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Helen Lester

3 Jan

Isabella Alden’s first novel, Helen Lester, was published in 1865 when she was 24 years old.

The original book included a few illustrations. This one depicts the moment in the story when Helen’s older brother leads her to the Christ.

Helen Lester was a great success and launched Isabella’s writing career, but it almost wasn’t published!

You can read more about how Helen Lester came to be—-and read the book for free! Just click here.

Happy Thanksgiving and a New Free Read!

21 Nov

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and in honor of the day, we’re sharing one of Isabella’s short stories from 1891.

About the Story:

Little Nannie Walters simply wishes to dress her favorite doll in lace and linen; but she quickly learns there are consequences for little girls who take things that belong to others—a lesson that could ruin her Thanksgiving day plans.

Read it for free!

You can read “Nannie’s Thanksgiving” on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

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

 

Artificial Flowers

4 Oct

During the late 1800s and early 1900s no true lady ever left home without being properly attired. Isabella Alden would have abided by that rule.

When paying calls or shopping, Isabella, like all women at the time, wore gloves as well as long sleeves and high collars to cover her arms and neck.

Even more importantly, ladies always wore bonnets.

The fashion in 1895: A black straw hat trimmed with artificial roses, lily of the valley, and violets. Courtesy of HistoricNewEngland.org.

Bonnets were de rigeur for any lady in the out of doors; and while styles of bonnets changed from year to year, one constant was decoration; with few exceptions, ladies’ hats were decorated with ribbons, netting, swashes of fabric and—most commonly—with artificial flowers.

Hat styles in 1914, depicted in The Ladies Home Journal.

Woman of the era loved artificial flowers. From small dainty buds to cabbage-sized blooms, women wore them not just on their bonnets, but in their hair and on their gowns, as well.

Artificial flowers were in heavy demand; companies that supplied them were constantly adjusting their prices to gain an upper hand over their competition.

Business card for a dealer in artificial flowers.

In Isabella’s lifetime, the American manufacturing industry was in its infancy; there were no machines that could make artificial flowers. So the flowers were constructed by human fingers, petal by individual petal.

It was tedious, painstaking work that was typically performed by women and children for paltry wages.

Artist Samuel Melton Fisher memorialized flower makers in his 1896 painting

Flower Makers by Samuel Melton Fisher, 1896.

But Mr. Fisher’s painting shows an idealized setting, with women and girls in crisp white aprons happily gluing the petals of flowers together or attaching blooms to stems.

The truth was that the majority of artificial flowers were made as piecework in women’s homes.

A mother and her children making artificial flowers in their home (1910).

In 1908 the city of New York conducted a study of people living in city tenements. As part of the study, they published this photograph depicting Frank, a fourteen-year-old, and his family, who lived in a tenement building:

The city used this caption for the photo:

Frank, 14, John, 11, and Lizzie, 4, work with their parents at home making artificial flowers. The father helps because his health is too poor to do other work. The boys work from Saturday afternoon and evening until 10 or 11 p.m. Lizzie separates petals. They make regularly from ten to twelve gross a week for which they are paid 6 cents a gross.

At 6 cents a gross, Frank’s family earned between 60 and 72 cents a week. To put that amount into perspective, a loaf of bread at the time cost 5 cents; a quarter of milk cost 6 cents, and a dozen eggs cost 22 cents. Given the amount Frank and his family earned, they were able to afford just enough food to survive.

Young women making artificial flowers.

The demand for artificial flowers remained high for decades. Some unscrupulous suppliers rounded up street children and locked them in rooms, forcing them to make flowers for 12 to 14 hours a day. The children were give little food and allowed minimal rest before they were made to begin work again.

Eleanor H. Porter, the popular author of the Pollyanna series of classic children’s novels, wrote about the plight of such children in her book, Cross Currents.

Although many of the children in Isabella’s novels had jobs or worked to help support their families, none of them assembled flowers; still, it was such a wide-spread cottage industry, Isabella was probably very aware of the practice.

There’s no available photograph of Isabella to tell us whether she liked artificial flowers on her bonnets; but in her memoirs, Isabella mentioned that when she was a young bride, she wore a hat that a woman at church felt was “too gay” for a minister’s wife to wear. The woman went so far as to send Isabella an incredibly ugly hat for her to wear instead.

Isabella even wrote about the incident in her novel Aunt Hannah and Martha and John. In the story (just as it happened in Isabella’s real life) an anonymous person sends newly-wed Martha Remington a very unattractive hat. Martha’s struggles in deciding whether to wear the horrid creation to church reflected the very same struggles Isabella endured in the very same situation!

You can read more about the books mentioned in this post by clicking on the book covers.

 

Isabella’s Last Novel

27 Sep

Much has been written about Isabella’s first book, Helen Lester, and how it came to be published.

Less has been written about her last novel, An Interrupted Night. Here’s an interesting fact about the book: in the same way her first novel Helen Lester was published with the help of her best friend, Theodosia Toll Foster, Isabella’s last novel was published with the help of her beloved niece, Grace Livingston Hill.

Isabella Alden

Here’s how it happened. In 1924 Isabella was 82 years old. During that year she suffered great loss: her dear sister Marcia, her husband Ross, and her son Raymond all died within months of each other. Isabella’s writing took a back seat as she made her way through that difficult time.

Ross and Isabella Alden with their son Raymond in 1916

Two years later, in 1926, Isabella was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Palo Alto, California, where she was residing. She lived with the pain of her injuries for years afterward.

Then, in 1929, due in part to those old automobile accident injuries, Isabella fell and broke several bones including her hip. From that point on, Isabella was confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain.

Still, despite everything she had been through, at the age of eighty-seven she had one more story to tell.

Between intervals of constant pain and visits from friends and well-wishers, Isabella began writing her last novel. But even with her best efforts, she struggled to complete the story because, as she said, her body . . .

. . . was unfit for the work that needed to be accomplished.

Finally, determined to get her promised manuscript into the hands of the publisher, Isabella called upon her niece Grace Livingston Hill for help.

Grace Livingston Hill, 1915.

By that time, Grace was a successful novelist in her own right. Still, Grace said of her aunt’s request:

I approach the work with a kind of awe upon me that I should be working on her story! If, long ago in my childhood, it had been told to me that I should ever be counted worthy to do this, I would not have believed it. Before her I shall always feel like the little worshipful child I used to be.

But Grace took up the task, and helped her Aunt Isabella — by then confined to her bed — finish the book.

The novel was titled An Interrupted Night. Isabella said the story was based on actual facts, told to her by one of the people characterized in the story as “Mrs. Dunlap.”

The cover for Isabella’s 1929 novel, An Interrupted Night.

The novel was published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1929 and received very favorable reviews.

One particular review, found in the Fort Lauderdale News on July 12, 1929, begins with this this sentence:

Old readers must have gaped with surprise and thought that their glasses were at fault when they read that a new book by Pansy, Mrs. G. R Alden, will be published soon by Lippincott’s. Shades of sainted grandmothers and all the dear old ladies of the Presbyterian fold, who reveled and doted upon Pansy when they were little girls!

That’s quite a beginning to a book review, isn’t it? Although the review begins with a rather sarcastic tone, it ends on a more respectful note. You can read the entire review by clicking here or on the image below.

Because it’s still protected by copyright, we can’t make An Interrupted Night available to you, but copies of the book do surface in libraries and book stores on a fairly regular basis.

If you find a copy of An Interrupted Night, you’ll be treated to a marvelous story about Mrs. Dunlap and her efforts to convince a young woman to abandon her plans to elope with a man who seems, on the surface, to be her ideal mate.

It’s a Pansy story in the truest sense, with a wonderfully sweet ending, engaging dialog throughout, and important life lessons for her characters —and readers! — to learn along the way.


This is the last post in 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 tomorrow.

 

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.

Pansies for Thoughts

20 Sep

Yesterday you read a lovely letter Isabella wrote to the students of an elementary school, thanking them for planting a tree in her honor.

Isabella’s writings—her books, stories, letters, and lessons—are filled with quote-worthy lines. Here’s an example from her novel, Tip Lewis and His Lamp:

In the story, The Reverend Mr. Holbrook asked that question of young Tip Lewis to help him realize that his resentment toward another boy was jeopardizing his own standing with God.

It was Isabella’s way of illustrating the Bible verse: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

That was Isabella’s genius: she had a talent for explaining the Bible in terms anyone—young or old—could understand.

One of the greatest admirers of Isabella’s talent was her niece, Grace Livingston Hill. When Grace was twenty-three years old, she was the newly published author of her first book, A Chautauqua Idyll. And she was ready for her next project.

Grace turned her attention to her Aunt Isabella’s books. She combed through them, selected inspiring quotes, and organized them into a daily devotional, with each quote accompanied by an applicable verse from the Bible.

The result of Grace’s efforts was called Pansies for Thoughts, and it became her second published book.

The original cover for Grace’s 1888 devotional, Pansies for Thoughts.

Isabella wrote a brief Preface for the book, with a prayer that . . .

The Holy Spirit would use these pages in a way to lead some souls daily higher, and higher, even into the “shining light” of the “perfect day.”

Pansies for Thoughts is a wonderful daily devotional, and you can read the book for free! Click here to download the e-book version for your Kindle, Nook, or tablet. Or you can download a PDF version to print or read on your computer.


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 morning, September 21!

Searching for Pansy’s Titles

11 Sep

Isabella Alden was a prolific writer of Christian stories and novels for children and adults. We’ve compiled a list of 213 of her titles (which you can see here) and she may have written even more!

To celebrate Isabella’s beloved stories, here’s a word search puzzle for you, created from the titles of her books.

Choose how you want to play:

To play online, click here. Then, click and drag to reveal each listed book title. You can play the online puzzle until September 30.

To print the puzzle and share it with others, click here. The print puzzle never expires!

Once you’ve completed the puzzle, be sure to leave a comment to tell us how you liked it, and to be entered in this week’s drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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 14.

Little Minie Heaton

6 Sep

Isabella often modeled the characters in her books after family members and friends. That was the case with “Little Minie” who appeared in more than a dozen of Isabella’s novels under the names “Minie” or sometimes “Minnie.”

In real life, “Little Minie” was Myra Heaton, but her family—including her adoring “Auntie Belle”—called her Minie.

Minie was born on May 30, 1861, and was named for her grandmother, Myra Spafford Macdonald (Isabella’s mother).

Minie’s mother was Isabella’s older sister Mary; her father was George Heaton, a newspaper publisher.

George Heaton’s advertisement for his newspapers in the 1870 Gloversville directory.

You may remember that it was George who published the first story Isabella wrote. Titled “Our Old Clock,” it appeared in his newspaper when Isabella was just a child. (You can read more about that here.)

George was a devout Christian, a temperance worker, and active in his church. This record from the First Presbyterian Church in Gloversville, New York shows George was elected as a Church Elder in 1864 and served in that capacity until his death in 1870.

Isabella was 23 years old and still living at home when Minie was born. Isabella called her “the special darling of our home.”

She forged a special bond with Minie, which was helped because Minie lived so close by. Isabella, her sister Julia and their parents lived in a large home in Gloversville. On adjoining lots were the homes of Isabella’s oldest sister, Elizabeth, who was married to Hiram Titus, and Mary, who was married to George Heaton.

Family members named in this post are highlighted in red boxes.

Family members passed between the three houses often and with ease, which was especially fortunate. As Isabella later wrote of her mother, “no one in our family ever could get ready to do anything without grandma’s help.” If there was a large meal to prepare, travel trunks to be packed, or big cleaning jobs to be done, Isabella’s mother—as well as members of all three extended families—had only to go “next door” to ask for or offer help.

Isabella wrote that the Heaton home was “at the upper end of the garden” behind her house, so it was only a few easy steps to visit Minie, or gather her up to take her back to Isabella’s own home for a visit and some pampering.

Minie grew up loving Jesus and trusting God. When Minie’s parents had to take a week-long trip, Minie stayed with Isabella and “Auntie Belle’s” mother and father. As Isabella walked Minie through the garden to the Macdonald home to spend her first night there, wise little Minie gave Isabella this advice:

“Auntie Belle, you must say your prayers every night and morning, always, no matter if your mamma is away; because God isn’t away, you know—he never packs his trunk and goes on a journey.”

Isabella adored her Minie, and spent precious time with her every day.

When Isabella married the Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden in 1866, she chose Minie’s fourth birthday as her wedding day, and Minie enjoyed special privileges throughout the day. She even joined the bride and groom on their ride in a beautiful barouche to the train station after the ceremony and reception. Thereafter, Minie often visited Isabella and Ross, who lived not far away.

In 1870, when Minie was eight years old, Isabella’s father became ill, and it was clear to everyone in the family that he was dying.

Minie and Isabella spent most of their summer in Isaac Macdonald’s room, keeping him company and soothing him when needed. Isabella wrote:

It was her delight to fan him, to arrange the pillows for him, to read to him in her soft, gentle voice; to sing to him when he was restless and feverish.

Minie would recite many little pieces to him, but his favorite was:

Many kinds of darkness
In the world are found;
There’s sin, there’s want, there’s sorrow,
So we must shine.
You, in your little corner,
And I, in mine.

Isabella’s father died on July 26, 1870, not long after Minie finished singing one of his favorite hymns to him. The entire family grieved, but Minie cheered Isabella with this perspective:

“Oh, Auntie Belle, if he could only have taken us all right up to heaven with him, how sweet it would have been.”

By 1875, Minie was a vibrant, active fourteen-year-old; but in December of that year, she, too, fell ill. She was sick only a week, Isabella later wrote. Minie died on December 30.

A week later, Isabella wrote of the loss of her “special darling” in a letter to her Pansy Society, which she published in The Pansy magazine.

“Last Thursday at midnight the Lord Jesus called our darling Minie. He wanted her to come up to His beautiful home to live. She was not one bit afraid to go, for she knew and loved Jesus, and remembered His promise that she should come up there some day.

“Minie is resting today and forever with Him. But, oh—we miss her so!

“Still, we cannot help being glad that she will never be sick, or afraid, or unhappy anymore; and that we are all invited to come and live if we choose in that beautiful world, by and by. I choose. Do not you? I have promised to follow His directions. Have you? I am surely going, are you?”

As always, Isabella turned her heartbreak into an opportunity to talk to her young readers about God’s promise of salvation through Christ.

She received many replies from young members of her Pansy Society, and later said, “I like to think that dear Minie has already welcomed precious friends to that eternal home. It is a joy to me to linger over the memory of the earthly life of this young disciple who was not quite fifteen when God called her home.”

Now you know what inspired Isabella to create a “Minie” character in her Ester Ried books, in her novels Chrissy’s Endeavor, Only Ten Cents, and so many others. In each story, Isabella paid a small tribute to her “special darling,” little Minie Heaton.


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 tomorrow!

Let’s Review

5 Sep

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

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Chances are, you’re reading this post because you love Isabella Alden’s books.

From the time her first book, Helen Lester, was published in 1865, Isabella enjoyed success as an author.

By the late 1880s readers were buying over one-hundred-thousand copies of her books every year:

From The Brooklyn (New York) Standard Union, October 22, 1890.

When Isabella wrote her novels, there were no Internet sites like Goodreads or online retailers like Amazon for readers to post their reviews of Isabella’s books.

Instead, Isabella’s books were reviewed by literary editors in newspapers across the country.

When her novel Making Fate came out in 1896, a Boston newspaper declared:

Readers of all classes, from the serious to the frivolous, can read this story with entertainment and rise from its perusal refreshed.

The New England Farmer (Boston), August 1, 1896.

In 1901, a San Francisco newspaper reviewed Isabella’s novel, Pauline, and declared Isabella to be “a gifted writer.”

From The San Francisco Call, September 22, 1901. Click on the image to read the entire review.

Unfortunately, not all reviewers were so generous with their praise. One literary critic in a Pittsburgh newspaper wrote that Isabella’s 1902 novel Unto the End “is really not half a bad story in its way.” The critic goes on to classify Isabella’s readers among “those who ask from their literature nothing but that it shall not require them to think.” (You can read the entire review by clicking here.)

But reviews like “Pittsburgh’s” were few and far between. On the whole, Isabella’s novels were well received, and millions of Isabella’s faithful fans relied on those reviews to notify them when her new books were available for purchase.

Several times, in her stories and memoirs, Isabella mentioned keeping a scrapbook; it’s possible that’s where she kept clippings of her book reviews.

And if that’s true, she probably also kept reviews of the books written by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.

Grace’s writing career took off in the 1900s. When her novel The Best Man was published in 1914, The Boston Globe’s literary critic praised the novel, saying it was “full of thrilling moments.”

You can click here to read the full review, which includes a very nice publicity photo of Grace.

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How about you? Have you ever written a book review and published it in print or online?

How much do you rely on other people’s book reviews when deciding what books to buy?

The Old Church Organ: A Jigsaw Puzzle for You

4 Sep

It gave Joseph a curious sensation to hear his verse sung over and over again by the choir, the great organ rolling out the melody and seeming to him to speak the words almost as distinctly as the voices did. (A Dozen of Them, by Isabella Alden)

Church organs were often mentioned in Isabella Alden’s books, but they looked nothing like the organs we frequently see in churches today.

So here’s a jigsaw puzzle for you to solve that will reveal the type of church organ Isabella probably had in mind when she wrote her novels.

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

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

Remember your comments enter you in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card, which will be awarded on Friday, September 7, 2018!

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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