A Texas educator, clubwoman, writer, lecturer, and social and political activist whose influence in the early twentieth century extended nationwide, Pennybacker wrote A New History of Texas, which was the state-adopted textbook for Texas history from 1898–1913 and remained in classroom use until the 1940s. She was also active in the burgeoning women’s club movement and served as president of both the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (1912–14). The latter position was considered by some to be the most powerful position for a woman in America at that time.
Kelley King has mined the fifty-two linear feet of Pennybacker archives at the University of Texas Center for American History to reconstruct the “hidden history” of a feminist’s life and work. There, she uncovered an impressive record of advocacy, interlaced with a moderate style and some old-fashioned biases.
King’s work offers insight into the personal and political choices Pennybacker made and the effects these choices had in her life and on the American culture at large.