters, circa 1947-1950
[Box: 114, Folder: 13]