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This Week’s Winner and a Big Thank You!

28 Sep

It’s hard to believe September is coming to a close! Sadly, that means our Blogiversary Celebration must end, as well.

A big thank you to everyone who attending the party! You’ve helped spread the word about Isabella’s inspiring, Christ-centered novels and stories.

And now … 

We’re happy to announce the winner of this week’s $25 Amazon Gift Card.

The Winner is …

seijalaine!

Seijalaine, please watch your email inbox—Your Amazon Gift Card is on its way!

Welcome to Pansy’s House

26 Sep

Isabella Macdonald Alden was born the youngest child in a loving, and very tight-knit family.

She and her sisters were especially close, even though there was a vast difference in their ages.

For example, Isabella celebrated her first birthday the same year her eldest sister, Elizabeth, married and moved into a home of her own. But since Elizabeth’s new house was only a few steps from the Macdonald’s front door, Isabella and Elizabeth shared a close relationship.

The same was true of Mary, who was 14 years older than Isabella. When Mary wed and set up housekeeping, her home was built on property that abutted the Macdonald’s back garden. As a result, Isabella spent a lot of time with Mary and they, too, had a special bond.

Isabella’s sister, Mary Macdonald Williamson (age 87) with two of Isabella’s grandchildren in Palo Alto, California (1914).

It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella married and began keeping a house of her own, she made certain the door was always open to family members. She wanted her sisters to feel the same welcoming spirit in her house as she had always felt in theirs.

When her son Raymond was young, Isabella and her husband Ross began taking him to Florida, hoping the southern climate would benefit Raymond’s health. To their relief, Raymond’s health did improve, so the Aldens decided to make Florida their winter home.

The Aldens and the Livingstons in Florida. Front row left to right: Julia Macdonald (in white blouse), unidentified man, Margaret Hill, Ruth Hill, Grace Livingston Hill and her husband, Frank Hill. Second row (in light-colored dress) Marcia Macdonald Livingston and her husband Charles Livingston. Back row, third from left: Isabella Macdonald Alden, Raymond Alden, Ross Alden.

They bought a plot of land in the new town of Winter Park, and began building a house that would be big enough to accommodate plenty of family members.

Interlachen Avenue in the 1890s. Bicycles appear to be a favorite mode of transportation.

They built on an oversized lot on the corner of Lyman and Interlachen avenues, right across the street from All Saints Episcopal Church.

An 1888 photo of All Saints Episcopal Church. You can see the front half of Isabella’s new house peeking from the left side of the church.

The house was completed in 1888. Ross dubbed it “Pansy Cottage,” a name that stuck and was soon known all over town. This photo shows the size of the “cottage”:

The inviting home was three stories tall, with large yards in front and back, and a wrap-around porch that invited family, friends and neighbors to sit down and enjoy a cozy chat. It was the perfect place for the family to gather, far away from the cold New York winters.

In this photo you can see family members on the front steps and porch, in the yard, and even peeking out of the top-most windows. They look like they’re having fun!

Isabella and her family members spent many happy winters at the Pansy Cottage; and the Florida climate did improve Raymond’s health.

A side view of Pansy Cottage, with children riding their bicycles.

In 1906 Ross and Isabella began their preparations for retirement. They sold Pansy Cottage and moved to their new house in Palo Alto, California where, once again, everyone was welcome in Isabella’s new home.

In fact, she and Ross shared the California house with their son Raymond, and his wife and children, as well as Isabella’s sisters Julia and Mary.

Julia Macdonald (about 1875).

After Ross and Isabella sold Pansy Cottage, it was passed along to different owners. Eventually, it was turned into a rooming house; and in 1955 Pansy Cottage was demolished. But thanks to photos like these, we can still peek into Isabella’s world and imagine a bit of her life with those she loved in turn-of-the-century Florida.

Click here to read more about Isabella’s house in Palo Alto, California.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.

What a Character!

25 Sep

If you love stories that feature believable characters trying to find their way through life’s struggles, look no further than Isabella Alden’s books!

This word search puzzle features the names of some of Isabella’s most beloved characters, who ultimately learned to trust God to guide their daily steps in life. See how many names you can find!

Words can go horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, backwards and forwards.

Once you complete the puzzle, let us know how you liked it by leaving a comment here or on Isabella’s Facebook page.

Choose how you want to play:

To play online, click here. Then, click on a letter and drag to reveal each listed character name. You can play the puzzle online until October 30.

To print the puzzle and share it with others, click here. The print puzzle never expires, and it’s more challenging than the online version!

Have fun!


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.

A New Free Read!

24 Sep

Welcome to the final week of our 5 Year Blogiversary Celebration!

We thank each of you for joining us in celebrating Isabella Alden’s life and Christ-centered novels and stories.

Today’s free short story is “Our Church Choir,” which was first published in 1889.

You can read “Our Church Choir” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.

Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.

To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.

This Week’s Winner!

21 Sep

First …

Thank you to everyone who loves Isabella’s books and helps spread the word about her inspiring, Christ-centered novels and stories.

It’s because of you that we’re now celebrating our …

5 Year Blogiversary!

We’re happy to announce the winner of this week’s $25 Amazon Gift Card.

And the Winner is ….

Debby Bishop!

Debby, your gift card is on its way to your e-mail in-box.

The party isn’t over!

The final week of our Blogiversary Celebration begins on Monday. Please join us for . . .

A new free read!

Puzzles and Posts about Isabella’s life and books!

Another chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

See you then!

The Pansy Tree

19 Sep

Publishing The Pansy magazine was a family affair. Every two weeks Isabella and her husband edited a new issue of the juvenile magazine. Each issue featured stories that were both instructive and entertaining, as well as articles about foreign lands and lessons on nature and science.

But perhaps the feature Isabella loved most was “The P. S. Corner.” In this column she printed letters she received from members of The Pansy Society. Children joined the society simply by pledging to overcome a fault (such as arguing with a sister, or shirking chores) with Jesus’ help.

Every month, hundreds of children wrote letters to The Pansy to tell of their pledges, their successes and their failures. Isabella treasured the letters, and called Pansy Society members her “blossoms.”

Even more importantly, Isabella answered all the letters! Sometimes she replied with congratulations, sometimes with encouragement and sympathy, as in this short note to Bessie from Nebraska:

Poor little blossom! It is very hard work to be unselfish, especially when so many grown people set us a bad example. Try hard, my dear.

Her “blossoms” adored her. So when an elementary school in Ravenna, Ohio planned an Arbor Day celebration in 1884, the children decided to plant a tree and name it Pansy, in honor of their favorite author.

Arbor Day at Fremont School, Santa Rosa, California; 1917

Isabella found out about it, and a few days after the Arbor Day ceremony, she sent the school a lovely letter.

Dear Young Blossoms:

How shall Pansy thank you for the sweet thought which made you choose out her from among all the people in this full world for the honor bestowed?

Oh, I hope the tree will grow, and grow, and spread out its branches, and cast its cool, restful shadows just as far as God meant it should, and do its own pleasant work in the world.

An Arbor Day ceremony at a small school in Massachusetts; 1915.

Later in the letter, Isabella reminded the young arborists that there was another tree—the tree of life—that was even more important:

Fair young blossoms, will you grow in beauty and bloom always for Jesus? Shall we gather, all of us, some day, under the branches of the tree of life, and talk the earth-story over?

She closed the letter to the children as she always did—with an earnest invitation to one day meet her in Heaven.

I do not know that I can ever stand under the shade of the green tree that you have so kindly named for me, but I feel sure of that other one. Will you all meet me there?

Your grateful friend,
Pansy

Her sweet letter to the children was printed in the local newspaper. You can read the entire letter by clicking on the image below.

Would you like to know more about the Pansy Society? Click here to read a previous post.

And you can click here to read a post about The Pansy magazine.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 21!

Riding the Cars — A Jigsaw Puzzle for You

18 Sep

“She sat with the newspaper in her lap and went over and over again her interesting puzzle.”

(Missent, by Isabella Alden)

Like Miss Stafford in the above quote from Missent, many of Isabella’s characters solved puzzles. Granted, most of those puzzles involved logic or figuring out a problem in life, but they were puzzles nevertheless.

If you enjoy solving puzzles, too, here’s one of the jigsaw variety. This puzzle will reveal an image that illustrates a phrase that appears in the majority of Isabella’s books:

“Riding the cars.”

Ready to solve the puzzle? Just follow this link to solve the jigsaw puzzle online. Start the puzzle by clicking “Okay,” then just drag and drop the individual pieces in the order you choose.

And if you need some help, just click here to see what the finished puzzle will look like.

Once you’re done, be sure to return here to the blog or Isabella’s Facebook page, and tell us how you liked solving this jigsaw puzzle.

Remember, your comment enters you in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card, which will be awarded on Friday, September 21, 2018.

 

Announcing This Week’s Winner!

14 Sep

Thank you for joining us as we continue to celebrate our . . .

5 Year Blogiversary!

We’re happy to announce the winner of this week’s $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway.

And the Winner is . . .

Diane!

Diane, please leave a comment on this blog post (your comment will not be published) or direct message us on Isabella’s Facebook page to verify your email address.

The party isn’t over!

We’ll continue our Blogiversary celebration next week with . . .

A new free read by Isabella Alden!

Puzzles and Posts about Isabella’s life and books!

Another drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

To enter the drawing, just post a comment on any blog or Facebook post.

Please join us!

 

Searching for Pansy’s Daughter

13 Sep

There was a person in Isabella’s life whom she loved dearly, but rarely talked about. Her name was Frances Alden.

In 1892 Isabella and her husband Gustavus “Ross” Alden were living in Washington, D.C. Ross was the minister of the local Presbyterian Church; their son Raymond was 19 years old and studying not far away at the University of Pennsylvania.

Through one means or another Isabella—at the age of 52—became a mother again. She and Ross adopted a baby girl, whom they named Frances.

Isabella plunged into her second motherhood with the same energy and thoughtfulness that marked all her endeavors. She and Ross took Frances with them everywhere. She was always nearby when Isabella gave a speech or lecture. This news clipping documents one time when Isabella had to cancel a speech because Frances was ill:

From the Evening Star (Washington, DC) April 5, 1895

By the time she was three years old, Frances had wintered in Florida, spent summers at Chautauqua, and traveled across the country from coast to coast, all in the company of her adopted mother and father.

From The Los Angeles Times, Wednesday, January 1, 1901.

Perhaps Isabella’s speeches and magazine articles on the topic of rearing children offered fresh new perspectives because of her experience with Frances.

From the Sacramento Daily Union, October 25, 1897.

When their son Raymond secured a teaching position at Stanford University, Isabella and Ross moved their little family to California. They built a beautiful home on Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto (read more about their home here) and enrolled Frances in the local public school. They cheered her accomplishments large and small, including her promotion from third to fourth grade:

Palo Alto Press, May 21, 1902.

Thanks to Isabella’s successful writing career, she and Ross could afford to give Frances every advantage. When they realized Frances had been blessed with a talent for music, they ensure Frances had the best music and voice teachers.

By the time Frances entered her teen years, she was an accomplished singer and musician, and often performed in school and at church.

The Daily Palo Alto Times, March 9, 1907.

She was also acquiring a reputation as a notable beauty; and Isabella and Ross were determined to protect their daughter from flatterers.

When Frances was fifteen, they enrolled her at Park College, a small Christian school in Missouri.

The Daily Palo Alto Times on August 20, 1907.

There are no records to account for Frances’ time at Park College; but by the time she turned 18 in 1911, Frances was once again living at home with Isabella and Ross.

And she had changed quite a bit. Frances had become either rebellious or something of a prankster; either way her actions resulted in her having to appear in juvenile court at least once. The more Isabella and Ross tried to curb her behavior, the more Frances resisted.

In desperation, Isabella and Ross sent her to the Florence Crittenden Home, which was a nationwide network of residential homes that specialized in treating and caring for delinquent teens and unmarried pregnant women. Frances remained at Crittenden for four months.

When she returned to the Alden home, Frances decided to enroll at Stanford University, where her brother Raymond was a Professor of English. Her willingness to pursue her education must have been encouraging for Isabella and Ross.

Unfortunately, when Frances entered Stanford, she did so dressed in disguise. For three days she masqueraded as a male student on the campus and in the classroom. The discovery of her deceit caused a scandal, and probably caused Raymond quite a bit of embarrassment, as well.

Her prank was the last straw for Isabella and Ross. Once again they made the decision to send Frances away, but this time, they decided to send Frances to the Florence Crittenden Home in Los Angeles, 362 miles away.

Still rebellious, Frances arrived in Los Angeles, but instead of checking into the Crittenden Home, she went, instead, to the Home of the Good Shepherd, and tried to sign herself in under the name Vera Carter, which she declared to be her real name.

As bad as the entire experience was for Isabella, there were even more trying times to come.

Somehow, the newspapers caught wind of the situation. Isabella awoke one morning in January 1911 to find her troubles with Frances described in large print in newspapers across the country.

Reno Gazette Journal, January 18, 1911

.

From the San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 1911.

.

Oakland Tribune, January 16, 1911.

How long Frances remained at the Home of the Good Shepherd is unknown, and once again, there are no records to help us understand what happened to Frances next. Records do show that she remained in Los Angeles.

In 1923, at the age of 31, she married a man named Bertram Minch. Bert worked for an oil company as a well operator in the oil fields, and later as an engineer for the city of Beverly Hills, California.

Frances and Bert remained married until his death in 1963. They never had children of their own.

There are no records or newspaper accounts to tell us if Frances and Isabella ever saw each other after Frances entered the Home of the Good Shepherd. It could be that Frances severed all ties with her mother, or perhaps it was Isabella who severed ties with Frances.

Either way, in her memoirs, Memories of Yesterdays, which she wrote in the last months of her life, Isabella did not mention Frances at all. And after Isabella was badly injured in a fall, it was her daughter-in-law Barbara Hitt Alden who took care of her, not Frances.

When Raymond Alden passed away in 1924, Frances’ name was not mentioned in his obituary as a surviving family member. The same was true when Isabella and Ross died; Frances’ name was not listed in their obituaries.

Isabella built her career and her reputation on her love for children and her desire to lead young lives to Christ. With this in mind, her experience with Frances had to be among the most difficult and painful events in her life.

Isabella always said:

“Whenever things went wrong, I went home and wrote a book to make them come out right.”

Perhaps, in one of Isabella’s books, there is a character like Frances with a mother like Isabella, whose stories end with a happily ever after.


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 14!

Inside Pansy’s Classroom

12 Sep

Isabella Alden taught Sunday school for decades. It was one of her favorite things to do, and she was widely considered to be an expert in the field of teaching very young children about the Bible.

A chapter heading from the book “How to Teach the Little Folks” by J. Bennet Tyler, 1875.

Her favorite age-group to teach was what she called the “infant class”—children who were not yet old enough to read, or were just beginning to read.

She wrote many articles and regularly conducted classes on how to teach children about the Bible and God’s promise of salvation through Christ.

From the book “Chautauqua: Historical and Descriptive,” 1884.

She once said:

“My ideal Sunday school classroom is bright, well ventilated, curtained, carpeted, with low, easy seats, flowers on the desk and in the windows, ornamental pictures on the walls, a good sized portable revolving blackboard in a central position, maps and charts and diagrams, and whatever else will help to illustrate Bible truths gathered into that pleasant spot.”

While that may have been her ideal Sunday school classroom, the truth was that Isabella often taught her little students over the vestibule of a dingy old church. Instead of ornamental pictures on the walls, more often than not she had to use pictures cut out of a Bible dictionary to help illustrate her lesson, and a broken slate for a blackboard.

But Isabella did not suffer those situations for very long. She knew how to brighten a dingy spot and make it attractive:

“Home pictures and flowers are cheap, and tact and patience can transform any sort of a place into something like beauty. I always have the best room I can get, and make it as attractive as possible.”

Once Isabella had the physical location of her Sunday school under control, she was free to concentrate on teaching her little ones.

The Kindergarten Class, by Max Lieberman, 1880.

When she was just starting out, she once had a class that began very badly. The wee ones were afraid to even whisper, and she could not coax them to repeat their verses no matter how hard she tried. When she tried to talk to each little scholar individually, they were so frightened, they began to cry. Clearly, there was no point in trying to coax them into singing a little hymn. So what did Isabella do?

Late for School, by Julius Johann Ferdinand Kronberg, 1872.

The next week she brought with her half a dozen little girls from her regular schoolroom where she was teaching during the week.

“These little ones were good readers, some of them, but with pretty childlike ways. They knew their lessons and were not afraid to say so, and they sang like birds. The consequence was that my timid ones soon caught their spirit, and my class of infants which bade fair to be a dismal failure became a success.”

What do you imagine it was like to be in Isabella’s Sunday-school class? She gave us some hints in one of the articles she wrote about teaching. Here’s the agenda she typically followed:

Roll call
Prayer
Collection
Singing
Five minutes talk about the hymn just sung
Distribution of cards for next Sabbath’s lesson
Reading those cards in concert
Singing
Distribution of papers
Recitation of verses

She liked to keep the opening prayer brief; just a few simple sentences which she had the children repeat after her. Then they would close with the Lord’s Prayer in concert.

The Sunday School, by Robert McInnes

If any of the children remembered to bring their pennies for the collection, Isabella taught them to repeat this little verse as they deposited them in the plate:

Small are the offerings we can make,
But thou hast taught us, Lord,
If given for the Savior’s sake,
They lose not their reward.

Since the majority of her students were too young to read, Isabella found ways to teach them Bible verses and poems to illustrate a short lesson. One of her favorites was a poem that many children still learn today:

Two little eyes to look to God,
Two little ears to hear his Word,
Two little feet to walk in his ways,
Two little lips to sing his praise,
Two little hands to do his will,
And one little heart to love him still.

And she taught them to “point to the different portions of their body indicated by the words they speak.”

She always selected a verse for the children to memorize. She read the verse with her students aloud and reread it until the bright ones could repeat it from memory; then she talked about the verse with her class, and stressed the importance of reciting the verse correctly. The following week, she used that verse as the foundation for her lesson.

“I like to cluster my talk [around] one personal practical thought that will make clear the fact that the story is for each little boy and girl who hears it. “

Her “talk” was, in reality, a story. She used illustrations from little ones’ home, school and playground experiences to build a relatable story. Then, when she reached the point of the story when the lesson was to be revealed, she let her class bring in the verse they had learned the week before.

“The delight which little children feel in discovering that what they have learned fits in with what their teacher is telling them a story about, can only be appreciated by those who see it.”

The school Walk by Albert Anker, 1872.

When it was time to close the lesson it was her preference that no books or pictures should be distributed.

“No outside matter should be allowed to come in between the pupils and the impression earnestly sought to be made.”

She did not even like to close with singing unless she found a hymn that had a clear connection with the lesson.

“I like better to close with a very brief prayer woven out of the words of the golden text, and so send the little ones away with a sweet and clear impression of the Bible lesson of the day.”

Isabella used the same method in crafting her stories for young people and adults. She chose a Bible verse and a lesson or theme she wanted to communicate about a specific verse, and wove a story around it. It was a process that served her well for the one-hundred-plus novels she wrote in her lifetime!


This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 14!

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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