The Pansy Tree

19 Sep

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,

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 Responses to “The Pansy Tree”

  1. Angie Thompson September 19, 2018 at 5:23 am #

    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.

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 6:45 am #

      What a lovely comment, Angie, and so true! —Jenny

  2. Debby Bishop September 19, 2018 at 6:07 am #

    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!

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 6:47 am #

      I agree, Debby; it’s a wonderfully written letter, and so like Isabella! —Jenny

  3. Ryana Lynn Miller September 19, 2018 at 7:01 am #

    What a sweet idea! I love the old fashioned traditions, customs and societies! I sometimes wish we could go back to that…;)

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

      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

  4. Ruthann September 19, 2018 at 8:08 am #

    The letter is so sweet!

  5. Mary Ann Wilson September 19, 2018 at 8:16 am #

    I can’t wait to meet her!!!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  6. Rebekah A. Morris September 19, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    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?

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 6:42 pm #

      What wonderful thoughts, Rebekah! I hope they passed the story of their Pansy tree down to their children and grandchildren! —Jenny

  7. Karen Noske September 19, 2018 at 10:49 am #

    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!

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 6:37 pm #

      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

  8. Jo @ The Lens & The Hard Drive September 19, 2018 at 2:09 pm #

    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. 🙂

    • Isabella Alden September 19, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

      You’re right, Jo; Isabella and Amy Le Feuvre did have similar styles. Isabella was born in 1841 in New York. Amy Le Feuvre was 20 years younger; she was born in 1861 in England.

      • Jo @ The Lens & The Hard Drive September 19, 2018 at 8:54 pm #

        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.

      • Isabella Alden September 20, 2018 at 5:25 am #

        Great, Jo! Also, be sure to check out the Free Reads tab on this blog for more of Isabella’s stories. I hope you enjoy them! —Jenny

      • Jo @ The Lens & The Hard Drive September 20, 2018 at 5:35 am #

        I sure will! 🙂 Sounds like an great author!

  9. kristin September 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm #

    Since I read that article about her adopted daughter, she just keeps coming into my mind.

  10. Diane September 20, 2018 at 6:49 am #

    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!!

    • Isabella Alden September 20, 2018 at 2:21 pm #

      She really did have a wonderful and inspiring way of communicating with children. Thanks for commenting! —Jenny

  11. Ashley September 20, 2018 at 7:03 am #

    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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Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

The Hall in the Grove

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Isabella Alden

Author of Classic Christian Fiction

Britt Reads Fiction

Reviews and giveaways for Christian fiction and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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