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

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.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod-Bell Family Papers
Date
1916-1961
Extent
10.35 Cubic feet
Subjects
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
Arrangement
Collection is arranged chronologically.
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Ashley Sorrell
Preferred Citation
2009ms132.0069: [identification of item], Wade Hall Collection of American Letters: Penrod family papers, 1916-1961, University of Kentucky Special Collections.
Repository
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

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.

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Access note Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Use Restrictions
Property rights reside with the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky holds the copyright for materials created in the course of business by University of Kentucky employees. Copyright for all other materials has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky. For information about permission to reproduce or publish, please contact Special Collections.

Contents of the Collection

, 1916-1918

  • Box 92, Folder 1
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, 1919

  • Box 92, Folder 2
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, 1920

  • Box 92, Folder 3
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, 1921

  • Box 92, Folder 4
To top

, 1922

  • Box 92, Folder 5
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, 1923 January

  • Box 92, Folder 6
To top

, 1923 February

  • Box 92, Folder 7
To top

, 1923 March-April

  • Box 92, Folder 8
To top

, 1923 March-April

  • Box 92, Folder 9
To top

, 1924 January-March

  • Box 92, Folder 10
To top

, 1924 April-September

  • Box 93, Folder 1
To top

, 1924 November-December

  • Box 93, Folder 2
To top

, 1925 January-March

  • Box 93, Folder 3
To top

, 1925 April-July

  • Box 93, Folder 4
To top

, 1925 August-October

  • Box 93, Folder 5
To top

, 1925 November-December

  • Box 93, Folder 6
To top

, 1926 January-May

  • Box 93, Folder 7
To top

, 1926 June-December

  • Box 93, Folder 8
To top

, 1927 January-February

  • Box 93, Folder 9
To top

, 1927 March-May

  • Box 94, Folder 1
To top

, 1927 June-August

  • Box 94, Folder 2
To top

, 1927 September-December

  • Box 94, Folder 3
To top

, 1928 January-May

  • Box 94, Folder 4
To top

, 1928 June-September

  • Box 94, Folder 5
To top

, 1928 October-December

  • Box 94, Folder 6
To top

, 1929 January-March

  • Box 94, Folder 7
To top

, 1929 April-June

  • Box 94, Folder 8
To top

, 1929 July-October

  • Box 94, Folder 9
To top

, 1929 November-December

  • Box 94, Folder 10
To top

, 1929 undated

  • Box 94, Folder 11
To top

, 1930 January-February

  • Box 95, Folder 1
To top

, 1930 March-April

  • Box 95, Folder 2
To top

, 1930 May-June

  • Box 95, Folder 3
To top

, 1930 July-August

  • Box 95, Folder 4
To top

, 1930 September-October

  • Box 95, Folder 6
To top

, 1930 November-December

  • Box 95, Folder 7
To top

, 1930 undated

  • Box 95, Folder 8
To top

, 1931 January-February

  • Box 96, Folder 1
To top

, 1931 March

  • Box 96, Folder 2
To top

, 1931 March 23

  • Box 96, Folder 3
Letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 March 23

  • Box 96, Folder 4
Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 March 30

  • Box 96, Folder 5
Letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 March 31

  • Box 96, Folder 6
Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 April

  • Box 96, Folder 7
To top

, 1931 May-June

  • Box 96, Folder 8
To top

, 1931 June 10

  • Box 96, Folder 9
Letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 June 10

  • Box 96, Folder 10
Copy of letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1931 July-September

  • Box 96, Folder 11
To top

, 1931 October-December

  • Box 96, Folder 12
To top

, 1931 undated

  • Box 96, Folder 13
To top

, 1932 January-February

  • Box 97, Folder 1
To top

, 1932 March-April

  • Box 97, Folder 2
To top

, 1932 May-August

  • Box 97, Folder 3
To top

, 1932 September-December

  • Box 97, Folder 4
To top

, 1932 undated

  • Box 97, Folder 5
To top

, 1933 January-February

  • Box 97, Folder 6
To top

, 1033 March-April

  • Box 97, Folder 7
To top

, 1933 May-June

  • Box 97, Folder 8
To top

, 1933 July-August

  • Box 97, Folder 9
To top

, 1933 October-November

  • Box 98, Folder 1
To top

, 1933 December

  • Box 98, Folder 2
To top

, 1933undated

  • Box 98, Folder 3
To top

, 1934 January

  • Box 98, Folder 4
To top

, 1934 February-March

  • Box 98, Folder 5
To top

, 1934 April-June

  • Box 98, Folder 6
To top

, 1934 July-August

  • Box 99, Folder 1
To top

, 1934 August 7

  • Box 99, Folder 2
Letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1934 August 7

  • Box 99, Folder 3
Photocopy of letter on toilet paper.
To top

, 1934 September-December

  • Box 99, Folder 4
To top

, 1934 undated

  • Box 99, Folder 5
To top

, 1935 January-February

  • Box 99, Folder 6
To top

, 1935 March-April

  • Box 99, Folder 7
To top

, 1935 May-July

  • Box 99, Folder 8
To top

, 1935 August-October

  • Box 99, Folder 9
To top

, 1935 November-December

  • Box 99, Folder 10
To top

, 1935 undated

  • Box 99, Folder 11
To top

, 1936 January-February

  • Box 100, Folder 1
To top

, 1936 March-April

  • Box 100, Folder 2
To top

, 1936 May-August

  • Box 100, Folder 3
To top

, 1936 September-October

  • Box 100, Folder 4
To top

, 1936 November-December

  • Box 100, Folder 5
To top

, 1937 January-February

  • Box 100, Folder 6
To top

, 1937 March-April

  • Box 100, Folder 7
To top

, 1937 May-July

  • Box 100, Folder 8
To top

, 1937 August-October

  • Box 100, Folder 9
To top

, 1937 November-December

  • Box 100, Folder 10
To top

, 1937 undated

  • Box 100, Folder 11
To top

, 1938 January-March

  • Box 101, Folder 1
To top

, 1938 April-July

  • Box 101, Folder 2
To top

, 1938 August-September

  • Box 101, Folder 3
To top

, 1938 October-December

  • Box 101, Folder 4
To top

, 1938 undated

  • Box 101, Folder 5
To top

, 1939 January-April

  • Box 101, Folder 6
To top

, 1939 May-August

  • Box 101, Folder 7
To top

, 1939 September-October

  • Box 101, Folder 8
To top

, 1939 November-December

  • Box 101, Folder 9
To top

, 1940 January-March

  • Box 102, Folder 1
To top

, 1940 April-December

  • Box 102, Folder 2
To top

, 1940 undated

  • Box 102, Folder 3
To top

, 1941 January-February

  • Box 102, Folder 4
To top

, 1941 March-July

  • Box 102, Folder 5
To top

, 1941 August-December

  • Box 102, Folder 6
To top

, 1941 undated

  • Box 102, Folder 7
To top

, 1942 January-February

  • Box 102, Folder 8
To top

, 1942 March-April

  • Box 102, Folder 9
To top

, 1942 May-July

  • Box 102, Folder 10
To top

, 1942 August-September

  • Box 103, Folder 1
To top

, 1942 October-December

  • Box 103, Folder 2
To top

, 1942 undated

  • Box 103, Folder 3
To top

, 1943 January-February

  • Box 103, Folder 4
To top

, 1943 March-April

  • Box 103, Folder 5
To top

, 1943 May-June

  • Box 103, Folder 6
To top

, 1943 July-August

  • Box 103, Folder 7
To top

, 1943 September-October

  • Box 104, Folder 1
To top

, 1943 November-December

  • Box 104, Folder 2
To top

, 1943 undated

  • Box 104, Folder 3
To top

, 1944 January-February

  • Box 104, Folder 4
To top

, 1944 March-June

  • Box 104, Folder 5
To top

, 1944 July-September

  • Box 104, Folder 6
To top

, 1944 October-December

  • Box 104, Folder 7
To top

, 1944 undated

  • Box 104, Folder 8
To top

, 1945 January-February

  • Box 105, Folder 1
To top

, 1945 March-April

  • Box 105, Folder 2
To top

, 1945 May-June

  • Box 105, Folder 3
To top

, 1945 July-August

  • Box 105, Folder 4
To top

, 1945 September-October

  • Box 105, Folder 5
To top

, 1945 November-December

  • Box 105, Folder 6
To top

, 1945 undated

  • Box 105, Folder 7
To top

, 1946 January-March

  • Box 105, Folder 8
To top

, 1946 April-June

  • Box 105, Folder 9
To top

, 1946 July-August

  • Box 105, Folder 10
To top

, 1946 September-December

  • Box 105, Folder 11
To top

, 1946 undated

  • Box 105, Folder 12
To top

, 1947 January-March

  • Box 106, Folder 1
To top

, 1947 April-July

  • Box 106, Folder 2
To top

, 1947 August-October

  • Box 106, Folder 3
To top

, 1947 November-December

  • Box 106, Folder 4
To top

, 1947 undated

  • Box 106, Folder 5-6
To top

, 1948 January-February

  • Box 106, Folder 7
To top

, 1948 March-April

  • Box 106, Folder 8
To top

, 1948 May-June

  • Box 107, Folder 1
To top

, 1948 July-August

  • Box 107, Folder 2
To top

, 1948 September-October

  • Box 107, Folder 3
To top

, 1948 November-December

  • Box 107, Folder 4
To top

, 1948 undated

  • Box 107, Folder 5
To top

, 1949 January-February

  • Box 107, Folder 6
To top

, 1949 March-April

  • Box 107, Folder 7
To top

, 1949 May-June

  • Box 107, Folder 8
To top

, 1949 July-August

  • Box 107, Folder 9
To top

, 1949 September-October

  • Box 107, Folder 10
To top

, 1949 November-December

  • Box 107, Folder 11
To top

, 1949 undated

  • Box 107, Folder 12
To top

, 1950 January-February

  • Box 108, Folder 1
To top

, 1950 March-April

  • Box 108, Folder 2
To top

, 1950 May-June

  • Box 108, Folder 3
To top

, 1950 July-August

  • Box 108, Folder 4
To top

, 1950 September-October

  • Box 108, Folder 5
To top

, 1950 November-December

  • Box 108, Folder 6
To top

, 1951 January-February

  • Box 108, Folder 7
To top

, 1951 March-April

  • Box 108, Folder 8
To top

, 1951 May-June

  • Box 108, Folder 9
To top

, 1951 July-August

  • Box 108, Folder 10
To top

, 1951 September-October

  • Box 109, Folder 1
To top

, 1951 November-December

  • Box 109, Folder 2
To top

, 1951 undated

  • Box 109, Folder 3
To top

, 1952 January-February

  • Box 109, Folder 4
To top

, 1952 March-April

  • Box 109, Folder 5
To top

, 1952 May

  • Box 109, Folder 6
To top

, 1952 June

  • Box 109, Folder 7
To top

, 1952 July-August

  • Box 109, Folder 8
To top

, 1952 September-October

  • Box 110, Folder 1
To top

, 1952 November-December

  • Box 110, Folder 2
To top

, 1952 undated

  • Box 110, Folder 3
To top

, 1953 January-February

  • Box 110, Folder 4
To top

, 1953 March-May

  • Box 110, Folder 5
To top

, 1953 June-August

  • Box 110, Folder 6
To top

, 1953 September-October

  • Box 110, Folder 7
To top

, 1953

  • Box 110, Folder 8
To top

, 1953 undated

  • Box 110, Folder 9
To top

, 1954 January-February

  • Box 111, Folder 1
To top

, 1954 March-May

  • Box 111, Folder 2
To top

, 1954 June-July

  • Box 111, Folder 3
To top

, 1954 August-September

  • Box 111, Folder 4
To top

, 1954 October-December

  • Box 111, Folder 5
To top

, 1954 undated

  • Box 111, Folder 6
To top

, 1955 January-February

  • Box 111, Folder 7
To top

, 1955 March-June

  • Box 111, Folder 8
To top

, 1955 July-August

  • Box 111, Folder 9
To top

, 1955 September-October

  • Box 111, Folder 10
To top

, 1955 November-December

  • Box 111, Folder 11
To top

, 1955 undated

  • Box 111, Folder 12
To top

, 1956 January-March

  • Box 112, Folder 1
To top

, 1956 April-June

  • Box 112, Folder 2
To top

, 1956 July-September

  • Box 112, Folder 3
To top

, 1956 October-December

  • Box 112, Folder 4
To top

, 1956 undated

  • Box 112, Folder 5
To top

, 1957 January-February

  • Box 112, Folder 6
To top

, 1957 March-April

  • Box 112, Folder 7
To top

, 1957 May-June

  • Box 112, Folder 8
To top

, 1957 July-August

  • Box 113, Folder 1
To top

, 1957 September-October

  • Box 113, Folder 2
To top

, 1957 November-December

  • Box 113, Folder 3
To top

, 1957 undated

  • Box 113, Folder 4
To top

, 1958 January-March

  • Box 113, Folder 5
To top

, 1958 April-June

  • Box 113, Folder 6
To top

, 1958 July-September

  • Box 113, Folder 7
To top

, 1958 October-November

  • Box 113, Folder 8
To top

, 1958 December-1958 Undated

  • Box 113, Folder 9
To top

, 1959 January-February

  • Box 114, Folder 1
To top

, 1959 March-April

  • Box 114, Folder 2
To top

, 1959 May-June

  • Box 114, Folder 3
To top

, 1959 July-September

  • Box 114, Folder 4
To top

, 1959 October-December

  • Box 114, Folder 5
To top

, 1959 undated

  • Box 114, Folder 6
To top

, 1960 January-February

  • Box 114, Folder 7
To top

, 1960 March-June

  • Box 114, Folder 8
To top

, 1960 July-September

  • Box 114, Folder 9
To top

, 1960 October-December

  • Box 114, Folder 10
To top

, 1960 undated

  • Box 114, Folder 11
To top

, 1961

  • Box 114, Folder 12
To top

Harvey Penrod letters, circa 1947-1950

  • Box 114, Folder 13
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Researchers are encouraged to request collections at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Questions? Contact us at https://libraries.uky.edu/ContactSCRC.