Isabella was born and raised in upstate New York, so she was very familiar with east coast winters.
After she and Reverend Alden married, they served congregations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. where winter storms often brought snow, wind, and dangerous ice.
Fortunately, Isabella’s book sales allowed the Alden family to sometimes spend a portion of their winter months in sunny Florida; still, there were times Reverend Alden’s duties kept them in the cold and snowy north instead.
When the good reverend retired in 1910 the Aldens moved to California, where they built their dream house in Palo Alto (click here to read more about their house).
Never again did they have to deal with harsh winters, extreme cold, or deep drifts of snow that had to be cleared from walkways and roads.
The Aldens found California winters delightful. Januarys were warm and mild; Februarys boasted average temperatures around 60 degrees. For them, snow banks and ice dams were things of the past.
In her letters to old friends and relatives in the east, Isabella might have mentioned the perfect weather she enjoyed, free of “fierce storms and slushy spring thaws.”
And when she hadn’t time to write letters, she could send off a quick postcard that made her point for her about California winters.
Picture postcards made up a large portion of the California printing industry. They featured color photographs that depicted what it was like to spend a winter in that state.
Some postcards featured images of flowers that bloomed in the winter months, like poppies and bougainvillea.
Isabella loved flowers and often marveled over the varieties of roses that bloomed beside her porch in California:
“Red, cream, salmon, pure white, and every shade of pink. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them! The world seems made of roses!”
Other postcards showed people boating on lakes or swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter.
Each postcard was like a little advertisement for the state of California, teasing and enticing people to come live the good life among the orange groves and poppy fields of the west coast.
Isabella was an ambassador for the state, as well, because California life certainly seemed to agree with her. One day in November she wrote to her niece, Grace Livingston Hill:
“Today is glorious sunshine, and the grass and trees glow in their freshly painted garments of green after the rain of yesterday.”
It sounds like Isabella was very happy in her California home!
Isabella Alden knew all about the Christmas shopping season. She had a large extended family, and she either bought or made gifts for each family member.
Her niece, author Grace Livingston Hill, recalled what it was like when the Aldens, Livingstons, and Macdonalds got together:
Our Christmases were happy, thrilling times. There were many presents, nearly all of them quite inexpensive, most of them home-made, occupying spare time for weeks beforehand; occasionally a luxury, but more often a necessity; not any of the expensive nothings that spell Christmas for most people today.
Isabella—being a clever and creative person—made many of the gifts she gave.
Sometimes she got gift-making ideas from magazines. She subscribed to The Ladies’ Home Journal and Harper’s Bazar, both of which regularly printed directions for making items to use or give as gifts. Sometimes she passed those ideas and directions on to her own readers.
For example, an 1898 issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal published instructions for making this pretty wall pocket:
Isabella liked the idea so much, she wrote simplified instructions that children could follow and printed them in an issue of The Pansy magazine. She told her readers how to make the wall pocket from pine board, calico, buttons, and felt, and hinted it would make a lovely gift “for mamma.” She wrote:
I get the idea and most of the details from Harper’s Bazar. The article from which they are taken says the contrivance is for an invalid, but let me assure you that mamma will like it very much, or, for the matter of that, papa also.
At Christmas she encouraged boys and girls to make gifts not only for family members and friends, but for strangers, too. She wrote this to readers of The Pansy magazine:
How many Pansies are planning the Christmas gifts they will make? In all the merry bustle and happy, loving thoughts, don’t forget to throw a bit of kindly cheer into those poor little lives darkened by distress and want.
If every member of The Pansy Society would make some little gift as a loving reminder to one who otherwise would have none, how many children, think you, would be made happy?
Remember, you do it “For Jesus’ sake.”
There were instructions for making this simple knitting bag, made of fabric, ribbon, and embroidery hoops:
And this case, made from pieces of cardboard and colored ribbons, to hold photos, greeting cards, or pictures cut from magazines.
What a delightful present that will be when you get it done! I can imagine an ingenious girl and boy putting their heads together, and making many variations which would be a comfort to the fortunate owner.
Isabella always knew how to give those gentle reminders that children (and adults!) sometimes need about the true spirit of Christmas.
What is your favorite way to share the message of Christmas with people in need?
Have you ever made a Christmas gift for someone? How was it received?
As a popular author, Isabella received plenty of publicity and media coverage, and she was probably used to seeing her name in print.
In 1893 her niece, Grace Livingston Hill was just beginning to garner some publicity of her own. A few of Grace’s stories had been published in magazines, including The Pansy, so she was already building a following of loyal readers.
Then, in April 1893, the following article about Grace appeared in a Christian magazine:
THE REVEREND AND MRS. FRANKLIN HILL
Pansy’s niece, Grace Livingston (now Mrs. Franklin Hill) has perhaps almost as warm a corner in the hearts of our readers as their older friend “Pansy,” and therefore we are glad to give the photographs of herself and her husband. Mr. Hill. [He] is pastor of a flourishing church in one of the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania—a young man of noble character and fine intellectual gifts.
To quote from a paper giving an account of their recent marriage:
“When two souls such as these, energetic, consecrated, and peculiarly gifted, unite their lives and aims, there is promise of much good work for the Master.”
Doubtless thousands who never saw Grace Livingston’s face, feel acquainted with her, and really are acquainted with her through her writings, for a true author’s true self goes into her works. She has a bright and charming style, which reminds one of that of her aunt, Mrs. Alden (“Pansy”), and of her mother, Mrs. C. L. Livingston, who is often a collaborator with Mrs. Alden.
Mrs. Hill is not an imitator, however, or an echo of anyone else, but has a genuine style and literary character of her own. She is, moreover, much more than a mere writer. The daughter of a Presbyterian Minister, trained from her earliest days to work for the Master, she has thrown herself enthusiastically into His service.
“She has,” writes a friend, “a passion for soul-saving, and will not give up a bad boy when all others do, but pleads with him, and prays, and has patience, and often has the joy of reward, in the changed character of boys who will remember her gratefully through life. She sometimes gathers about her on Sabbath afternoons a group of older boys, and leads them on to discuss Christian evidences and the moral questions of the day, amusements, etc. On these subjects she takes high ground, setting them to search for the opinions of master minds in religious thought, and to learn what Scripture teaches on the themes under discussion. This will go on for months, each of the informal meetings delightful to the boys.”
The work of the Christian Endeavor Society is very near her heart, and she has given much time and strength to it, as her writings prove. Of late she has been especially identified with the Chautauqua Christian Endeavor reading course, whose success in the future will be largely due to her energy. While in Chautauqua during the summer, she spends much of her time in promoting the interests of the Chautauqua Christian Endeavor Society.
How can we end this brief sketch better than by quoting the words of a friend, who says:
“She loves dearly to have her own way, and yet she is one of those rare characters who knows how to yield her will sweetly for peace sake, and so for Christ’s sake.”
What a lovely article! It gives readers hints of the great work (in addition to her writing) that Grace would accomplish in the years to come.
The article appeared only four months after Grace and Thomas Franklin “Frank” Hill were married. After their marriage they both stayed involved in the Christian Endeavor Society. Together they wrote The Christian Endeavor Hour with Light for the Leader, a guide book that contained lessons and Bible verses CE societies could use in conducting their meetings. The book was published in 1896.
Grace’s “passion for soul-saving” flourished, as well. In later years she established a mission Sunday School for immigrant families in her community. It was just one of the many endeavors Grace undertook that resulted in “good work for the Master.”
Isabella Alden was deeply involved in the Christian Endeavor movement that took root in America and swept around the world in the late 1800s. She regularly contributed to the Christian Endeavor newspaper; and she wrote about Christian Endeavor in of her novels Chrissy’s Endeavor, Her AssociateMembers, and others.
Isabella’s family was involved in Christian Endeavor, as well. Her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, served as president of a Christian Endeavor chapter. One of Grace’s early novellas was a Christian Endeavor story called “The Parkerstown Delegate;” and with her husband Grace published a guide for Christian Endeavor leaders that was widely used by C. E. chapters.
The Christian Endeavor Society held regular annual conventions in the U.S. that were very well attended by people from all over the country; but in 1896 the society held an international convention in Washington D.C. Thousands of Christians of all ages, nationalities, and denominations, descended upon the U.S. Capitol for five days of non-stop meetings, worship services, training classes, and Bible studies.
Isabella knew Washington, D.C. very well. She and her family lived there for three years when her husband served as assistant pastor of The Eastern Presbyterian Church, located just blocks from the Capitol building (read about her D.C. home here). In early 1896 the Aldens moved to New Jersey, just a short train ride away from Washington; so it’s entirely possible the Aldens attended all or part of the international convention that year.
The convention opened on Thursday, July 9 and ended the following Monday. Convention attendees were given a schedule of events and a map to help them travel from venue to venue, most commonly by foot.
Attendees braved the heat, the humidity, and the stifling crowds of fellow Endeavorers that thronged the mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building.
On The Ellipse, located between The White House and the Washington Monument, enormous tents were erected where meetings and lectures were held.
Each tent was designed to hold hundreds of people, but some evening gatherings drew enormous crowds. At times there were so many people, and the interiors of the tents became so hot, the tent sides had to be raised to allow fresh air to circulate.
But of all the activities that took place over the five-day convention, there was one event that stood out and was talked about for months afterward.
On Saturday evening, July 9, a patriotic service was planned to take place on the east front of the Capitol Building.
The service was described as “a great song service” of patriotic songs and hymns led by a chorus of four thousand voices.
A photographer captured this image of the chorus assembling on the steps of the Capitol:
One newspaper enthusiastically wrote that the patriotic service was “grand music to listen to, and something to remember.”
At the conclusion of the service, the chorus, the Marine band, and the audience left the Capitol steps to march down the National Mall to the Ellipse, where they gathered at Tent Endeavor.
The song service was a tremendous success! While there was no official count, attendees believed there were just as many singers among the audience as there were on the Capitol steps.
If that’s true, there were over eight thousand people at the service, all raising their voices together in songs of praise!
What do you think it was like to sing hymns with thousands of other people?
Have you ever participated in an outdoor sing-a-long where your voices could be heard for blocks?
The Chautauqua Christian Endeavour Society should not be forgotten as a helpful influence in bringing not only the young, but all classes of people together, and making them acquainted. This society not only includes all members of the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour who visit at Chautauqua, but also members of any denominational societies doing similar work.
Here, in the white-pillared Hall of Philosophy, they meet for an hour just at early evening, every week, and hold their prayer-meeting; and the voice of prayer and song or words of cheer, of comfort, of consecration, come from many. One other hour each week is also given to a conference, where the members compare notes on the best ways of working in various lines.
Last summer the plan was enlarged and a Working Committee formed. The grounds were divided into districts, and each Member of the Executive Committee became responsible for the work in one district; putting a topic card and notices in every cottage on the grounds, and giving to all strangers invitations to Meetings and Socials of the Society. Much good work was accomplished, and many strange young people made to feel at home.
There was also a room used as Headquarters, where were books and other literature relative to young people’s Christian work, and where could be found stationery and a quiet place to write or read. The registry book showed that a goodly number of young people availed themselves of this privilege.
This Society held an Autograph Social during the season in the parlours of the hotel, which was a great success.
Here and there you might have seen some favourite professor backed up against the wall with a double semicircle of his devoted students about him, eagerly holding their cards up, and he writing as if for dear life. But it was everywhere noticeable with what heartiness each one entered into the spirit of the hour, and demanded a name on his own card in return for every one he gave.
From this gathering it was difficult to send the people home, even after the solemn night-bell had rung; and the small boy who collected the pencils was very sleepy when the last couples left the parlour, smiling and chatting of the pleasant evening spent.
And the chimes make a beautiful ending to a day at Chautauqua. Whether you are wandering by the lake shore, or through the lovely avenues, it matters not; they are sweet. Sweeter, perhaps, just a little, as they ring out over the water, calling you in from a moonlight row or yacht ride. “Bonnie Doon,” “Blue Bells of Scotland,” “Robin Adair,” “Long, Long Ago,” all the old airs, and by-and-bye growing more serious— “Softly Now the Light of Day,” “Silently the Shades of Evening,” “Glory to Thee, my God, this Night,” and the “Vesper” hymn for good-night.
In 1894, when Grace wrote this article, collecting autographs was a popular way to preserve memories of an event. It wasn’t until 1900 when Kodak introduced their Brownie box camera that the average American could commemorate travels, celebrations, and other events with photos they took themselves.
Did you enjoy this tour of Chautauqua through Grace’s eyes?
Hopefully, her words gave you a sense of what it must have been like to visit Chautauqua 127 years ago!
This post is Part 4 of an article Grace Livingston Hill wrote about the delightful offerings for young women at Chautauqua Institution. The article was published in an 1894 issue of the YWCA newspaper.
Chautauqua has attractions and social possibilities all her own. There are innumerable receptions and class gatherings, where one meets not only one’s own associates, teachers and leaders, but also many distinguished men and women from all parts of the land.
The gymnasium holds its annual reception generally with some entertainment.
The choir, under Dr. Palmer, has a reception.
Occasionally a class in botany or geology takes a day off and goes in a body to Panama, or some other interesting place, for a good time with a little study mixed in.
There are receptions of all sorts and descriptions. Two years ago, one was given in honour of several returned missionaries.
To the members of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle—and there are many—there is no more interesting night on the whole programme than the one given up to their class receptions.
One of the latest developments of this place of many new ideas is the Girls’ Outlook Club.
Five mornings in a week last summer, the girls and young women gathered in a pleasant room and discussed things useful, ornamental, or nonsensical, about “Ourselves, Our Homes, and Our Neighbours.” There they compared notes on all sorts of hobbies, and carried away many helpful hints for life, the gaining of which had been but the pleasant passing of an hour together; their talk interspersed with music by some of their number, or bright, interesting speeches of a few minutes from different notable men and women.
This club filled a long-felt need in the heart of every girl who attended it. But this was not all. The entire membership was divided into small circles, with a leader at the head of each, and with some certain work for each to do. These circles were named from well-known women.
And this charming company did not keep all their good times to themselves. Once a week they had a social; a Colonial Tea, or a Cap and Gown Tea, or a Musical Tea, or a Tennis Tea, to which they invited all their friends, men and women. These were most delightful occasions. At the Cap and Gown Tea a number of college girls were attired in their caps and gowns, and were ranged in a row and called a library. The volumes were all named, and anyone in the room was allowed to draw a book and talk with her for five minutes, provided the theme of conversation was her college. Each girl had bits of ribbon in her college colours to give as souvenirs to the friends with whom she had conversed. Tiny paper caps were given as badges to all college people. The tea was voted a success.
None the less so were the entertainments which followed in the next few weeks. The Colonial Tea, where all the girls were transformed into ladies of that old-time period, with high powdered hair and short-waisted dresses, and where one circle had some mysterious symbolic puzzles arranged, was most charming.
Indeed, both the young women and young men of Chautauqua were delighted with the Girls’ Club.
wasn’t it a clever idea to arrange college grads in a row like a library? what’s the most clever party idea you’ve ever encountered?
join us tomorrow for the final post in the series when Grace focuses on a subject dear to her heart: the young people’s society of Christian endeavor.
Chautauqua has her Field Day now, when you can see wonders in high jumping, hurdling, sprinting and the like, owing to the fact that many of the college athletes spend much time here, some as teachers, some as pupils and one thing or another, and many as pleasure-seekers.
Then there is the baseball ground, and many an exciting game may be watched; for Chautauqua’s team is a good one and seldom beaten, partly because the players are picked college men, and partly because of the excellent training they have undergone.
Bicycles are numerous at Chautauqua now. There is a bicycle club, which makes long and short excursions around the country. Sometimes you see two or three wheelmen or wheelwomen taking their machines on board the steamers. They ride from one point to another, and when tired, or their time has given out, they take the next steamboat back home again.
There are horses on the grounds, and there is not a little horseback-riding, and driving also.
One of the pleasures which must be had as a matter of course every year is a trip to Panama Rocks, ten miles from the Assembly Grounds.
The people go in parties, large or small for the day. The drive is a most enjoyable one, with a good, hard road all the way. The village of Panama, not far from the Rocks, is a dainty, clean little place dropped down among the green hills, away from any railroad, and bearing that mark of restfulness and almost Sabbath peace which one reads about occasionally in ancient books, but seldom sees. There are some white houses set amid its green, with tiny window panes, green blinds, porches with straight benches on either side, and a high door knocker, where one expects to see ruffled dimity curtains at the windows, and a dear little old lady appearing at the door with white bordered cap and snowy kerchief crossed over her bosom; and surely there must be a spinning-wheel or two stowed away in those attics.
The rocks are intensely interesting to a geologist, and many go there to study their formation; but they are also attractive to the mere pleasure seeker, for there are lovely places to scramble up and down, or sit and talk; and many broad, flat rocks for dining-tables, with the trees and birds and squirrels for company.
It is also a pleasant drive to Hogsback Gulf, and further on to Westfield, and about the shore of Lake Erie, where one of the old lighthouses still stands.
But the loveliest ride of all is to the brow of the hill beyond Mayville, just at early evening, when the sky is flushed with those soft sleepy tones, and the “night is wide and furnished scant, with but a single star.” There you can see both Lake Chautauqua and Lake Erie, held in the arms of the sky, with delicate etchings of farmhouses and haystacks standing in clear relief against it all.
After all, such things can be had at almost any summer resort, though you ought to know that Chautauqua is as rich in them as is any other place in our beautiful land. But she has attractions and social possibilities all her own. There are innumerable receptions and class gatherings, where one meets not only one’s own associates, teachers and leaders, but also many distinguished men and women from all parts of the land.
in tomorrow’s post Grace talks about Chautauqua’s girls’ clubs and the different entertainments each club hosts.
what do you think of Grace’s descriptions so far of the many things to do in and around Chautauqua?
In 1894 (at the age of twenty-nine) Grace Livingston Hill wrote an article for the YWCA newspaper, in which she described Chautauqua’s many offerings for young women.
Today we present Part 2 of the article. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.
Recreations at Chautauqua
Quite near the bath-houses on the shore stands the gymnasium. You have heard all about that. That is where physical culture teachers go to be taught how to teach, and wear themselves out with listening to lectures on physiology, anatomy and orthopedics.
But you have “come to rest, and want nothing of this kind”? Have you not learned that even the children take rest and pleasure here? If you do not know the delight of exercise in unison with others, in time to music, enter a class “just for fun,” and try it. You will surely gain health and strength, and probably be perfectly fascinated by the club-swinging or fencing, or the hoop drill, or the slow, graceful movements of the Delsarte. It is real pleasure to those initiated.
There are the inviting tennis courts, a goodly number, and in fine condition. By the lake or on the hill you may play to your heart’s content.
Tired of tennis? Would you like to walk? The new grove is a cool, delightful place in which to walk or sit and rest and talk a little. There are no houses there, and few people to interrupt the loveliness of nature. Even the tall trees bend and whisper when they wish to talk, and the birds and the breezes have it all to themselves.
Off at one side you see the Hall of Philosophy, with its company of eager listeners at almost any hour in the day; on the other side a quiet ravine with the tiniest of brooks for picturesqueness; and beyond the high boundary fence and white road rise the blue and purple wooded hills.
There are lovely walks outside the gates, too, when you care to take a long walk, with the most bewildering and charmingly old-fashioned, cool, dark woods, filled with ferns and mosses of all descriptions.
A pleasant company one summer started out in the morning with lunch baskets and the usual picnic trappings, and spent the day in this beautiful retreat. They blazed the way with red and white strips of cloth embellished with poetry written by the entire company, for some of their party who were to follow later.
In sight of Chautauqua’s towers they were, with a good view of her lovely blue lake, and in sound of her hourly bells, but as utterly shut away from all the busy working place as if they had been in the heart of the North Woods.
The day was one to be remembered by all, but they nevertheless were, every one, glad to get back to the grounds as evening drew on.
There are walks by the lakes, up hill and down dale; by pleasant cottages, where you catch glimpses of the restful, or busy life, as the case may be, going on within.
Some groves and parks are hung thick with hammocks from the surrounding cottages. Oh, people have a good time at Chautauqua!
Occasionally, as you walk, you come upon a little group of photographers from the School of Photography, taking their first lessons in the art, perhaps; or here and there one more advanced in its mysteries is able to go by himself and pose with a black cloth over his head, trying to take a better view of the Amphitheatre than anyone else has yet succeeded in doing.
Grace was an excellent athlete and even taught sports and physical culture in her days at Rollins college. In tomorrow’s post, Grace describes the “wonders in high jumping, hurdling, sprinting and the like” at Chautauqua.
You can read more about Grace and the athletic classes she taught at Rollins College by clicking here.
We most often associate Chautauqua Institution with Isabella Alden because of the vivid way she brought the place to life in many of her novels.
But her niece, author Grace Livingston Hill, also loved Chautauqua. She famously wrote her novella A Chautauqua Idyl at the age of twenty-two to earn the money to go to Chautauqua when her family’s already tight budget could not stand the expense.
Like her aunt Isabella, Grace was an excellent ambassador for Chautauqua. In 1894 (at the age of twenty-nine) she wrote an article for the YWCA newspaper, in which she explained Chautauqua’s many offerings for young women.
Throughout the article you get a sense of Grace’s love for Chautauqua, as well as her thorough knowledge of the place.
It’s a rather lengthy article, so we’re going to break it down and share a portion of it every day this week. So, without further ado, here’s Part 1 of “Recreations at Chautauqua” by Grace Livingston Hill:
Recreations at Chautauqua
“Did you do nothing but study all last summer at Chautauqua?” asked one young woman of another a few days ago.
“I did nothing but have a good time this year. I was all tired out, and needed a frolic, so I had one,” was the reply.
“But,” said the first in a puzzled tone, “you always go there to study something. I thought Chautauqua was just a big school. You did not call it a frolic to attend lectures and classes all the time, surely?”
“Nothing of the kind,” said the other girl; and then she launched into such a glowing account of the attractions of the place as every true Chautauquan knows how, and well loves to give.
There is a side to Chautauqua about which very little has been spoken or written. In that charmed spot, as nowhere else, can a summer of varied delights be spent. It is by no means all lectures and study and “deep” talk.
In the first place, of course, there is the lake. The waves that roll about this fair point are not so thoroughly impregnated with wisdom that the sunlight does not glance from them as merrily, or they do not carry the many boats as daintily, as the waters about many other points on the lake. Neither are the fish thereabouts too intellectual to bite, occasionally at least, for the benefit of an amateur.
There are some shy water lilies not too far away, which can be found if diligent search be made. And there is the cool, quiet inlet for days when the water is a little rough, or the sun warmer than is pleasant.
Occasionally there is a bit of excitement in the way of a race between a ladies’ crew and a men’s crew which have been drilling under the eye of a skilled oarsman. Then, if you do not care for the rowboat or a sail, there are those delightful trips on the great steamers. Why, one may spend the whole day—in fact, the whole summer—on the lake if one chooses, and then not go to the end of its beauties.
You must see it early in the morning, when the white mist the night has spread over it is being removed, and the distant banks look like a pictured fairy land; or later, when the sun has kissed the waves into dancing brightness. See it when the day is drawing to its close, and perhaps you will hear the voices of Chautauqua’s great chorus in the distance.
You must not forget to get in the lake some day, and join the merry bathers.
In tomorrow’s post, Grace describes the “health and strength” to be gained by visiting Chautauqua.
If you haven’t yet read Grace’s charming book A Chautauqua Idyl, you can click on the excerpt below to read it for free.
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.
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.
But even with all that fabric, women’s gowns lacked one essential convenience modern women today take for granted: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.