Pansy Approved Bicycles

Did you know Chautauqua Institution had its own commercial printing office? It produced brochures, maps of the grounds, programmes, daily schedules, and a newspaper called The Chautauqua Assembly Herald.

Published six days a week, The Chautauqua Assembly Herald filled eight to ten pages of every issue with news about Chautauqua, including the comings and goings of some of its residents and visitors.

On July 24, 1895 one of the newspaper’s reporters spotted Isabella’s familiar face at a concert in Chautauqua’s amphitheater:

Pansy’s placid, pleasant face was seen in the veritable sea of faces at the concert in Chautauqua’s amphitheater Wednesday. From her very looks one would judge Mrs. Alden as a woman who loves little people, even if one had never heard of the famous Pansy books.

Naturally, the reporter sought Isabella out as soon as the concert was over, and asked about her summer plans and whether she was writing anything special. Isabella confirmed she was indeed working on a story, and added:

“All of my stories, you know, are published in serial form in my magazine before they are put out in book form. My magazine work occupies most of my time.”

“For the past 19 years we have spent every summer at Chautauqua. We have our summer home here, but for many years past I have had to give up my Assembly work. I am much interested, however, in the Woman’s Club here.”

Knowing the Woman’s Club was to meet the next day, the reporter asked Isabella if she was going to read a new, unpublished story to club members.

“It is a story which not only has not been published, but which is not yet all written,” replied Pansy smiling.

Their conversation drifted into other topics, including an observation about the new phenomenon of women using bicycles as a means of getting around Chautauqua.

Studio photograph from late 1890s of young woman posed beside her bicycle. She is wearing a long dark dress with long sleeves and a high collar, and a bonnet.

Progressive-thinking Isabella had no problem with the new “wheelwomen” (as lady cyclists were called in 1895):

“I think the bicycle must offer a pleasant, healthful form of recreation to women, but I do like to see them dress inconspicuously and neatly when riding, and I do not like to see them wear bloomers.”

Photograph dated 1912 of woman standing beside her bicycle. She is wearing a long skirt, long-sleeved shirt with high collar, and a bonnet.

Any guesses which story Isabella was writing and publishing as a serial in The Pansy magazine during the summer of 1895?

It was Reuben’s Hindrances! Chapter eight of Reuben’s Hindrances appeared in the July 1895 issue of The Pansy; monthly installments continued into 1896 until all twenty-four chapters appeared in the magazine.

2 thoughts on “Pansy Approved Bicycles

  1. It’s so sad that Chautauqua was taken over by secularists! Pansy and her husband gave it so much support, as did many other Christians, only to have it be unrecognizable. The YMCA and the YWCA used to be evangelical missionary organizations offering practical aid. We must always be vigilant about who is in leadership even though being on committees and going to meetings is boring. We have to make sure leaders and active members support the organization’s goals and follow the statement of faith. We have seen whole denominations and Christian colleges become apostate or secular because the wrong people were allowed in leadership. Let’s learn and have high standards for leaders and kind but firm church discipline for those who stray.

    1. I agree with you Barbara! There are so few places where hungry Christians can go to immerse themselves in Biblical teaching and refresh their faith. One day I’ll go to Chautauqua to do some research, see the places Isabella saw, and walk the paths she walked; but sadly, I have no interest in attending any of the lectures or classes. It is, as you said, unrecognizable as the wonderful place Isabella described. —Jenny

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