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Tula Pendleton: The Life and Work of a Forgotten Southern Writer

Date: September 14, 2023
Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Filson Historical Society (In-Person and Zoom Options)

Cost: Members Free; Non-members $15

Reception with book sales beginning at 5 PM up until the start of the lecture.

Tula Pendleton was the belle of her small Kentucky hometown when she married Holmes Cummins Jr., a rising young insurance executive, in 1894. When the expected children never came, Tula turned her hand to writing short fiction, publishing stories in popular American magazines. Her range as an author was impressive, from romances and medical dramas to truly haunting tales of the uncanny. She also wrote charming stories of small-town life that addressed the pleasures, comforts, and stings of life in a rural community.

Tula’s stories were well received, but as her writing career blossomed, the couple struggled with family, health, and financial troubles. In 1924, they carried out a suicide pact, an event covered by more than 120 American newspapers at the time. Soon after, though, both Tula and her work were forgotten.

This volume, researched and written by Tula’s great-niece, relates with empathy and insight the remarkable story of Tula’s life. It also collects, for the first time, all of her extant stories, giving new generations the chance to discover the work of this extraordinary Southern writer.

Barbara Pendleton Jones, great-niece of Tula Pendleton Cummins, grew up hearing only the barest account of Tula’s career as a writer and her tragic death. When she set out to learn more about her great-aunt, she had only two of Tula’s letters and fragments of her family history. By piecing together Tula’s genealogy, finding her published stories, locating letters and newspaper articles in archives, and retracing Tula’s steps across much of the South, Jones—a retired psychologist and psychoanalyst—has crafted a moving and illuminating portrait of her extraordinary relative.