Happy Birthday, Julia Peterkin

Today is the birthday of author Julia Peterkin, the first southern novelist, first woman and only South Carolinian to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature (Scarlet Sister Mary, 1929).   The Special Collections Library holds correspondence between Julia Peterkin and Margaret Chase Behrend in Mss 240 – The Bernard A. Behrend Collection.

Bernard Behrend was a noted electrical engineer, inventor, scholar, author and book collector.  His widow, also an avid book collector, became interested in Clemson College in the late 1930s while staying at her winter residence in Aiken, South Carolina.  Over the next four decades she donated her husband’s laboratory, papers and over three thousand books, magazines and pamphlets to Clemson’s library. The donation included several significant works in the history of science, as well as much needed resources to support the college’s curriculum.

While living in South Carolina, Margaret Behrend became friends with Julia Peterkin. They maintained a correspondence and visited each other several times. After Peterkin died in 1961, Behrend honored her by donating to Clemson’s library several of Peterkin’s books, as well as money that was used to buy books about African Americans, the subject of many of Peterkin’s stories.

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