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A View from the Top of the World

16 Sep

In Isabella’s novel We Twelve Girls, Edith told her friends about a special treat she received from her Aunt Mattie, who was recently married.

When Mattie and her new husband were on their wedding trip, they stopped in Edith’s hometown for a short visit. Edith was thrilled when Mattie and her new husband invited her to go with them for a portion of their journey. Edith said:

Where do you think they took me? Why, to the very tip-top of Lookout Mountain. We rode all day, and stopped in Chattanooga at night, and the next morning went up the wonderful incline. Up, and up, and up, ever and ever so far! You go up by an endless chain railroad; then when you have got away above the houses and church steeples . . . you see perfectly lovely views. We got out at Sunset Rock, and went to see where the sun sets, when it is time for it. Uncle took me close to the edge of some great rocks, and let me look down. He would have taken me very closer yet, but Aunt Mattie screamed, and he said it would not do for him and me to frighten her. He is just as nice as he can be.

I wish I could describe the mountain to you, and tell you how I felt when I went up. I had some real strange thoughts; it seemed to me I was bidding good-bye to this world—like going to Heaven, you know—and I could not help feeling a little bit disappointed when I came down again.

It sounds like Edith caught a little bit of “mountaineer fever” on that trip; and it’s possible she might have grown up to be an excellent mountaineer herself.

Several women joined this climb up Mount Rainier in 1913.

During Isabella’s lifetime there were quite a few women who enjoyed mountain climbing as a pastime.

Relaxing in the shadows of Kineo Cliff near Moosehead Lake, Maine.

One of the most famous mountain climbers in the world was Marie, Queen of Bavaria. She not only founded a mountaineering society, she designed what she called a “practical” climbing outfit for women, which shockingly exposed a lady’s ankles.

Marie of Prussia, Queen of Bavaria, dressed for mountaineering. Note her canteen and water cup beside her.

In 1858 Julia Archibald Holmes became the first Caucasian woman to reach the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado. An avid climber, she, too, wore a special “American costume” she designed to make the climb: a short dress, bloomers, moccasins, and a hat.

Julia Archibald Holmes in the mountain climbing costume she designed.

Fay Fuller wore a similar costume when she made the treacherous trek to the summit of Mount Rainier in 1890 (but with far fewer petticoats). She went on to become a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club.

Fay Fuller.

Not every woman adopted a mountaineering “costume.” Short skirts and exposed ankles were quite risqué for the time; but modesty didn’t require women stay at home; they still climbed mountains, but did so while wearing modest but cumbersome skirts.

Crossing a treacherous chasm in a skirt.

One of those women was Katharine Lee Bates. She was not a trained mountain climber, but after spending a summer teaching classes at Colorado College, she joined friends on a climb of nearby Pike’s Peak.

Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine later wrote:

One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.

A view of Pike’s Peak near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Katherine’s experience inspired her to author the poem “America the Beautiful,” which was later set to music composed by Samuel A. Ward.

By the turn of the century, more women than ever were involved with mountaineering, and their attire evolved, becaming more sensible for the task at hand.

A woman mountain climber, about 1908.

Some avid female climbers left their long skirts behind at the base of the mountain and climbed in breeches, just like the men did.

Female climbers, 1907.

Perhaps when Isabella wrote about Edith’s experience at the top of Lookout Mountain she knew first-hand what it was like to look down upon a beautiful vista from a high place. There were certainly hills near where she grew up in New York that she might have climbed as a girl.

Women on Overhanging Rock at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, 1900.

And perhaps Isabella knew that wherever there were mountains, there were plenty of women—just like Edith—who were willing to climb them.

New Free Read: Tony Keating’s Surprises

8 Sep

The Reverend Francis E. Clark, president of the World Christian Endeavor Union, said of Isabella Alden:

“Probably no writer of stories for young people has been so popular or had so wide an audience as Mrs. G. R. Alden, whose pen-name, Pansy, is known wherever English books are read.”

Indeed, Isabella enjoyed world-wide fame as an author. By the year 1900 she was selling over 100,000 books a year.

So it’s a little mystifying to see that in 1914, when she chose a new publishing house—M.A. Donohue & Company in Chicago—to publish Tony Keating’s Surprises, the publisher had so little knowledge of who she was, they spelled her name wrong on the book’s cover!

Luckily, that single error doesn’t detract from the pleasure of reading Isabella’s novella, Tony Keating’s Surprises. Here’s a brief description of the story:

For as long as Tony Keating could remember, people have been telling him he was bad, so it was little wonder he came to believe he was just so.

Over the years, Tony has become quite adept at living up to his reputation, by springing tricks and surprises on his parents, his sister, his teachers, and anyone else who happens to cross his path. Why, the entire town believes Tony Keating will come to no good.

Everyone, that is, except Lorena Stanfield. Being new in town, Lorena doesn’t know about Tony’s reputation as the town scamp. With her fresh perspective Lorena sees Tony’s potential for good. But will her gentle influence be enough to transform Tony’s life?

You can read Tony Keating’s Surprises for free!

Just follow this link to go to BookFunnel.com. Then, choose whether you want to read the book on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or choose the “My Computer” option to print the story as a PDF document and share it with friends.

Isabella’s Right to Vote

18 Aug

Today women across America are celebrating a major anniversary!

One hundred years ago—on August 18, 1920—the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote.

Isabella was a long-time advocate for the women’s vote, and even mentioned the subject in her books.

For example, in her 1876 novel Four Girls at Chautauqua Miss Eurie Mitchell was thrilled to attend a lecture by Dr. John Vincent, saying:

“Girls, look at Dr. Vincent! I declare, Chautauqua has paid, just to watch him! He ought to be the president himself. I mean to vote for him when female suffrage comes in.”

In One Commonplace Day, published in 1886, Miss Wainright, a staunch temperance fighter, tells Mr. Durant:

“I am nothing but an old maid, Mr. Durant; haven’t even a husband to talk for me, or vote for me; which perhaps is fortunate, for ten chances to one that he would talk and vote the wrong way, if I had.”

And in 1879’s My Daughter Susan, Susan Carleton encouraged the women of her church to join the Temperance movement, saying:

“I wear a blue ribbon on my watch chain, and a white one on my muff, or fan, or whatever happens to be convenient. I’m a crusader, and a no-license woman, and I will be a voter, on that subject at least, if I ever get a chance. I’m anything, and everything.”

Maryland women marching for the right to vote.

Isabella was something of a crusader, too. She was an active member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and actively supported the prohibition movement. She strongly believed that if women won the right to vote, they would vote to enact a nation-wide prohibition law. And she was right.

Suffrage wins in Washington, California, and Oregon paved the way for hard-fought victories in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and Montana.

By the end of 1914, more than four million women had voting rights equal to men in eleven states, all in the West; but they could not vote in national elections.

In 1911 when women gained the vote in California, Isabella was a resident of that state. Here’s Isabella’s name (along with the names of her husband, her son Raymond and daughter-in-law Barbara) on the 1916 list of California registered voters. You can see she claims affiliation with the Prohibition Party.

With western states leading the way, support for suffrage continued to gain momentum , as more and more women and men joined the movement. By 1919 enough States supported the Amendment to qualify it for a vote.

Women picket in front of the White House for the right to vote (1917).

On June 4, 1919 Congress sent the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution to the individual states for ratification. Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the Amendment on June 10, 1919.

Kentucky governor Edwin P. Morrow signing the 19th Amendment.

On August 18, 1920 the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment, ensuring the right to vote could not be denied based on gender. Four days later, with the stroke of Tennessee Governor Albert H. Roberts’ pen, the eighty year struggle was over.

Tennessee Ratification of the 19th Amendment signed August 24, 1920.

Despite her own involvement and efforts, Isabella didn’t mention the historic day in her memoirs, but she must have been proud to see women across the country gain the right to vote in local, state, and national elections.

If you haven’t yet read My Daughter Susan, you can read it for free! Just click here to begin reading.

Isabella and the Missing Girl

5 Aug

It wasn’t unusual for Isabella Alden’s name to appear in newspapers across the country, either in articles about her life as an author or in advertisements for her books.

An 1898 announcement for Isabella’s new book, Reuben’s Hindrances (The Boston Globe, December 3, 1898).

But in July 1923 Isabella unwittingly became part of a surprising local news story.

In the early 1920s Isabella and her husband rented a portion of a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea. They occupied the first floor of the house; the second floor was converted into a separate flat and rented to a group of nurses.

Carmel-by-the-Sea was a picturesque California community nestled against the Pacific Ocean. It prided itself on being the “ideal community for the writer, the artist, the poet, the scientist and the tired business man.”

The coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea, photographed by Arnold Genthe about 1910.

In fact, quite a few publicity-shy composers, authors, architects, and poets had homes in Carmel. Isabella probably fit right in.

A man and three women playfully test the waters on the beach at Carmel. (Photo by Arnold Genthe, about 1911)

On Monday, July 16, 1923 Isabella left her home in Carmel, perhaps after having spent the weekend there. Before leaving, she made certain the house was in order, and she locked the door behind her as she left.

Unbeknownst to Isabella, that same Monday morning a fourteen-year-old girl named Ruth Cator also left her house in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Ruth was the daughter of composer Thomas Cator, and had recently returned home from a stay at a sanitarium where she had been treated for what her parents described as a “nervous breakdown.” When her parents discovered her missing early that Monday morning, they immediately feared Ruth was again “out of her mind” and in danger.

A photo of Ruth Cator published in the San Francisco Examiner on July 18, 1923.

The Cator family and their neighbors quickly organized a search party. A local carpenter said he was certain he saw Ruth around 7:30 that morning near the center of town, not far from her father’s studio.

Another woman said Ruth knocked on her door, and when she answered, Ruth asked for a searchlight and a calendar for July 1925. Other neighbors reported similar encounters with Ruth.

But by nightfall, after an entire day of searching, no one had found even a trace of Ruth Cator.

The next morning author Perry Newberry, who was also the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, enlisted help from a nearby military camp; over 300 soldiers joined the search.

Perry Newberry, newspaper editor, author, and mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Another group followed a set of footprints that led from the center of town to the ocean’s edge, but found no sign of Ruth.

From the Oakland Tribune, July 18, 1923.

By the end of that second day, the beach, the town, the woods, the bay, the mountains, and nearby canyons had all been thoroughly combed, yet there was still no sign of Ruth Cator.

From the Long Beach Telegram, July 18, 1923.

On the third day, the situation became desperate, and Carmel’s citizens cast their search net a little wider, searching the state highway that stretched from Carmel to San Jose and Palo Alto, where Isabella lived the majority of the year. They used search dogs to cover a large portion of the region, and seven airplanes flew over the county, searching for Ruth. Some searchers took on the grim task of dragging Carmel Bay in the belief she may have been drowned.

From the San Francisco Examiner, July 18, 1923.

As the third day came to a close, with no sign of Ruth, hope began to fade that she might be safely returned to her family.

And then a strange thing happened. In the house Isabella rented lived three nurses who occupied the upper apartment. Around eight o’clock on Wednesday evening they heard what sounded like someone crying, but they could not find the source. Then they heard glass shattering and went to investigate. Downstairs they found a broken cellar window; when they looked in the window, they saw a girl curled up in a corner of the room.

Perry Newberry was the first to answer the nurses’ call for help. He broke into the Alden’s flat and found Ruth wedged into a small recess beneath the floor. She was weak from exposure, hunger and dehydration, but she recognized Mr. Newberry, which he took as a good sign.

By the time Perry Newberry returned Ruth to her parents’ home, news had already begun to spread through town that Ruth had been found.

From the San Francisco Examiner, July 19, 1923.

Ruth’s first demand was for food—lots of it. A physician who examined her predicted she would make a full recovery. He also said her enforced starvation had “probably broken the spell of the girl’s sickness and that she would regain her complete health.”

From the Stockton Independent, July 19, 1923.

Unfortunately, his prediction did not come true. Not long after her rescue Ruth was admitted to the Agnew State Hospital for the Insane; she remained a resident of the hospital until her death in 1965 at the age of 56.

Ruth was never able to explain how she became locked in the cellar of Isabella’s home. The county sheriff suspected that since Isabella’s house was only blocks away from the Cator’s, Ruth probably went to Isabella’s door that Monday morning to ask her for a searchlight and a calendar, just as she had with other neighbors. But because Isabella was having work done on her home, the sheriff believed one of the workmen might have left the front door open or ajar, giving Ruth the opportunity to enter the home and find the cellar door. But once she entered the cellar and pulled the door shut after her, she was unable to open it again; and Isabella—unaware Ruth was in the crawl space beneath the floorboards—left her house to return to Palo Alto, locking the door behind her, with Ruth inside.

It must have been a great shock to Isabella—a woman with a kind heart and a great love for children—to learn she had accidentally caused three days of worry and anxiety for one young girl, her parents, and an entire town.

No Pockets? No Problem!

5 Feb

During Isabella’s lifetime women dressed modestly. Their clothing covered them from head to toe, with high collars at their necks, long sleeves that extended to their wrists, and skirts with hemlines that brushed the floor.

An 1877 reception gown (from the Minnesota Historical Society)

With so much of the body covered, a new gown—even one with a simple design—was a big investment. The average dress in 1900 took eight to twelve yards of fabric to construct.

This day dress from 1882 illustrates how much fabric a dress required.

But even with all that fabric, women’s gowns lacked one essential convenience modern women today take for granted: pockets.

The slim silhouette of a 1913 ladies’ gown left no room for pockets.

When you think about all the things we carry in our pockets—from keys and eye glasses to reminder notes and smart phones—it’s hard to imagine life without those small but handy additions to our shirts, skirts, and pants.

Ladies fashions in 1900, from The Designer magazine.

So how did Isabella and other women of her time carry around small but necessary objects so they were always close at hand?

They used a chatelaine.

A chatelaine was a piece of jewelry with chains from which accessories were hung.

Some chatelaines were ornate and expensive; others were purely practical.

If you watched episodes of the TV show “Downton Abbey,” you may have seen Downton’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, wearing a plain and utilitarian chatelaine.

From her chatelaine she suspended a few essentials she probably used regularly throughout the day in such a large household: a small pair of scissors, and keys to the silver closet, perhaps, or maybe the wine cellar.

Some women customized their chatelaine for a specific purpose. For example, a seamstress or a mother who regularly found herself mending her children’s clothes might accessorize her chatelaine with needles, thread, and other sewing essentials.

This chatelaine carried (from left to right) scissors with a protective sheath, a scent bottle. sewing kit, and a whistle.

Inside the sewing kit was a dowel with thread, a small thimble, and a cylinder for holding needles.

Here’s another example of a silver-plated chatelaine customized with five sewing tools:

It was accessorized with a needle holder, a thimble, a pin cushion in the shape of a book, a tape measure, and a scissor sheath.

Artist Franz von Defregger depicted a chatelaine in his painting, The Letter (1884).

The chatelaine below was accessorized for a nurse, and contains (left to right) a pencil, an ivory notepad, pill box, scissors, tape measure, and a whistle.

A nurse’s chatelaine (from Wikimedia.org).

Scent bottles were common components of a lady’s chatelaine. Because women’s corsets often left them short of breath or feeling faint from heat or exertion, a small bottle of smelling salts was essential.

A silver and crystal perfume bottle from an 1898 chatelaine.

Sometimes women filled the bottles with perfume, which they held to their nose to ward off foul odors that were common at a time before deodorants and reliable sewer systems. In such cases, these bottles were often called “vinaigrettes.”

A whistle was another common accessory. Since well-mannered ladies never raised their voices, even in times of danger or emergency, a whistle was the best way for a woman to summon help.

Many women added small bags to their chatelaines. Made of metal mesh, fabric or leather, they held handkerchiefs, coins, and eye glasses.

A silver and leather chatelaine bag from Tiffany and Co. (courtesy of MetMuseum.org).

During Isabella’s lifetime, chatelaines were popular enough to draw criticism and comedy. One newspaper lamented the number of chatelaine accessories women were willing to wear, and printed this illustration of a wife who went a little overboard with her accessories:

The same publication poked fun at mothers who over accessorized their chatelaines:

But chatelaines came in all shapes and sizes. The lady in the photo below is dressed for the out of doors; her short chatelaine looks like a piece of jewelry and is accessorized with a watch and a whistle, among other things.

While many chatelaines were clipped to a woman’s belt or waistband, some small chatelaines were designed to be worn as a brooch. The young woman in the photo below is wearing a small chatelaine accessorized with a dainty little scent bottle.

Ladies in Isabella’s circle also used chatelaines. Here’s a photograph of Isabella and her family members at Chautauqua Institution. Seated left to right are Isabella’s husband Dr. Alden, Isabella, Mrs. Christensen, Isabella’s sister Julia Macdonald, Grace Livingston, and Dr. Hannah B. Mulford. Standing are Miss May Williamson and Isabella’s son Raymond.

A closer look at Julia and Miss Williamson shows that both ladies were wearing small chatelaines, although it’s difficult to make out what accessories they wore.

What do you think of chatelaines? Would you wear one?

If you had a chatelaine, what kind of accessories would you have?

A final note: Not all chatelaines were metal. An 1894 issue of The Youth’s Companion magazine published a simple pattern for a chatelaine you can make from fabric and ribbon. Click on the image below to see a larger version of the instructions.

 

Shining a Light on Raymond Alden

3 Feb

Although this blog is all about Isabella Alden, today we’re shining the spotlight on another member of the Alden family.

Isabella’s son, Raymond, was featured in an article that appeared 111 years ago in The San Jose Mercury News on February 3, 1909.

Unfortunately the type is difficult to read, so here’s a transcript of the article:

Tuesday, Feb 2

Dr. Raymond M. Alden, of the English department at Stanford University, will lecture on “Fiction and Real Life” at the Young Women’s Christian Association, Wednesday, Feb. 3rd, at 2 o’clock. The Association is to be congratulated upon securing such an eminent speaker for this culture lecture, and it is hoped that all lovers of literature will be present. Dr. Alden has had a really remarkable career, especially for a man not yet forty. His mother, Mrs. Isabella Alden, is a great favorite among juvenile readers, as the author of the “Pansy” books; and his father, Rev. Dr. G. R. Alden, is a divine of no little prominence.

Dr. Raymond Alden was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was afterwards assistant in English, and where he received his Ph.D. in 1898. He was also instructor in English literature at the Columbian [sic] University and at Harvard.

An undated photo of Raymond Macdonald Alden.

Amidst his busy life, R. Alden has found time to edit several text books, besides contributing to numerous magazines. “The Art of Debate,” is perhaps Dr. Alden’s best known book; it was produced since his coming to Stanford University.

It is needless to add that Dr. Alden is a universal favorite among university students, to whom he has greatly endeared himself not only because of his delightful personality, but because of his breadth of mind and scholarly attainments.

This lecture will be free to all members of the Association; non-members, ten cents admission. It will be given at rooms, 97 South First street.

p.s. Raymond was only 36 years old when this article was written!

About Pansy, By Pansy

22 Jan

It’s safe to say that few places on earth celebrate fame more than the state of California.

When Isabella and her husband Ross moved to Palo Alto, California in 1901, she joined a community of talented authors, artists, musicians, and actors already in residence.

The California State Library had a system for documenting famous and notable residents through a series of biographical index cards.

Some of the cards date as far back as 1781. Each card detailed the names, birthplaces and accomplishments of artists, soldiers, statesmen, “and other notables.” In most cases, the cards were completed by the person in their own handwriting.

Here’s a biographical card completed by silent film star Douglas Fairbanks in 1916:

California State Library card dated 1916. Stage name: Douglas Fairbanks. Name in Full: Douglas Elton Fairbanks. Place of birth: May 23, 1883.

Interestingly, Fairbank’s education—first at a military school, then as an engineering major at Denver’s School of Mines—could not have been more contrary to his ultimate career as one of early Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

Author John Steinbeck was only 33 years old when he completed his card:

His most famous novels, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, had not yet been published.

In 1906 the State of California asked Isabella to complete a biographical card.

In her own handwriting Isabella wrote out her personal information on the front of the card:

Name in full: Isabella Macdonald Alden
Born at Rochester, N.Y., on Nov. 3, 1841.
Father, Isaac Macdonald
Mother (maiden name in full), Myra Spafford.
If married to whom? Rev. G. R. Alden
Place, Gloversville, N.Y.
Date, May 30, 1866
Where educated, Seneca Collegiate Institute – Ovid, N.Y.
Years spent in California, five
Residences in State, Palo Alto, Calif.
Pseudonyms: Pansy
Present Address, 455 University Ave., Palo Alto, Calif.
(A state employee noted on the card Pansy’s date of death, August 5, 1930.)

The back of the card is also written in Isabella’s hand.

It reads:

Published works and periodicals for which you have written:

I enclose with this card a printed list of my books. I was for 25 years editor of a juvenile monthly magazine – named The Pansy; and for the same length of time I was the Editorial staff of the Westminster S. S. Teachers. I am now on the Editorial staff of the Herald & Presbyter, Cincinnati, with which paper I have been associated for 33 years.

I have for the past twelve years had a department in the Christian Endeavor World — As to Clubs, etc. I have been honored by being elected to a number of local literary clubs, and to membership in the Women’s Press Association.

When Isabella completed this card in 1906 her novel Ester Ried’s Namesake was published. In the following years she would go on to publish Ruth Erskine’s Son, The Browns at Mount Hermon, Four Mothers at Chautauqua, and five more novels.

This sample of Isabella’s handwriting reveals a few things about her. For example, the distinctive way she forms her capital letters—especially C, M and H—indicates she was taught to write script in a style that was popular around 1850. In particular, she forms her capital letters with a finishing loop that could easily be mistaken for a lower case “a” or “o.”

In this handwriting example from the 1850 United States Federal Census, you can see the census taker had a similar slant to his writing and formed his capital letters in the same way Isabella did.

Her card also shows she was very proud of her work as editor of The Pansy and other Christian publications. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a copy of the list of published works she referenced on her card; it would be interesting to see if there were any titles she listed that aren’t among Pansy’s known published works we’ve compiled!

Sometimes people who filled out the cards also submitted photographs, pertinent letters, and copies of published books. While there’s no record that Isabella submitted such items, it’s clear the State of California has an extensive and rich collection that would be interesting and fun for any researcher or fan to explore.

You can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version.

 

Daily Thoughts for January

1 Jan

Isabella Alden strongly believed in spending a few minutes with the Bible every morning; and that even one verse, thoughtfully read, helped fortify and strengthen Believers in their daily walk with God.

Several of her novels were based on that premise, including:

Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence

Her Mother’s Bible

The Exact Truth

We Twelve Girls

In each story, the main characters committed to memory and relied upon a single verse of scripture every day to help them in their daily lives. She called these stories “Golden Text” novels.

Isabella brought the same concept to The Pansy magazine. In 1895 she began publishing a regular monthly feature in The Pansy called “Daily Thoughts.”

“Daily Thoughts” was printed on the first day of each month, and consisted of a list of Bible verses meant to be read individually, one each day.

She chose each verse carefully, with the prayerful hope that each one would inspire her readers to live their lives for Jesus’ sake.

With each verse she offered a brief comment or question to help her readers better understand the text.

Her verses for January 1895 all came from the book of Psalms. You’ll notice she didn’t print the actual verse, but only gave the citation. She hoped doing so would encourage readers to open their Bibles each day and look up the verses for themselves.

You can click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s Daily Thoughts for January, which you can use, print, save and share with others.

Or click here to download a simplified Word version.

Please join us again next month to see Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of February.

If you’d like to know more about Isabella’s novels mentioned in this post, click on the any of the book covers to learn more:

     

     

 

 

What Have You Learned?

31 Dec

At the end of every year, instead of writing about resolutions and goals for the new year, Isabella always posed an important question to readers of The Pansy magazine:

What lesson did you learn from the past year?

Isabella wrote:

I know a boy who has learned during the past year that he can forgive another boy who has done him a great wrong; that he can be pleasant to him, and even help him over a hard place in his school work. I think that is a grand thing to have learned.

I know a girl who has learned by sad experience during the past year that she cannot play with temptation without getting hurt. Seven times she did what she knew mother, and teacher, and friend did not want her to do, without any harm coming from it; but the eighth time—Oh, dear! I will not tell that sad story. I only hint at it to remind you that there are sad ways of learning, as well as pleasant ones.

Well, I could tell you of dozens of others whom I have watched during the year, and of the lessons they have learned, but all that might not help you.

The important question is, What have you learned?

Will you think it over? Let everyone who reads this get pencil and paper and sit down alone to a careful study of the year. You might make two columns, headed:

If you find you have learned you are a bit selfish in your plans, when you did not suspect it, put down the word “Selfishness” in good honest letters in the “Avoid” column. You will understand what it means, and nobody else need know about it.

If you find that you are inclined to be persistent in trifles which have no moral character, give it the true name and write “Obstinacy” in the right column.

If you find that by taking a little care, you have made sunshine in your home, or some other home, print the word “Care” under “Lessons to Practice.”

What interesting columns they will be after you have carefully filled them!

I should like to see the record, but of course, you will not let me. All that will be between you and your best friend, Jesus.

Isabella’s question— What lesson did you learn from the past year?—became an annual question she posed to her readers. And every year she received letters from hundreds of readers, eager to share their lessons learned with their beloved Pansy.

What do you think of this idea?

Do you think adults can benefit from reviewing lessons learned just as much as children can?

Do you make a list of lessons learned or do you make resolutions for the new year? Or both?

A Perfect Partnership: Isabella and Daniel Lothrop

13 Nov

In additional to writing novels, Isabella Alden wrote articles and short stories for many different publications.

Her stories and articles were so popular she found herself in a unique position for a writer: She never had to submit her work for publication.

Instead, publishers went to her. Elias Riggs Monfort, the long-time editor of The Herald and Presbyter (a weekly Presbyterian newspaper), gave her a lifetime contract to publish any serials she wrote.

Elias Riggs Monfort, about 1870 (Wikipedia).

Mr. Montfort was such a fan of Isabella’s, he wrote to his friend, Daniel Lothrop, full of praises about Isabella and her stories.

Daniel Lothrop was the owner of D. Lothrop & Company, a Boston publishing house that specialized in books for young people.

Daniel Lothrop.

Daniel Lothrop had been a great reader from his childhood; while he was still a boy himself he developed an ambition to publish books specifically written for children—a novel idea at the time. Even more radical: he believed the books should be beautifully illustrated to serve the story and keep children’s attention.

An undated artist’s rendering of the D. Lothrop and Co. Publishing building in Boston, Massachusetts.

But he persisted, believing that it was possible to publish children’s books that were not only entertaining, but encouraged “true, steadfast growth in right living.”

The interior of D. Lothrop and Company.

He often said to the people in his employ: “I publish books to do good as well as to make money. I always ask first, ‘Will this book help the young people?’ rather than ‘How much money is there in it?’”

His long partnership with Isabella began around 1874. After Elias Monfort sang Isabella’s praises to him, Daniel Lothrop invited Isabella to contribute stories to be published in a small weekly Sunday School newspaper he published.

Little One’s Friend, one of D. Lothrop and Company’s beautifully illustrated books for children.

By 1877 that short weekly paper had grown considerably in size and content—and Isabella was its editor!

Called The Pansy, each issue was filled with inspiring stories, delightful illustrations, short poems, and descriptions of exotic and far-away places to spark children’s imaginations.

Isabella wrote a short story for each issue, and other members of her family did, too, including her husband, her sister Marcia, niece Grace Livingston, and later, once he was old enough, her son Raymond.

Another frequent contributor was Daniel Lothrop’s wife Harriett, who wrote under the pen name “Margaret Sidney.”

Author Harriet Stone Lothrop, who wrote under the name “Margaret Sidney.”

Isabella wrote that Mr. Lothrop always had “a very warm place in his great warm heart” for The Pansy magazine.

Not only was he fertile in suggestions calculated to make it better, but he was ready always to heartily second the suggestions of others, and to aid in carrying them out.

The Pansy Society in particular was very dear to him. He was interested in everything about the Society, from the content of the letters children wrote to the magazine, to the design of the badges that Isabella sent to Pansy Society members. Isabella said:

“It would be difficult—impossible, indeed—to tell you in how many ways he helped along the cause of truth and right in the world.”

Another common interest Isabella and Lothrop shared was the Christian Endeavor Society. From the early days of the Society, Daniel Lothrop saw an opportunity to use his publishing company to further the Society’s message. He recruited authors to write books of interest to Christian Endeavor members. Margaret Sidney, Faye Huntington, and Grace Livingston were among those who answered the call.

An 1897 newspaper ad showing new Lothrop books by the company’s prized authors.

Isabella’s novels, Chrissy’s Endeavor and Her Associate Members were written and published especially for C.E. members.

     

Isabella’s long partnership with Daniel Lothrop lasted almost twenty years. It ended when he passed away in 1892.

Isabella was heartbroken. In her memoirs she wrote:

“Mr. Lothrop was my true, strong, faithful friend all his life.”

She gently told readers in an issue of The Pansy about the passing of “our friend who loved us, and worked for us and with us.”

It’s impossible to know how many lives were influenced for good by Isabella’s partnership with Daniel Lothrop. Her books alone sold more than 100,000 copies a year, and The Pansy magazine had thousands of subscribers all around the world.

They had formed a perfect partnership. Both Isabella and Daniel Lothrop must have been proud of their accomplishments and the knowledge that they always produced books and stories that were consistently wholesome, pure, and elevating.


You can learn more about The Pansy magazine, The Christian Endeavor Society, and The Pansy Society by reading these previous posts:

The Pansy Magazine

The Christian Endeavor Society

The Pansy Society

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The Hall in the Grove

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Isabella Alden

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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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