Interviewee: George Ann (Mrs. A.E.) Pennebaker
IWY SC 564
Interviewer: Kathie J. Carter
Date: June 10-11, 1977
George Ann Pennebaker, 61, was the national president of the Women for Constitutional Government (now known as Americans for Constitutional Government). Her husband was A.E. Pennebaker. Interview includes discussion of Pennebaker’s views on the planks of the IWY, especially international relations and government-funded childcare. She discussed her childhood, how she became an art teacher, and how being a woman never hindered her, in her experience. Pennebaker grew up in Indiana, graduated from high school in 1934, and from Ball State University in 1938.
Kathie J. Carter: Your name and address, please?
George Ann Pennebaker: I’m Mrs. A.E. Pennebaker, George Ann Pennebaker of Greenville, South Carolina.
KC: What brought you to the meeting today, Ms. Pennebaker?
GP: I’m the national president of Women for Constitutional Government, very interested in women and in government and the Constitution as it applies to our lives.
KC: And what about that brought you to the meeting here today?
GP: We’re very concerned about concepts of our society and the way society’s going and perhaps the most important element in determining societal progress or lack of it are the women of any culture.
KC: How are the women important in determining the direction of the culture?
GP: Well, the hand that rocks the cradle leads the nation or directs the nation, and I think that’s very true. The homes and of course anymore the direct active participation of women are quite decisive. Um-hum. Does that not answer your question? (Laughter)
KC: How do you see the meeting here as effecting the Constitution?
GP: Oh well, I think the workshops are going to take up issues that are very directly involved with the Constitution. It seems to me that our Constitution is putting into action moral concepts actually from the Bible and from past cultures, and we are trying to be interested in the modern day application of these concepts or the changing of them, so therefore it would be very directly involved in the Constitution and what happens to it.
KC: What workshop are you discussing would be some kind of, directly change the Constitution?
GP: The most direct and concisely obvious one is the interdenominational resolution. To me this is very interesting and alarming aspect, because it seems to me the ultimate would mean we would lose our national sovereignty and I could in no way wish that to happen because I believe that a stable world depends upon a strong America.
KC: What about such concerns as daycare for children?
GP: Well that’s another concept, which of course is not involved in the Constitution, other than the Constitution guarantees us individual rights and liberties and daycare centers might evolve eventually. And we’re watching this because we think it’s an interesting possibility into child control type centers in which the parental influence is watered down if not negated. And I am all for parents being responsible for children, both for the parents’ sake and the children’s sake. A child who is nurtured in a home atmosphere, in my observation of a lot of years, comes out a strong child and very often an institutionalized child just does not have the character and the resources that an independently reared child will have.
I am well aware that there are many situations which make childcare centers a necessity and that’s fine. I don’t think the government should do it, particularly the federal government. If it is a governmental need it should be on a local level, not from a federal governmental funding situation, because whoever gives the funds is going to observe how they are spent and want to control that.
KC: You were talking awhile about society and women. What do you see as a woman’s role in society?
GP: I think that’s up to the woman and her potential and her talents. Currently, as far as I can observe, it is a woman’s free choice to take her place as a producing agent, industrially or as a career professional woman, or to choose to be a wife and mother. Quite often the wives and mothers wield great influence in their communities in what appear to be peripheral roles but in toto are very influential. You know, it’s very difficult to assess the cumulative effect of a woman who seems to be just enjoying a social life, whereas she may be actually exerting great influence that isn’t quite that obvious.
KC: Um-hum, very interesting. Have you ever had any problem or anything that was of concern to you simply because you are female?
GP: Now say that again?
KC: Have you ever had a problem or something that concerned you only because you’re a woman? That would not have happened were you a man.
GP: No, I can’t think of anything. I grew up in the country in Indiana. My father died when we were young and that, of course, was one of the big events in my life to have been an orphaned child, which had nothing to do with my being female. I had wished at one time to be masculine because I had some ambitions that I thought only men could realize but I have discovered since then that this is a foolish thought. And I don’t see any limitation on a woman because she is a woman anymore. And I’m not sure that it ever, ever existed to the extent some people seem to feel it existed.
KC: Did you pursue your ambitions that you had as a child?
GP: No, my ambitions changed with maturing.
KC: What were your ambitions?
GP: I had a great desire I thought at one time to be a doctor because my father was, and I thought that was just the most terrific thing in the world. As I grew older I discovered that I really didn’t want to dedicate the amount of time and effort it would take to become a doctor. I found I had abilities and interests that I enjoyed and I finally came to the realization that my ambition was a reflection of my love and adoration of my dad, and not really an ability that I had as a person. So I was never inhibited by my mother anyway to do or become anything except what I chose. So I chose to develop an artistic talent and I went to college and became an art major and teacher and, you know, all that has really gone with me down through my life with all of the –
KC: What’s your specialty? Painting, sculpture?
GP: Mostly crafts. But it’s gone now into collection of ink wells and that sorta thing. As I have gotten older I have enjoyed… (Laughter)
KC: Americana kinds of things?
GP: Yeah, I in my latter years have made a specialty of doing scrapbooks, productions of events in our family and illustrating them myself and all that sort of thing.
KC: Do you draw the illustrations?
GP: Oh yes.
KC: Oh, wow.
GP: And that’s real fun. You know, one of a kind edition as it were. (Laughs) And they’re really enjoyed by all the family, we review them when we get together and so on. It’s a lotta fun. (Laughs)
KC: It sounds like dynamite. That’s really neat.
GP: Well I have an unusual family, we all are, we’re very critical of each other and love each other deeply, you know. (Laughs)
KC: Do you have anything else you’d like to add to this historical record?
GP: No, I think not. I just feel that under our Constitution and in America you can become whatever you desire, if you want to enough and the talents and the potential. Some of us are limited by potential. I think I would’ve made a horrible doctor, I’m not sure I have the abilities that are necessary. But had I had the ability and the dedication there was nothing in the world that prevented me from becoming a doctor. Thank goodness, I realized that there were limitations. (Laughs)
KC: If you decided that what year would you have entered medical schools, all things being equal?
GP: Oh goodness sakes, I graduated from high school in ’34 and from college in ’38, so I would’ve been entering med school in ’38.
KC: And how many women entered that year?
GP: Oh I knew a lot of girls in college that were on pre-meds.
GP: Um-hum, yeah.
KC: Very good. Well it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
GP: Thank you.
End of Interview