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A Bicycle Ride with You

28 Aug

With less than thirty days left of summer, it’s natural for Americans to try to spend as much time out of doors as possible before the weather begins to change.

And one popular way to do that is on a bicycle.

Lady cyclists in 1898. Their outfits include jaunty hats, puffed sleeves, and purses hung from clips attached to their belts.

Bicycle riding was extremely popular during Isabella Alden’s lifetime, especially for women. It gave them instant mobility, and a way to escape the homes they had been confined to for generations.

With a bicycle women could travel to see new sights or tour new towns—and they could do it without being dependent on a man.

Suffragist Susan B. Anthony said bicycling “has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world.”

The cover of Lippincott’s Magazine, July 1896.

Author and cycling advocate Lillias Campbell Davidson wrote that bicycle riding helped women escape their homes:

The lives of women have been unnaturally cramped and contracted within doors.

She encouraged housewives to take up cycling. She believed a good, healthy ride would help them return to their work “cheered, refreshed and braced to take up the burden of daily commonplace life once more.”

Another advantage cycling had for women was the change it made in their wardrobes. By 1900 women cyclists were wearing split skirts when riding, and many cycling women shed their corsets and petticoats for more practical attire.

From the December 1896 issue of The Lady Cyclist magazine

Not everyone liked the changes. When one Baltimore woman was criticized for wearing “bloomers” (as the divided skirts were called) while riding her bike, she replied:

“I can ride faster than people can talk.”

A ladies’ bicycle suit with divided skirt, 1898.

By 1898 bicycle sales to women were booming, thanks in large part to Sears, Roebuck & Company.

They began marketing affordable bicycles to ladies, and even printed a specialty catalog to market the many different models they offered.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. Bicycles specialty catalog of 1901.

Before long, women across the country were riding Sears bicycles, and discovering for themselves the thrill of healthy exercise and the freedom of traveling under their own power.

Are you a bicycle rider? What do you like most about the sport?

Grace Livingston Hill at 116 (Books)

6 Aug

Isabella Alden was a prolific writer. Her last book, An Interrupted Night, was published in 1929, just a year before Isabella died at the age of 88.

It’s no wonder, then, that her niece, author Grace Livingston Hill, also wrote well into her “golden years.”

In 1945 Grace celebrated a milestone: 116 books published! And at the age of 80, she began work on book number 117!

Grace at the age of 80 in 1945.

To celebrate her accomplishments, Grace gave an interview with the Associated Press.

On August 5, 1945 newspapers across America published the interview, in which she talked about her writing process.

Perhaps most importantly, Grace related one of the reasons she was drawn to writing:

It’s a delightful article that gives readers a glimpse into Grace’s personality and strong work ethic.

You can read the entire article; just click here to open it as a PDF document.

Have you seen our daily posts?

5 Aug

Every weekday we post a fun fact on social media about Isabella and the world in which she lived.

Good news! You don’t have to be on Facebook or Twitter to see our daily posts!

They now appear every day on this blog’s sidebar, right below the “Search” box.

You can scroll through recent posts to see any you might have missed.

And you can click on any image to see a larger version.

Now you never have to miss a daily Isabella post! 

Isabella’s Journals and a Giveaway!

24 Jul

Isabella Alden began keeping a journal at a young age. From the time she was about seven years old she used a journal to take notes during Sunday church services, write Bible verses she wanted to remember, and record topics to discuss with her father.

Keeping a journal was a lifelong habit for Isabella, and in her novels, she sometimes made journalling a habit of her characters, too. (Have you read Docia’s Journal or Gertrude’s Diary?)

Journaling is just as popular today as it was in Isabella’s time.

Do you keep a journal?

Would you like to?

To start you off on the path to using a journal, we’re giving away two Journal Prize Packages to readers of Isabella’s blog!

Each prize package includes:

A lovely journal with a magnetic jeweled clasp . . .

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A coordinating ballpoint pen . . .

And a book of fun and inspiring stickers to give you a jump start on your journal adventure.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment below no later than midnight EDST on Sunday, July 28, 2019.

We’ll announce the two winners on Monday, July 29, 2019.

Good luck!

Who’s a Fan of Pansy?

26 Jun

When Isabella Alden published a new novel, readers around the world rejoiced; her fellow authors did, too.

One of Isabella’s biggest fans was novelist Lucy Maud Montgomery, who wrote the famous Anne of Green Gables series of books for girls.

In fact, Ms. Montgomery enjoyed Isabella’s novels so much, she mentioned them in her own book.

If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, you’ll recall there’s a chapter titled “A Tempest in a School Teapot,” in which Anne Shirley suffers through a terrible day at school.

First, Gilbert Blythe calls her “Carrots” because of the color of her hair, and Anne reacts so angrily, she breaks her slate over Gilbert’s head.

Then, after lunch, Anne and several boys return to class late, and Mr. Phillips, the schoolmaster, decides to make an example of Anne:

“Anne Shirley, since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon,” he said sarcastically. “Take those flowers out of your hair and sit with Gilbert Blythe.”

To Anne, this was as the end of all things. It was bad enough to be singled out for punishment from among a dozen equally guilty ones; it was worse still to be sent to sit with a boy; but that that boy should be Gilbert Blythe was heaping insult on injury to a degree utterly unbearable.

Later, when Anne was finally free to walk home with her bosom friend Diana Berry, Anne declared she would never return to school again.

Diana immediately tried to convince her to change her mind, saying:

“Just think of all the fun you will miss,” mourned Diana. “We are going to build the loveliest new house down by the brook; and we’ll be playing ball next week and you’ve never played ball, Anne. It’s tremenjusly exciting. And we’re going to learn a new song—Jane Andrews is practicing it up now; and Alice Andrews is going to bring a new Pansy book next week and we’re all going to read it out loud, chapter about, down by the brook, and you know you are so fond of reading out loud, Anne.”

Diana knew just how to tempt Anne—with a new Pansy book!

And author Lucy Maud Montgomery knew that everyone who read that line would know exactly what Diana Berry was talking about. Perhaps Ms. Montgomery knew that girls who liked to read about Anne of Green Gables would most certainly be fans of Pansy’s books, as well.

Have you read Anne of Green Gables or any other novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery? Which is your favorite?

You can read Anne of Green Gables for free online; just click here.

Happy Anniversary, Isabella!

30 May

On this date in 1866 Isabella Macdonald married Gustavus “Ross” Rossenberg Alden.

In the writings she left behind, Isabella never gave a description of her wedding gown; however, based on fashion history for the period, we know her gown probably had a wide skirt, long sleeves and a narrow waist.

This wedding gown from about 1870 is an example of what Isabella’s dress may have looked like.

It is made of cream silk gauze, trimmed with cream silk embroidered net lace. Both the bodice (which fastens with hooks and eyes) and the polonaise overskirt are bordered with lace and silk satin ribbon bows. The gown is on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

An 1870 French fashion plate depicting a fashionable wedding gown for the period.

In 1916 Isabella and Ross celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with about 150 close friends and relatives, who gathered at the Alden’s home in Palo Alto, California.

This photo commemorates the occasion. In the center of the photo stands a tall gentleman in cleric’s collar; that’s Ross Alden; Isabella is the woman holding flowers, and standing between them is their son Raymond.

Left of Ross, dressed in white and wearing a large shawl is Isabella’s sister Julia, who resided with the Aldens. The young woman seated on the right holding a young child is Raymond’s wife Barbara.

The celebration was written up in several newspapers, including a newspaper near Isabella’s home town of Gloversville, New York:

In all, Isabella and Ross were married almost 58 years, before Ross passed away in 1924.

Happy anniversary, Isabella and Ross!

Pansy’s Favorite Author: Amos R. Wells

22 May

Isabella Alden was one busy lady! In addition to writing novels and short stories, she wrote Sunday school lessons for teachers, and edited The Pansy magazine for children.

Along the way, she also wrote articles for many different Christian publications, including the monthly magazine Christian Endeavor World. Her good friend Amos R. Wells was the long-time editor of Christian Endeavor World, and through their mutual commitment to both the magazine and the Christian Endeavor movement, Isabella and Amos became good friends.

Isabella’s friend and fellow author, Amos R. Wells in 1901 at the age of 39.

Their friendship was strong enough to withstand a good bit of teasing. In 1902 Amos published a new book of poems for children, titled Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.

Isabella promptly obtained a copy of the book and wrote a delightful tongue-in-cheek review , which was published in American newspapers on December 18, 1902:

Dear Mr. Wells:

I owe you a grudge; you have robbed me of an entire morning, and of no end of pocket money! Yesterday, just as I was seated in my study, all conditions favorable for work, the mail brought to me a copy of your latest book, “Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.”

I meant only to look at the covers and the type, and wait for leisure; but I took just a peep at the first poem and indulged in a laugh over a droll picture or two, then “Carlo” caught me, and we went together, “over the fields in the sunny weather.” On the way I met the “little laddie of a very prying mind” and—you know the rest.

It is the old story; somebody tempted me, and I fell. How could I remember that the morning was going, and the typewriter waiting, and the editor scolding? I never stopped till I reached the suggestive lines, “Two full hours ago, believe me, was this glorious day begun.” Alas for me, the morning was gone!

How delightful in you to write that which the children and their elders can enjoy together, not one whit the less because, sandwiched all throughout the fun, are charming little lessons that will sink deep into young hearts, and bear fruit. How cruel in you to write a book which a million weary mothers will have to read, and re-read and read again?”

Yours sincerely,
      Isabella Macdonald Alden.

Amos Wells probably had a good laugh over Isabella’s clever “mock review” of his new book, and Isabella probably enjoyed the chance to support her friend and fellow author (and indulge in some good-natured teasing at the same time).

You can read Amos Well’s book, Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters and see if you agree with Isabella’s review. Click here to read the e-book version on Archive.org.

You can also read many of Amos’ other books online. Like Isabella, he was a prolific writer and published more than 60 titles during his lifetime. And like Isabella, he had a passion for properly educating the men and women who taught Christian Sunday-school lessons; he wrote many books, pamphlets, and articles on the topic. Click here to read some of Amos’ other titles. 

 

The Wonderful Something – Electricity

15 May

In 1910 it took a woman an average of 12 hours per day to do her housework; six of those 12 hours were for cooking alone!

This 1909 newspaper illustration shows the women of the house (along with their daughters and hired helpers) working together to accomplish the annual Spring cleaning.

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During Isabella Alden’s lifetime, housework wasn’t for sissies. Despite being referred to as the “weaker sex,” house cleaning was hard, physical work. Women hauled water; they built and maintained fires to heat the water; and scrubbed, brushed, polished and swept for hours every day. Even on good days the work could be exhausting; but in the Spring, when women took on the added task of giving their entire house a good, thorough cleaning, the work went on for days—sometimes weeks, depending upon the size of the house.

A 1921 magazine ad for furniture polish.

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Spring cleaning was needed after a family’s house was kept closed up during the winter months to maintain warmth. But as soon as the temperatures began to rise in late April and early May, homemakers opened windows and doors, and began the task of airing out the house and furnishings.

Women dragged heavy carpets outside, hung them, and physically beat the dirt out of them. They did the same with upholstered furniture and mattresses, using beaters made of cane or wire.

They scrubbed kitchen cupboards and drawers, and lined pantry shelves with newspaper. They whitewashed cabinets and walls, polished stoves, and scoured tiles.

A portion of a 1921 magazine ad for Bon Ami cleaning powder.

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The work was all done by hand. There were very few tools—besides brushes, brooms, and cloths—to make the job easier or faster.

A print ad for Old Dutch Cleanser, 1916.

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In the 1880s Bissell began selling carpet sweepers, which helped with daily cleaning of rugs and floors, but it wasn’t until about 1910, when more and more homes were wired for electricity, that Spring house cleaning became substantially easier for women.

From The Iola Daily Record (Kansas) May 22, 1906.

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In the early 1900s electricity was new and mysterious to many people. By 1925 more than half of all American homes had electricity, but an Ohio newspaper article declared that:

“Nobody knows what electricity is, but its many services in the home are none the less appreciated because of that.”

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Electricity may have been unexplainable at the time, but its introduction was a definite boon to women. It opened the gates for new household appliances to enter the market—appliances that saved women time and energy in their daily homemaking responsibilities.

Electric washing machines cut in half the time required to do a family’s laundry, because they took the place of galvanized tubs, washboards and elbow grease.

New Electric Washing Machine ad from the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, 1909

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Electric stoves and ovens like this one eliminated the need for women to constantly tend kitchen fires needed to heat water and cook their family’s meals.

Electric dishwashers were a luxury because of their cost, but by 1920 Whirlpool was actively marketing their dishwasher models in newspapers and magazines across the country.

But one of the best time and labor savors introduced during that period was the vacuum cleaner. They eliminated the back-breaking work of carrying carpets outside to beat and brush them clean.

Newspaper ad for the 1912 Hoover Vacuum Cleaner.

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By 1920 most vacuums were sold with attachments that helped clean upholstery.

And the crevasse tool (which we still use today on our modern vacuums) was originally designed to clean 1920-era radiators.

These appliances revolutionized domestic life during Isabella’s lifetime, and paved the way for the time-saving appliances we use today.

Do you do an annual Spring clean at your house? How long does it take?

Do you have an old appliance—large or small—that you still use today? Tell us about it!

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Thimbles and Love Stitches

1 May

Four farthings and a thimble,
Make a tailor’s pocket jingle.
—Old English Proverb

During Isabella’s lifetime, sewing and needlework were part of a woman’s daily life.

In her novel Workers Together; An Endless Chain Joy Saunders’ workbasket includes a “small gold thimble and her own blue needle-case.”

A 14k rose gold thimble dated 1903.

Some of Isabella’s female characters, like Mrs. Bryant, sewed every day because that’s how they earned their living.

A sterling silver thimble decorated with Lily of the Valley.

Other characters, like wealthy Miss Sutherland, plied their needles to create fancy table linens and delicate trims, like ruffles and laces.

A sterling silver thimble and case from the 1890s.

In Isabella’s stories, thimbles were sometimes utilitarian—little more than tools to accomplish a task.

An example is in Ester Ried’s Namesake (Book 7 of the Ester Ried Series), when the president of the Ladies’ Aid Society called the meeting to order by “tapping with her silver thimble on the table.”

Other times, Isabella used thimbles help us understand how a character was feeling, as in this description of Helen Randolph in Household Puzzles:

Helen was in absolute ill humor. Some heavy trial had evidently crossed her path. She sewed industriously, but with that ominous click of the needle against her thimble, and an angry snipping of her thread by the pert little scissors, that plainly indicated a disturbed state of mind.

An antique thimble holder by Tiffany.

More often than not, though, thimbles appear in Isabella’s stories in very sweet ways. One example is in Miss Dee Dunmore Bryant, when little Daisy Bryant’s mother surprises her with the gift of a sewing box on Christmas morning:

There had been intense excitement over that box; for, in addition to the spools, and the needle-book, gifts from mother, there had gleamed before Daisy’s astonished eyes a real truly silver thimble, of just the right size for her small finger.

A child-size thimble. The case is shaped like an iron; at its base is a tape measure (circa 1890).

Another example appears in the novel, Pauline, when Mr. Curtis shows his love for his fiancé Constance by preparing a sitting-room in his house just for her:

It all looked charming to him that evening, with the departing rays of the sun glinting the needle, Constance’s needle, and touching also his mother’s small gold thimble that lay waiting. He had taken steps toward the assurance that the thimble would fit. On the day after tomorrow, when they stood here beside his mother’s chair, he would tell Constance how he had brought the gold thimble to his mother one day, and she had said, with one of her tender smiles, “I will wear it, my son, whenever I am taking stitches for you; and someday you will give it to your wife, and tell her from me that it has taken love stitches for you all its life and must always be kept for such service.”

Filigree thimble over pink frosted glass.

Sometimes thimbles play a role in building bridges between Isabella’s characters, as in A New Graft on the Family Tree.

When Louise Morgan and her new husband move in with his family, she has difficulty winning over her resentful new mother-in-law, until she realizes they have a common interest: Needlework.

Presently she came, thimble and needle-case in hand, and established herself on one of the yellow wooden chairs to make button-holes in the dingy calico; and, with the delicate stitches in those button-holes, she worked an entrance-way into her mother-in- law’s heart.

18k gold thimble, from about 1860.

Rebecca Harlow Edwards finds herself in the same situation (in Links in Rebecca’s Life). She and her new husband live in the same house with her mother-in-law, and in the early days of marriage, Rebecca struggles to find a way to fit in. So, one afternoon . . .

. . . about the usual hour for calls, she went daintily dressed in a home dress for afternoon, and with a bit of sewing-work in hand, and tapped softly at the door of her mother’s room.

“Are you awake?” she asked, “and are you ready to receive calls, because I have come to call on you?”

“Really,” Mrs. Edwards said, half rising from her rocker, and looking bewildered, “this is an unexpected pleasure! Am I to take you to the parlor, where I usually receive my calls?”

“No,” Rebecca said, laughing, and trying to ignore the quick rush of color to her face. “I am to be a more privileged caller than that. I have brought my work, and intend to make a visit. I used to go to mother’s room and make a call very often.”

The elder Mrs. Edwards was almost embarrassed. It was very unusual for her to have any such feeling, and she did not know how to treat it.

Rebecca, however, had determined to pretend, at least, that she felt very much at home. She helped herself to a low chair and brought out her thimble, and challenged her mother-in-law at once to know whether her work was not pretty. As she did so, it gave her a strange sense of her unfilial life, as she remembered that that same bit of work had been the resort of her half-idle moments for some weeks, and that yet she had never shown it to Mrs. Edwards before.

It proved to be a lucky piece of work. It gave Mrs. Edwards an idea, and suggested a line of thought that was so natural to her that she forgot the embarrassment of the situation at once.

It’s a sure bet that Isabella Alden was herself a sewer. She may have plied her needle to hem an everyday handkerchief, or she may have used her talents to create fancywork items for her home. But it’s a testament to Isabella’s skill as a story-teller that she could make a simple, everyday item like a thimble figure so prominently in some of the most important scenes in her novels.

How about you? Do you enjoy sewing? Do you use a thimble when you sew? Is it plain and utilitarian, or decorative? Old or new?

Who Would You Like to Be Today?

24 Apr

In the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, paper toys were very popular. They were cheap to make (thanks to advances in the automation of the paper-making industry) and they were plentiful.

Merchants often used paper toys as giveaways, while other paper toys could be purchased for pennies.

An ad in a 1908 issue of The Ladies Home Journal.

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There were paper airplanes and spinning tops, paper dolls and paper furniture for paper houses.

But in 1905 something unusual happened in the paper toy industry. In November of that year, Tuck & Sons, the famous London-based printing house, released a new paper toy in America.

A winning jockey

The new toy was a paper half-mask children could wear. The masks were issued in a series format, with each series based on a theme, such as literary figures, historical people, or costumes from foreign lands.

A Dutch girl.

The masks were wildly popular for two reasons. First, the artwork was exceptional.

Napoleon

There were no cartoonish drawings here; each mask was beautifully detailed and life-like.

A woman motorist.

The second reason the masks were popular: Adults liked to wear them, too. In fact, adults bought and wore the masks more often than children did.

Carmen, from the opera series.

By the summer of 1906 Tuck was producing the masks in adult sizes, and they were selling like hotcakes.

Granny in her cap.

Hostesses handed them out at parties, and some adults fashioned new games to play in the evening while wearing the masks.

An old tramp.

Here’s an idea for a masked party for young adults that appeared in a 1908 issue of The Woman’s Home Companion:

Adults all across America had fun pretending to be someone other than who they really were!

Cousin Kate, the focus of the popular poem of the same name, by Christina Georgina Rosetti.

Isabella probably did not participate in the fun. In her 1902 novel Unto the End Isabella acknowledges the popularity of masked parties and full-costume masquerades, to the misfortune of one her characters, Grace Landis.

Several times in the story Grace has to find the balance between her father’s more worldly ways and her mother’s religious convictions (that, incidentally, align with Isabella’s). In one scene Grace tells her mother:

“Has [father] told you of the party which is to be at Mr. McAllison’s in a few weeks, where the people are all to dress in character, and wear masks? Some of the characters are what I am sure you would call ‘questionable,’ and as for masks, I did not know that refined society approved of them, but my father wants me to wear one.”

Amazingly, some of those one-hundred-year-old paper Tuck masks have survived, and they’re popular collectors’ items. You can find them for sale on retail websites like Etsy, as well as new masks that are fashioned along the same style as the Tuck originals.

You can see our previous post about paper dolls by clicking here.

Read our post about other paper toys by clicking here.

View more masks on Etsy by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

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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