It’s the time of year when families begin planning their summer vacations. If you’ve ever taken a driving trip with children, you know the first rule is to keep children occupied.
Isabella most certainly had experience in taking children on long trips, by automobile and by train. Her son Raymond and daughter Frances frequently accompanied her when she traveled to speaking engagements all over the country.
In 1883 Isabella published a brief article in The Pansy magazine about a new game for traveling with children.
Does this game sound familiar to you?
When you take driving trips, do you play a similar game?
For many years Isabella had an advice column in a popular Christian magazine. In the column she answered readers’ questions—from a Christian perspective—on a variety of topics.
In 1910 she received this letter from a young woman:
Can you tell some of us girls—who never had a chance to learn much about real, practical, beautiful housekeeping—some way of learning? Are there not schools in cities for this purpose? Or are there not books from which we can learn what we need to know?
We want to understand all kinds or planning and arranging and beautifying and economizing.
We want to be excellent cooks, and to learn much that people whose time is largely spent in school or shop know very little about.
Can you help us with this practical need of ours?”
Here is Isabella’s reply:
It shall be my delight to do so.
Let me first express what a pleasure it is to find that one who can write so charming a letter as accompanied these questions is able to turn her thoughts to this practical subject, and to feel the “need” of knowledge.
Also, I rejoice in the thought that a large number of the letters awaiting attention deal with the same subject. Our lovely, cultured girls, who have had “advantages,” are beginning to feel the importance of understanding the art of home-making.
Schools? Certainly there are. Every city of reasonable size now sends out its circulars announcing a “cooking-school” in regular session through the school year, or in extra session during vacation, or for the winter months.
Better than these opportunities, especially for schoolgirls and those employed in regular work of any kind during the winter, are the cooking-schools that have sprung up in connection with the larger summer “assemblies.”
I am told that every well-established summer resort organized under the peculiar rules that belong to the word “assembly” now has its own fairly well-appointed cooking class or classes. I am, however, most familiar with the one at Chautauqua, N. Y., which is, of course, the mother of all the Chautauquas, and is and must always be the first in all ways.
Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, who, as everyone knows, has no superior in her department, conducts regularly at Chautauqua, N. Y., during the eight weeks’ season, a thoroughly equipped cooking-school, with its normal department, its “practice class,” its lecture course, and its final examination.
Nothing more fascinating than the way in which Mrs. Ewing manages the entire matter can well be imagined. It has been my pleasure to be often in her classroom, to admire the white table set out with all the belongings for the day, sometimes arranged for the purpose of making delicious soups and white sauces and delicate desserts, sometimes planned for the purpose of showing what a study in refinement and beauty and excellence a breakfast of lamb chop and creamed potatoes and corn puffs may become.
Every conceivable branch of the culinary art is taught here. Pies, puddings, cakes, sauces, gravies, roasts, fries, stews, each come in for a full share of careful consideration.
Let me confess just here that a very fascinating part of the daily class exercise is the careful “tasting” of whatever article of food has been prepared before our eyes. For this purpose scholars go to the class armed each with a silver spoon, or fork, as occasion may require, and a napkin.
Delicious beyond description are the spoonfuls of broth or “white soup” or bouillon that one thus enjoys, to say nothing of the marvellous concoctions made with a spoonful or two of cream, a cup of fruit-juice, a dash of sugar, and a little gelatine; to say nothing, moreover, of the delicious creams and ices and “foams” and innumerable other forms to delight the palate.
Not only can the making and cooking of all these dishes be thoroughly learned at this summer school, but there are classes formed for the special purpose of training the pupils in the art of setting the table neatly and gracefully, of clearing away skillfully, of selecting dishes that harmonize with others, of explaining the difference between a refined abundance and a sinful waste.
There are bills of fare arranged for summer, for winter, for the trying springs and falls. There is careful attention paid to the novice who does not know whether to buy steak “by the yard” or piece, or whether to try to have strawberries and green peas in February, or to wait until they are less flavored with money.
In short, anything that one needs to learn about housekeeping, as connected with the kitchen and storeroom, may be acquired at this summer cooking-school. Moreover, the teacher is so gentle voiced and sympathetic, and so thoroughly ladylike, that it is simply a pleasure to watch her and listen to her. It would be difficult to imagine anyone farther removed from the “fussy” or the hurried and nervous stage of housekeeping than Mrs. Ewing.
No matter how much it may sound like it, my dear girls, this is not an advertisement of the Chautauqua cooking-school. The truth is, that favored spot needs no advertising; its classes are always full, and application has to be made some time in advance. It is simply an honest effort to answer an honest and often repeated question about learning how.
Meantime, do you know, dear girls, what delightful institutions home cooking-clubs are? Why not organize one in your own circle?
Select one evening or afternoon a week out of your busy lives. Meet around at one another’s homes; find out the specialty of each mother or grandma or auntie; and petition for a lesson in her line—a “normal” lesson, where you can have the privilege of furnishing your own materials, and doing exactly what the teacher does, and carry home the result in triumph. Some of the most fascinating evenings I have ever known were spent in this way.
Try it, and see how much, at the end of a year, you will have added to your stock of practical knowledge.
What do you think of Isabella’s advice?
Where and when did you learn to cook? Have you ever taken a cooking class or joined a cooking club?
You can read some of Emma P. Ewing’s cookbooks for free! Just click on any of the titles below to view them on Archive.org.
Many of Isabella Alden’s stories were about resourceful women who, seeing a problem, immediately set their minds to finding ways to solve it. For these ladies, no obstacle was too big or too small.
One such heroine was Dell Bronson in The King’s Daughter. After living most of her life in the lap of luxury with a loving aunt and uncle, Dell was suddenly called home to live with her father, who ran a run-down saloon and kept an equally run-down home.
Beauty-loving Dell was dismayed when she first saw the bedroom her father had set aside for her:
In one corner stood a single bedstead, on which was mounted a feather bed, suggestive of a sweltering night, and the finishing touch was a blue and green patchwork quilt put on crooked.
There was … a queer, old-fashioned, twisted-legged table, a square wooden washstand with the paint worn off, and with one leg shorter than the others, so that it tottled whenever it was touched, making a racket over the nicked washbowl and dingy pitcher; three chairs, one a dingy rocker, with a pitiful green and purple cushion on the seat. These completed the furnishing of the room, except, indeed, a faded red and green and yellow carpet, which in its best and brightest days could not have been pretty.
But Dell didn’t spend time dwelling on the shabbiness of her surroundings. Instead, she reminded herself:
“Oh, Dell Bronson, you must not forget that your Father’s house is a palace, and that you are a King’s daughter; never mind the place in which you may have to stay for a little while, just to make your preparations, you know.”
So Dell immediately began making changes in the house that would benefit (and hopefully influence) her father. But at the same time, she began to make a few changes in her own bedroom.
When The King’s Daughter was first published, ladies’ magazines regularly published do-it-yourself articles about decorating on a budget.
One magazine provided a sample layout for a bedroom, including the best position for a washbowl and pitcher, like the one in Dell’s room:
Dell might have had a fireplace in her room to provide warmth in the winter months. One magazine published this design for “an artistic fireplace,” with screen made of cardboard and covered in an embroidered fabric, which could be made for about five cents.
Another magazine suggested making a “writing cabinet” from two small bookcases:
The shaped insert on the bookcases is cut from sturdy cardboard and covered with paper. The magazine also suggests using short pieces of muslin left over from making the curtains to cover the bottom shelves where less-than-dainty items may be stored.
Another magazine reminded young ladies they should not ignore the corners of their rooms, and gave simple instructions for making of a corner closet for storing clothes and shoes:
Resourceful Dell Bronson set about making changes to her plain and somewhat shabby bedroom. Within two weeks:
The blue paper curtains had given place to full white muslin ones, the bed was spread in white, as also was the little toilet table, and many little feminine graceful touches had softened its hard corners, and given it a look of home.
By the end of the story, Dell’s decorating efforts resulted in more than just a pleasant place to live; the lovely rooms she created helped influence her father and several townspeople to make positive changes in their lives.
This month’s Free Read is “Celia’s Easter Offering,” a short story Isabella wrote in 1892.
For months Celia Foster has been planning the decorations that will grace her church on Easter morning. It’s important work, but as Easter Sunday approaches, Celia begins to wonder what’s more important: embellishing the church or helping someone in need?
You can read “Celia’s Easter Offering” for free!
Choose the reading option you like best:
You can read the story on your computer, phone, tablet, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.
Or you can select BookFunnel’s “My Computer” option to receive an email with a version you can read, print, and share with friends.
Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand.
Rev. Livingston wrote the following article for an April 1891 issue of the magazine:
A Hard Text
Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:1-2: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit;
Luke 8:26-27: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarrenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
They don’t seem to agree. How to account for that?
But don’t you see that if the writers wanted to cheat the readers they wouldn’t contradict each other?
The truth in this case is that they mention different cities but in the same region or neighborhood. Christ went into the same neighborhood.
“There met him two … ” says Matthew.
But Mark and Luke mention one, so then here’s another seeming contradiction. Two cannot be one. How to account for this?
Mark and Luke do not deny that there were two; they simply call special attention to the very furious one. He was a man of some standing before this and so his cure from such dreadful violence by the power of Christ would be so much the more noticeable.
This may be a key to many other “hard texts.” The writers only seem to contradict each other, whereas they may be telling different things about the very same person or thing, or calling special attention to one of several persons. When writers try to deceive, they do not give names and dates, [but] you will find them in the Bible.
It may not always be possible to harmonize all things as you read along in the Bible; but do not therefore conclude that those things cannot be harmonized.
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
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Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click here to read another “A Hard Text” article by Rev. Livingston.
Isabella Alden and her best friend Theodosia Toll Foster shared many things: a strong Christian faith; a belief in the values of honesty, kindness, and honor; and a true desire to make the world a better place for everyone. They also shared a talent for writing.
Under the pen-name “Faye Huntington,” Theodosia published over forty books, as well as pamphlets, short stories, histories, and other articles for magazines and newspapers.
But perhaps her most beloved short stories appeared in The Pansy magazine, which Isabella edited. For over a decade they collaborated on the magazine’s contents.
You can meet Theodosia’s Great-granddaughter!
Susan Snow Wadley, Theodosia’s great-granddaughter, will be giving an on-line Zoom lecture on Theodosia’s life and writings.
Hosted by the Erie Canal Museum of New York, the lecture is scheduled for:
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2022
Time: 12:00 noon (EST)
Cost: Free! (donations to the museum are welcome)
Click on the link below to register.
This is an excellent way to learn more about the times in which Isabella and Theodosia lived and the events that influenced their young lives.
This month’s Free Read is a short story Isabella wrote in 1908. You’ll see that it was a very “modern” story that reflected the times; her characters drove about town in automobiles!
Poor Rachel Norse is in need of help! She’s far from home, working a job she dislikes, and thinking of abandoning the Christian principles her mother taught her. Little does Rachel know someone is developing an interest in her; someone who can point her in a brand new direction, if only Rachel will have a little faith.
You can read “Their Opportunity” for free!
Choose the reading option you like best:
You can read the story on your computer, phone, table, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.
Or you can select BookFunnel’s “My Computer” option to receive an email with a version you can print and share with friends.