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Genevieve Chandler Peterkin to Deliver Address at the 65th Annual South Caroliniana Society Meeting
19 May 2001
"Heaven Is a Beautiful Place and Other Inlet Tales" will be the topic when Genevieve Chandler Peterkin addresses the sixty-fifth annual meeting of the University South Caroliniana Society in Columbia on May 19.
"Sister" Peterkin, as she is known to family and friends, is a former librarian who has lived for most of her life in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, where for many years she has been identified as a vitally engaged - and engaging - historian and environmental activist. "I've been called the 'unofficial mayor of Murrells Inlet,'" she has written, "and that hasn't always been meant as a compliment. I don't mind."
Mama...started a job collecting folklore for Roosevelt's Writer's Project, and each day I would go with her.
--Genevieve C. Peterkin
Last year the University of South Carolina Press published her book, Heaven Is a Beautiful Place: a Memoir of the South Carolina Coast written in collaboration with Lowcountry novelist William P. Baldwin, who tape recorded and edited the dialog that comprises this unusual volume.
Published to wide popular and critical acclaim, the book entertains its readers with an insider's knowledge of Lowcountry plantations, gardens, and beaches, as well as her childhood memories of family and friends, including those of the African-American community which has been so essential to her existence. Her stories, along with the folk tales and interviews her mother, Genevieve Willcox Chandler, collected for the Works Progress Administration, celebrate resiliency and wisdom.
Ms. Peterkin's memoir, Heaven Is a Beautiful Place: A Memoir of the South Carolina Coast, was published by the USC Press in 2000.
The book also reveals another, deeper story - a multi-layered story that deals with the struggle for racial equality in the South, with the sometimes painful adventures of marriage and parenthood, and with the inner struggles for faith and acceptance of God's mysterious ways.
In her upcoming talk at the annual meeting, Peterkin plans to focus upon the women who most influenced her life. One of these was her mother, Genevieve Willcox Chandler (1890-1980), the well-known Murrells Inlet author, folklorist, historian and artist who, in the 1930s, became a nationally published story writer and the principal gatherer in Horry and Georgetown counties of local folklore and myth for the WPA Writer's Project. And in 1964 her watercolor paintings became the subject of a one-woman exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art.
"What I hope we inherited from Mama," Mrs. Peterkin has written, "was [her] pride in being what she was and what she expected each of us children to become - a brave and loving adult human being."
Another great influence was Lillie Knox, the "warm and sweet and loving" black woman who was Peterkin's "other mother." Lillie and Mama, Peterkin says, taught her "about faith, courage, and love."
Genevieve Peterkin has had a long and direct association with the South Caroliniana Library. Dozens of her mother's interviews are part of the Library's permanent collections in the WPA records, and in the early 1990s, Mrs. Peterkin and R. Kincaid Mills compiled an index of these interviews which continues to be an essential finding aid for the invaluable collection.
--Dr. Thomas L. Johnson
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