A Quick Bite to Eat

22 Sep

In her novels, Isabella wrote about all kinds of people: from heroic physicians to ladies of wealth and leisure; from mischievous boys to angelic little girls.

But of all the character types who appeared in her novels, the working class clerk was the most common.

Clerks in a grocery store stand by, ready to serve customers.

Alfred Ried (in Ester Ried Yet Speaking) worked long hours for little pay in a busy downtown shop.

Robert Parks and Hester Mason did the same in Workers Together; an Endless Chain.

Clerks pose outside their hardware shop (about 1915).

Isabella seemed to have quite a bit of sympathy for these overworked, underpaid young people. Around the turn of the Twentieth Century the average man earned about $11.00 per week; but young men, like Alfred and Robert, who were just starting out in their careers, earned considerably less.

Because she was female, poor Hester would have earned only half (sometimes less) of what her male counterparts earned.

Shop clerks wait on customers in a department store (around 1910).

After they paid rent for their lodgings, they had little left to live on.

During the work day, when it came time for their mid-day meal break, they had to return to their lodging house for their meal, which was often included in the cost of their rent.

But if their rented rooms weren’t close to the shop where they worked, they had to find a nearby place to eat with menu items they could afford.

Luckily, some small restaurants in large cities catered to working people in that very situation.

Workers prepare to serve diners at The Farmington Lunch Room in 1908.

Haim’s Quick Lunch Restaurant in New York City was one such place. Every dish on their menu was designed to be served quickly, so working clerks like Robert, Hester, and Alfred could have a simple meal and get back to work.

Trade card for the Riverside Tea Room in New York.

So what kind of dishes did Haim’s serve? Here’s their 1906 lunch menu:

Their heartiest dishes were the most expensive. For about ten cents Alfred could have two eggs cooked to order. And Robert might have a bowl of milk toast or a sandwich.

Since Hester had to make her pitiful wages go farther than Robert or Alfred, she might have ordered one of the less expensive items on the menu, like griddle cakes.

A crowded ladies’ lunch room at A. T. Stewart’s in New York City (about 1875).

Or she might have ordered a bowl of Force, Malta Vita, or Power, which were very much like cold cereal we eat today.

Excerpt from a 1902 Malta Vita newspaper ad.

What do you think of Haim’s menu choices?

If you were a shop clerk and had only 15 or 30 minutes to grab a quick bite of lunch, which Haim’s menu item do you think you would order?

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


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.

Daily Thoughts for September

31 Aug

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of September are from Chapter 8 of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for September, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June July August

A Perfect Gown

25 Aug

Do you enjoy seeing examples of clothing Isabella and her characters might have worn? This afternoon gown from the 1890s holds a little secret.

With its stuffed bodice and skirt made of ruffled rows that drape up into a small bustle at the back of the waist, it’s very typical of the 1890s style.

And the smocking at the shoulders and waist indicate the gown was tailored to exactly fit the lady who owned it.

But don’t let the muted tones of the fabric fool you. This gown holds a surprise.

If you look closely, you can see pink roses and cherubs—symbols of love—woven into the fabric design.

Doesn’t that make this the perfect gown for a young lady with summer romance on her mind?

Which of Isabella’s characters do you think would have worn this afternoon gown?

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.

Daily Thoughts for August

29 Jul

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of August are from The Book of Proverbs.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for August, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June July

Daily Thoughts for July

30 Jun

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of July are from The Book of Isaiah.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for July, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May  June

Daily Thoughts for June

30 May

In 1895 Isabella published a monthly Bible devotional series titled “Daily Thoughts,” which appeared the first day of each month in The Pansy magazine; and we’re reprinting it in 2020!

Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for the month of June are from The Gospel According to Matthew.

Click here to open a full-size PDF version of Isabella’s “Daily Thoughts” for June, which you can read, print, save, and share with others.

Or, click here to download a simplified Word version.

If you missed “Daily Thoughts” for prior months, you can find them here: January February March April May 

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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