The Pansy Tree

Publishing The Pansy magazine was a family affair. Every two weeks Isabella and her husband edited a new issue of the juvenile magazine. Each issue featured stories that were both instructive and entertaining, as well as articles about foreign lands and lessons on nature and science.

But perhaps the feature Isabella loved most was “The P. S. Corner.” In this column she printed letters she received from members of The Pansy Society. Children joined the society simply by pledging to overcome a fault (such as arguing with a sister, or shirking chores) with Jesus’ help.

Every month, hundreds of children wrote letters to The Pansy to tell of their pledges, their successes and their failures. Isabella treasured the letters, and called Pansy Society members her “blossoms.”

Even more importantly, Isabella answered all the letters! Sometimes she replied with congratulations, sometimes with encouragement and sympathy, as in this short note to Bessie from Nebraska:

Poor little blossom! It is very hard work to be unselfish, especially when so many grown people set us a bad example. Try hard, my dear.

Her “blossoms” adored her. So when an elementary school in Ravenna, Ohio planned an Arbor Day celebration in 1884, the children decided to plant a tree and name it Pansy, in honor of their favorite author.

Arbor Day at Fremont School, Santa Rosa, California; 1917

Isabella found out about it, and a few days after the Arbor Day ceremony, she sent the school a lovely letter.

Dear Young Blossoms:

How shall Pansy thank you for the sweet thought which made you choose out her from among all the people in this full world for the honor bestowed?

Oh, I hope the tree will grow, and grow, and spread out its branches, and cast its cool, restful shadows just as far as God meant it should, and do its own pleasant work in the world.

An Arbor Day ceremony at a small school in Massachusetts; 1915.

Later in the letter, Isabella reminded the young arborists that there was another tree—the tree of life—that was even more important:

Fair young blossoms, will you grow in beauty and bloom always for Jesus? Shall we gather, all of us, some day, under the branches of the tree of life, and talk the earth-story over?

She closed the letter to the children as she always did—with an earnest invitation to one day meet her in Heaven.

I do not know that I can ever stand under the shade of the green tree that you have so kindly named for me, but I feel sure of that other one. Will you all meet me there?

Your grateful friend,
Pansy

Her sweet letter to the children was printed in the local newspaper. You can read the entire letter by clicking on the image below.

Would you like to know more about the Pansy Society? Click here to read a previous post.

And you can click here to read a post about The Pansy magazine.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 21!

23 thoughts on “The Pansy Tree

  1. That’s so sweet! I loved this part from the description of the Society–“pledging to overcome a fault…with Jesus’ help.”

    It wasn’t until I started reading Pansy (as an adult) that I realized what had been missing from most of my favorite childhood books. The answer–Jesus’ help. It’s amazing the load of guilt and discouragement that rolls away when you step out of the shadow of “trying to be good” and into the light of “it is the Lord who works in you”! I’m very grateful to Pansy, even after all these years, for opening my eyes to that truth.

  2. What vivid word pictures Isabella paints about the seasons of the tree and ties it in to the Lord. How I wish children today had such a resource as the Pansy magazine to encourage them and edify God. Thanks for keeping her memory and work alive!

    1. I agree, Ryana. Arbor Day was a nice holiday that brought people together. It’s still on our calendars, but somehow the “celebration” part of the day fell out of favor. —Jenny

  3. That is such a sweet gesture from the children. I wonder if that tree is still standing. Did the children who planted it tell their children about and share Pansy’s stories with them?

  4. That wonderful letter is a story in itself! What a fount of beautiful thoughts that lady was…as her penname indicates. BTW what’s the Carbondale, PA, address she mentions at the letter’s close? Oh, I cannot wait to meet this dear sister in the Lord in Heaven and tell her how very much her work means to me on a day-to-day basis!! She has kept me from grousing today with this letter. Praise God for her dear words that point me back to my gentle, loving Savior!

    1. Isabella lived in Carbondale, Pennsylvania for a time; her husband was the minister of a Presbyterian church there. I love what you said, Karen! I also look forward to telling Isabella what a blessing and model she has been for me. —Jenny

  5. Oh ma word. This is so precious. I woulda loved to have met Pansy in real life! She sounds so sweet and even better, always inspiring little kids to love Jesus.
    ooh, was she and the writer of Jill’s Red Bag contemporaries? They both wrote the same. And I agree with Debby, I wish kids had an awesome writer like her to be inspired by today. 🙂

      1. Ohh, so that’s the writer, and I was right! I see. That explains why there’s some differences. That’s so neat! I’m gonna borrow one of Alden’s books from the libraries, she truly is a fascinating writer.

  6. We need some people today that have the great gift of love to children!! I’m sure there are some!! What a gift she gave to so many children. She inspires me!! Thank you!!

  7. What an example of what it means to nurture real relationships and be intentional about pointing others to Christ. You can tell that she had a real impact on these children and their lives. Oh that I may be the aroma of Christ wherever I go as well! What a thoughtful gesture and a truly beautiful response on Isabella’s part.

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