As a popular author, Isabella received plenty of publicity and media coverage, and she was probably used to seeing her name in print.
In 1893 her niece, Grace Livingston Hill was just beginning to garner some publicity of her own. A few of Grace’s stories had been published in magazines, including The Pansy, so she was already building a following of loyal readers.
Then, in April 1893, the following article about Grace appeared in a Christian magazine:
THE REVEREND AND MRS. FRANKLIN HILL
Pansy’s niece, Grace Livingston (now Mrs. Franklin Hill) has perhaps almost as warm a corner in the hearts of our readers as their older friend “Pansy,” and therefore we are glad to give the photographs of herself and her husband. Mr. Hill. [He] is pastor of a flourishing church in one of the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—a young man of noble character and fine intellectual gifts.
To quote from a paper giving an account of their recent marriage:
“When two souls such as these, energetic, consecrated, and peculiarly gifted, unite their lives and aims, there is promise of much good work for the Master.”
Doubtless thousands who never saw Grace Livingston’s face, feel acquainted with her, and really are acquainted with her through her writings, for a true author’s true self goes into her works. She has a bright and charming style, which reminds one of that of her aunt, Mrs. Alden (“Pansy”), and of her mother, Mrs. C. L. Livingston, who is often a collaborator with Mrs. Alden.
Mrs. Hill is not an imitator, however, or an echo of anyone else, but has a genuine style and literary character of her own. She is, moreover, much more than a mere writer. The daughter of a Presbyterian Minister, trained from her earliest days to work for the Master, she has thrown herself enthusiastically into His service.
“She has,” writes a friend, “a passion for soul-saving, and will not give up a bad boy when all others do, but pleads with him, and prays, and has patience, and often has the joy of reward, in the changed character of boys who will remember her gratefully through life. She sometimes gathers about her on Sabbath afternoons a group of older boys, and leads them on to discuss Christian evidences and the moral questions of the day, amusements, etc. On these subjects she takes high ground, setting them to search for the opinions of master minds in religious thought, and to learn what Scripture teaches on the themes under discussion. This will go on for months, each of the informal meetings delightful to the boys.”
The work of the Christian Endeavor Society is very near her heart, and she has given much time and strength to it, as her writings prove. Of late she has been especially identified with the Chautauqua Christian Endeavor reading course, whose success in the future will be largely due to her energy. While in Chautauqua during the summer, she spends much of her time in promoting the interests of the Chautauqua Christian Endeavor Society.
How can we end this brief sketch better than by quoting the words of a friend, who says:
“She loves dearly to have her own way, and yet she is one of those rare characters who knows how to yield her will sweetly for peace sake, and so for Christ’s sake.”
What a lovely article! It gives readers hints of the great work (in addition to her writing) that Grace would accomplish in the years to come.
The article appeared only four months after Grace and Thomas Franklin “Frank” Hill were married. After their marriage they both stayed involved in the Christian Endeavor Society. Together they wrote The Christian Endeavor Hour with Light for the Leader, a guide book that contained lessons and Bible verses CE societies could use in conducting their meetings. The book was published in 1896.
Grace’s “passion for soul-saving” flourished, as well. In later years she established a mission Sunday School for immigrant families in her community. It was just one of the many endeavors Grace undertook that resulted in “good work for the Master.”
For many years Isabella wrote a popular advice column for a Christian magazine. She used the column to answer readers’ concerns—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of topics.
In 1912 she received a letter from a shy young woman who didn’t want her name or letter printed for fear she might be identified; so, Isabella summarized the young lady’s question.
The situation in brief is this: She is away from home earning her living as a bookkeeper, and is a member of a young people’s religious organization, which she enjoys on Sundays, but with their week-day social life she is not in sympathy. They, it seems, “dance a good deal.” They go frequently to the theater, not being “over particular” as to the plays they choose, “although multitudes of good Christian people older than they go to the same plays.” They are very frequent attendants at the moving-picture shows, where pictures that she, at least, does not approve, are being constantly shown.
They take evening walks, long ones, with young men, and frequent candy stores and ice-cream saloons, and accept “treats” from the men, and talk loud on the streets and laugh a great deal; and, in short, do not appear to be of her world at all.
The question is, how shall she manage this world in which she finds herself? Shall she mingle occasionally with the others in the least objectionable of their doings, even though they are not to her taste? Or shall she hold herself aloof from them altogether and bear the stigma of “prig” and ‘‘prude” and names of that sort? She has reason to think that she has already gained the ill-will of some by her “offishness,” and “almost thinks” that in order to win an influence over them she must sacrifice her own views and cater to theirs.
Here is Isabella’s advice:
This dear girl, who is not yet twenty, imagines that these conditions are peculiar to herself, whereas the fact is that she has presented a fair picture of the church and the world in one of the great problems that confront us today. It takes varying forms. In some places it is outspoken and aggressive. In others it is mild and insinuating. It is sometimes very cultured and sometimes it is bald and coarse, but whatever its guise, it is the same old spirit of worldliness that in some form is all but sure to meet and attack the young and growing Christian.
The most insidious of its attacks, the most specious of its arguments, is to try to convince the young person that in order to win others to His side she must yield certain of her—not principles; oh, no, indeed!—but “notions,” not allowing herself to become conspicuous in any way so as to be marked as “peculiar” or “narrow.” There is a class of people in the world today who seem to have discovered that the unpardonable sin is “narrowness.”
It is not so important to get the opinion of any individual with regard to this whole matter, as it is to find what the Guide Book says. It is very explicit. From its first hint, given by the Master himself—to the effect that he was not of this world and that the world hated him before it hated his disciples— to his distinct statement that in the world they should have tribulation, there is a steadily cumulative testimony that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.”
This being conceded as the state of things foretold, of what use is it to talk about compromising in order to win the world?
When it is distinctly understood and frankly acknowledged that there is and has always been, and always will be, antagonism between the world and a follower of Jesus Christ, until that time comes when “he whose right it is shall reign,” it clears the whole question up wonderfully.
There are four rules that, being set down as a guide post for our daily living, may clear the atmosphere. They might be formulated somewhat in this way:
I will carefully and prayerfully distinguish between principles and “notions,” studying at the same time the trade-marks of worldliness as set down in the Guide Book.
I will give up in Christ’s name and for Christ’s sake all mere “notions” that, being examined, fail to bear the superscription of the Master, but seem to have been born of prejudice and self-will.
I will yield not one hair’s breadth of principle, even though I lose, or seem to be losing, my influence over every human being. “To his own Master he standeth or faileth.”
I will uphold principles which I believe honor Christ, inthe spirit that he has directed, cultivating daily love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness.
May I, in closing, remind you of the secret of Christian influence? It is never in compromise of principle but adherence in gentleness, in meekness, in long-suffering; “against such there is no law.”
There is a kind of sledge-hammer adherence that wounds, and stings, and repels; the law of Christ is against it, and it fails. The other war, in the long run, sometimes through tribulation, wins.
Remember who it was who said: “Be of courage, I have overcome the world.”
What did you think of the advice Isabella gave?
Have you ever had to make choices similar to the ones the young bookkeeper described?
Did you know …
Isabella often referred to the Bible as “the Guide Book” because (as she said in Four Girls at Chautauqua) it held “the light” and instruction to guide believers on their Christian journeys.
This month’s Free Read is “Mine,” a novella by Isabella Alden that was first published in an 1895 Christian magazine.
Esther Field’s minister father is scheduled to speak at a Christian Endeavor convention in the big city, and he plans to take Esther with him! It’s a dream come true for Esther, who longs to mingle with young men and women her age who share her vision of leading others to Christ through service. But there is much more in store for Esther than simply a series of meetings; and when she finally returns home after twenty-four hours in the big city, she knows her life will never be the same again.
For many years Isabella wrote a popular advice column for a Christian magazine. She used the column to answer readers’ questions on a variety of topics.
In 1916 a Sunday-school teacher wrote to Isabella about a unique problem.
Here is her letter:
I want to know if you think there is any use in a woman past thirty—who has never been in the habit of committing to memory—trying to learn Bible verses by heart? Our pastor wants the Sabbath-school children trained to commit their lessons to memory, or at least to commit a verse a day, and he wants the teachers to set them an example; but I find it very hard to do, never having been accustomed to it. Would you say you couldn’t?
Here is the advice Isabella gave her:
Indeed, I would not. There is every use in it, and there is no good reason why you should not conquer and be far richer in your own life, as well as being able to set a good example.
Nearly all Bible verses are capable of careful analysis, and the finding out exactly what they say goes a long way toward fixing the word on the memory. Let me illustrate by the verse I am memorizing this morning, Romans 1:5:
“Through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name’s sake.”
Notice those four short words: “Through,” “unto,” “among,” “for.” They are pegs on which the thoughts hang. My attention once called to them, my mind naturally asks questions:
Through what? Unto what? Among whom? For what?
Getting those four statements fastened to their connecting word gave me the verse. And what an amazing verse it is! Well worth memorizing, and living by. Already this morning I have several times been reminded that my tardy and faulty obedience is due to my lack of faith in God’s assured word. I need to pray for the “obedience of faith.”
I must not take time to talk about my verses. This is only to illustrate how readily they can be picked to pieces in a way to aid the memory.
One thought I must add: Don’t fail to memorize chapter and verse. I have spent precious hours in looking for the whereabouts of verses with which I was perfectly familiar.
What do you think of the advice Pansy gave?
What tips or advice would you give someone who is just beginning to memorize Bible verses?
This month’s Free Read is “Her Opportunity,” a short story Isabella wrote about a young woman who was a member of the Christian Endeavor society.
Miss Emily Mason never passes up an opportunity to do a favor for someone; and if, while doing that favor, she has an opportunity to win a soul for Christ so much the better. But the latest recipient of Emily’s kindness may not be worthy of her efforts—at least, that’s what Emily’s friends say. How can Emily ever hope to know if the testimony she shared made a difference in the young woman’s life?
August is back-to-school month for students across America, much as it was in Isabella’s lifetime. As teenagers prepared to fill their days with classes and studies, they also prepared their wardrobes.
Isabella knew what it was like for girls and their parents to shop for new wardrobes and school supplies. In the late 1800s/early 1900s, the right hat and a pair of new gloves were essential for a high school or college student. Luckily there were plenty of articles in newspapers and magazines to help students and their parents solve their back-to-school fashion dilemmas.
Isabella began her novel Doris Farrand’s Vocation with one of those fashion dilemmas:
What should college student Doris Farrand wear to a school reception where she and her classmates were being honored?
Doris was indifferent to the problem, but her sister Athalie took on the task of updating her wardrobe, because …
“unless somebody else planned her clothes for her, [Doris] would go in rags.”
Thanks to Athalie’s efforts, Doris had a new hat to wear to the ceremony.
Like Doris, Miss Esther Randall (in Ester Ried’s Namesake) also struggled to stretch her college wardrobe, sometimes beyond its limits. She had a picnic to attend, and, perhaps, an evening at the theater, and she hadn’t a thing to wear. Isabella summed up Esther’s lament:
“Wherewithal shall she be clothed?”
Poor Esther’s wardrobe was so limited, she once wrote home to her parents:
I don’t think I shall accept any more social invitations. I haven’t time for them—nor gowns, for that matter. Sometimes I feel like a queer little nun in my one good dress that has to do duty on all occasions.
Unfortunately for Esther, it was the fashion for young women to wear white to their college graduation. As much as Esther dreamed of having a white dress like the ones her wealthy college friends would wear, she knew such a gown was out of reach; her missionary parents could never afford to buy her one.
Like many of Isabella’s characters, Doris and Esther wore “made over” wardrobes. Doris’ sister Athalie could take an old shirtwaist, for example, and updated it with a new collar and cuffs she made herself.
Women’s magazines of the time often gave instructions on how to accomplish it. Here’s one such article from a 1907 issue of The Ladies Home Journal:
And Esther’s mother—being a skilled needlewoman—could refresh an old skirt by adding a new band of fabric to the hem, in much the same way as The Ladies Home Journal recommended in a 1908 issue:
But no amount of sewing or alterations could help Esther as graduation day neared. As much as she dreamed of graduating in a beautiful white gown, she knew she had only that one “good” dress to wear, which had already done faithful duty during two seasons.
She knew how utterly impossible it would be to buy a new white dress—so impossible she never even considered praying about the matter. But someone else prayed on her behalf!
If you’ve read Esther Randall’s story, then you already know whether or not she ever received her heart’s desire and got to wear that coveted white dress. If you have not yet read Ester Ried’s Namesake or Doris Farrand’s Vocation, you can click on the book covers below to learn more:
Isabella’s novels about Chautauqua Institution inspired adults from across the country (and around the world) to attend the summer assembly in New York.
But children also dreamed of going. In 1883 Isabella received a letter from a twelve-year-old girl named Faith who made an unexpected trip to Chautauqua. Faith’s letter to Isabella was reprinted in an 1883 issue of The Pansy magazine. You can read Faith’s enthusiastic account of her summer below:
Chautauqua, Aug. 1, 1883.
DEAR READERS: A wonderful thing has happened to me! It will do to put in that long list of modern events that I had so much trouble remembering in my history lesson. I am quite sure I shall remember this one, though, as long as I live.
I wanted to go to Chautauqua, and here I am!
I talked about it, and dreamed about it, but all the time I thought it was of no use, for mamma said she didn’t know as we could ever afford to go. I put it among the things, though, that I meant to do some time, when I grew up. I thought it would be years and years first, but don’t you think, that very night, Uncle John and Auntie May came. They were on their way to Chautauqua. Almost the first thing Uncle John said to me was, “Come, Faithie, pack your trunk, we are going to carry you off with us.”
I thought it was only some of his jokes, but after tea, when we all sat on the piazza together, Uncle John began to coax mamma in real earnest to let me go. Mamma said that a little girl only twelve years old was too young to go away from her mother, but Auntie May said she would take the best possible care of me, and Uncle John said I would have a real good time, and it shouldn’t cost me a cent, and it was a pity if they couldn’t borrow a child once in a while, when they had none of their own.
Papa hadn’t spoken yet. He looked at me and he saw that my eyes were saying, “Please, please, do let me go!” Then he said to mamma, “Suppose we let her go. It will do the child good.”
Mamma said then that she would think about it, and decide by morning.
I almost knew before I went to bed that I was going, for mamma said two or three times, “If you go, you will do so and so.” Then she came into my room and looked my clothes over, and said, “If you go, you can take the smallest trunk. Let me see, there is your white dress, and your gingham, and your black and white check. The one you have on, with your brown hat and sack, will do nicely for travelling. You can put your best hat in the trunk.”
I had on my brown cashmere skirt, and white waist, and I thought myself I would look nice, with my brown sacque and hat, with a clean linen collar. I was glad I happened to have a brown hair ribbon, too.
I couldn’t get asleep very soon that night, and when I did I dreamed that Chautauqua was at the top of a high, steep hill, and I was trying to climb up, but every step I took I fell back two or three. It wasn’t true at all, though. Chautauqua is not on such a very high hill, and I did not have a hard time getting here.
Mamma said “yes” in the morning, without any ifs and ands, except that I had to promise to wear my rubbers when it was damp, and carry my umbrella when it looked like rain, and not go out on the lake, and do just as Auntie May told me.
The only bad thing about getting here was saying good-by. I didn’t think I would feel bad, going away for just a little while, but the minute I kissed mamma, I felt as if I were going to choke. I was determined not to cry, so I never said good-by at all. I was afraid after I got started mamma would think I did not care anything at all about leaving her.
Where shall I begin to tell you about this wonderful, beautiful place?
Chautauqua is just ten years old. Yes, ten years ago this was just like any other piece of woods on the shore of a lake. Now, it is a large, beautiful grove, the underbrush is all cleared away, and streets and avenues wind in and out among the tall old trees. There are pretty cottages—whole streets of them—and there are white tents sprinkled about, fixed out with red curtains, and lace curtains, and hanging-baskets, too pretty for anything.
A great, handsome hotel stands not far from the lake, and the lawn, sloping down to the water, looks as if it were covered with green velvet.
The pretty blue lake is smuggled into green woodsey shores, and steamboats are coming and going all the time; then there are row boats and sail boats flitting about.
Whichever way you look you see people dodging here and there behind the trees. It looks as if all the grown folks were playing live. I like it. I wish they would do so always, and I don’t see why they can’t go on doing these pretty things when they get home. Life wouldn’t be half so dull if we could always get up, and go to bed, and go to dinner, at the sound of a chime of bells, and hear the grand organ every morning rolling through the air, and great burst of song coming through the trees. Why, it seems half the time as if I was one of the people in a lovely poem. Then, don’t you think the robins hop right about the door, great, lovely robins, and cunning little squirrels chase each other up and down the tree trunks.
To think of my seeing robins and squirrels so near by! But I suppose you have met those delightful people scampering and flying about at your own house this summer, so I needn’t take up room telling you about them.
The people are not all playing, though it might look so. Almost everybody is studying something. There are classes in French, and German, and Latin, English literature, music, clay modeling, drawing, and ever so many other things.
Uncle John says I may take drawing lessons.
Lectures and concerts are going on in the great amphitheatre nearly all the time. The amphitheatre is such a place as you never saw in your life. Let me see if I can make you understand just how it is. It is just as if the water was all dipped out of Simmon’s pond, a floor laid in the bottom, making a room as large is three or four churches, in one. Then imagine the sides of the pond, made hard and smooth, sloping down to this floor and filled with seats beginning low and going, one above another, up, up to the very top. There are aisles every little way from top to bottom (it’s the greatest fun to scud down them when all the people are away.)
At one end of the great room is a high platform for speakers, and back of it and higher up still, is the orchestra with a beautiful organ.
This alone is large enough to hold a thousand people. It is a great sight to sit up there evenings, when the electric light makes it all as light as day and lighter, too—and see the audience. Every seat filled; six or seven thousand people making a huge half circle about the platform; then the red and blue and pink and green and white and black dresses, and shawls and ribbons and feathers and fans is just wonderful; it all looks like a very big bouquet—at least, that is the way it looked to me; but I am beginning to think that people see everything with different eyes. I heard Auntie May ask Uncle John if it did not make him think of that verse in Revelations, xx. “So a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb.” And Uncle John said he wondered if God saw the seal in the foreheads of all this company.
It certainly seems as if we had got somewhere away from this world, at night, when the electric light streams far out and lights up the trees and cottages so beautifully.
I saw a lovely picture when I came home last night, only it was not painted and hung up, it was a live picture. It was a cunning little white tent with a light like sunshine on it. The red curtain was parted in front, the shadows of the leaves danced over it, and on the porch sat two pretty ladies, leaning back in their rocking-chairs resting.
It’s queer about things, isn’t it? If a great artist were to paint that and put it in a gallery how all the people would run to see it. Why don’t they gather round and wonder over pretty pictures before they are made up is what I would like to know.
Here I have written a long letter, and I have not told you yet how Chautauqua came to be. The man who thought it out and got it up, is Dr. Vincent. He and some of his friends came here one summer to study the Bible together in quiet. They thought it was a nice place, so they decided to hold a Sabbath-school assembly here the next year; from that it grew and grew to this great grand Chautauqua, where for six weeks in summer you can study anything, I think, from cooking up to all the ‘ologies and philosophies and dead languages and live languages that ever were heard of in the world, though the Bible is the chief book studied, by some of the people at least. Such grand lectures as I have been to!— not dry a bit. All the great orators speak in Chautauqua. Then the concerts, with all sorts of instruments and beautiful choruses and lovely solos. Oh, I tell you, I’m having a good time!
Uncle John says Dr. Vincent is a genius, and that the day will come when this will be a great university open the year round.
If you have any patience left after you read this, write to me, and if you want to hear more about Chautauqua I will write it, for there are whole books-full left.
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.
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.”
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.
For many years Isabella served as an editor and contributor to a Christian magazine in which she had a very popular advice column. She used the column to answer readers’ concerns—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of topics.
One letter came from a woman who was having trouble overcoming a very common problem: She was terrified of praying aloud in front of other people.
The writer described herself as a grown woman, “not very young” of age. She believed it was her duty to pray before others in Sunday-school class or at prayer meetings, but she found it “almost impossible” to do so. Even when she planned out what to say ahead of time, she would forget, and stammer and stutter; and she often ended her prayer feeling embarrassed and pledging never to pray before others again.
Here is the advice Isabella gave her:
First, let me assure you that your “name is Legion.” As a worker among those that are moving toward middle age, I have found this feeling a constant hindrance.
My friend, by all means persevere, no matter how much you stumble, nor how many carefully-thought-out sentences you “forget.” Stammering lips often carry a message straight to the throne of God, and it is to God that we speak when we pray.
Do not let Satan blind you with that specious argument of his that you cannot pray to “edification.” That is not the first object of prayer. Moreover, God often uses the stammering tongue for his glory. I remember and am helped to this day by the thought of the hesitating, sometimes broken, sentences of a dear father who thought that he could not pray aloud.
Now for a few hints that I have found helpful:
First: Cultivate the habit of praying in an audible voice when alone in your room. Perhaps no one thing will give you self-control more speedily than this. We are creatures of habit, and when we have grown accustomed to the daily sound of our own voices when on our knees, habit, after a little, asserts itself when we kneel before others. Because of habit, the kneeling posture is, I think, the most helpful one to assume, even in public prayer, wherever this is feasible.
Next,grow very familiar with Bible prayers, those terse sentences pregnant with meaning:
“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord.”
“In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust.”
“Be thou to me a strong rock.”
“Send out thy light and thy truth.”
The Bible is very rich as a prayer-book. If we linger much among such petitions, habit will again come to our aid, and the Bible words will rush in upon us when we pray before others. When I was a beginner in public prayer, I used to write out certain of these Bible prayers that voiced my desires, and spread them before me, lest my memory should prove treacherous. I found this a good crutch for a time.
For a like reason I used sometimes to write out my own form of prayer, carefully avoiding set phrases and sentences that I should never think of using if alone, going over and over the form to make it simple and direct, and to be sure that it expressed only what I really felt. This I would read aloud, with bowed head; and it helped me in overcoming timidity.
Let me close as I commenced, with an urgent appeal to you to overcome the temptation to shirk this duty; and to resolve to conquer in His name.