Pansy and the Orphans

2 Oct

As the wife of a Presbyterian minister, Isabella moved houses fairly regularly, depending on when and where the church assigned her husband.

In the early 1890s Isabella, Ross, and their son Raymond were living in Washington D.C., where Ross was assistant pastor at Eastern Presbyterian Church.

Church listing in an 1892 issue of the Washington, D.C. Evening Star newspaper

While living in Washington D.C., Isabella became involved with the Washington Hospital for Foundlings, which, at the time, had been in operation for about five years.

The Washington Hospital for Foundlings

Knowing how much Isabella loved children, it’s not surprising she would work diligently on behalf of the foundling hospital; but Isabella didn’t stop there. She went one step further and got her “Blossoms” involved, too.

The foundling hospital playroom in 1905

“Blossoms” was the name Isabella called the children who subscribed to The Pansy Magazine, a weekly magazine Isabella edited for children. Children from around the world subscribed to the magazine, and when Isabella mentioned in an issue of the magazine that the foundling hospital was in need of funds, her little Blossoms went into action.

An illustration from The Pansy magazine, 1885.

For a period of about four years, children from around the world sent contributions to the hospital.

Their individual contributions were as large as a 25 cent-piece and as small as a 2-cent postage stamp. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but over time their total contributions amounted to $440.88.

That’s the equivalent of $13,783.00 in today’s money!

In return, Isabella wrote regular descriptions of her visits to the foundling hospital, which were published in the magazine. You can click on the following image to read one of Isabella’s accounts.

Click on this image to read one of Isabella’s reports from 1892.

When you stop to think how hard a child had to work to earn so much as a penny in the late 1800s, the children’s total contribution is astonishing; but they were such devoted readers of Isabella’s magazine, they never failed to answer her call for help.

Interestingly, around this time, Isabella and Ross adopted a baby girl, whom they named Frances. From Federal Census records we know Frances was born in Washington D.C. around 1892, the same time period in which Isabella was regularly involved with the foundling hospital. It’s possible Isabella came across Frances during the course of one of her visits and fell in love with the infant Frances to such a degree she decided to take her home.

You can read more about Frances’ life in a previous post by clicking here.

And you can read a 1906 newspaper article about the Washington Hospital for Foundlings by clicking on the image below:

From The Washington Post, Sunday, April 22, 1906.


6 Responses to “Pansy and the Orphans”

  1. Karen Noske October 2, 2019 at 5:49 am #

    I love this, since I spent the first few months of MY life in an orphanage in Washington DC!!! So, my heart relishes this tale. I am still saddened by Isabella’s “failure” with her adopted daughter, Frances….heartbreaking. I do wonder what went wrong. Nature vs nurture… thanks, as always, for this wonderful read!

    • Isabella Alden October 2, 2019 at 6:32 am #

      I’m glad you liked the post, Karen. I think the episode showcased Isabella’s tenderness of heart for children everywhere. Thanks for commenting! —Jenny

  2. Karen Noske October 2, 2019 at 5:53 am #

    Hey, look at this!!! Someone just sent me this great article about Pansy! Enjoy:

    • Isabella Alden October 2, 2019 at 6:28 am #

      Thank you for sharing these wonderful articles, Karen! The story about Grace and the gymnastics outfit was a new one to me. Loved it! —Jenny

  3. Joelie Hicks October 2, 2019 at 1:35 pm #

    Thank you for this

    • Isabella Alden October 4, 2019 at 7:25 am #

      You’re welcome, Joelie! I’m glad you like the post. —Jenny

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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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