About Pansy, By Pansy

22 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It reads:

Published works and periodicals for which you have written:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A New Free Read: Which Shall I Take?

8 Jan

This month’s Free Read is a short story from 1893 that illustrates the Bible verse:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Everyone who knows Miss Carrie Benham thinks she is a bright and sweet-natured, but in her heart, Carrie’s spirit may not be as giving as people think.

So her older brother Ford devises a plan that forces Carrie to choose between bringing pleasure to herself or pleasure to others. Which will Carrie choose?

Read it for free!

Choose the option you like best:

You can read “Which Shall I Take?” on your computer, phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device. Just click here to download your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.

Or you can scroll down to read the story below.

IT was New Year’s morning, and there was company coming to dinner, and Carrie Benham had a dozen or more little duties waiting for her. Nevertheless she paused, duster in hand, and considered for the hundredth time the question which must be settled this morning. She was a pretty girl, with great brown thoughtful eyes, and a fair sweet face framed in soft brown hair, which could take a glint of gold when the sun shone on it. Even in her loose morning blouse, with an old silk handkerchief knotted about her neck, ready to protect the brown hair from dust when she should begin to sweep, almost anyone would have called her pretty.

“There is so much character in Carrie’s face,” her friends said. And strangers looking at her were apt to remark that it was an unusual face for one so young. People who knew her real well knew that it was the sweetness of the soul within which shone out and attracted, rather than the brownness of her eyes, or the clearness of her skin.

Still, I really do not want you to think her remarkable in any way. I am glad to believe that there are hundreds, even thousands, of just such girls as Carrie in this great wide world. Bright, energetic, whole-hearted, sweet-natured girls, who as a rule, are unselfish and thoughtful of the comfort of others.

It was just this matter of unselfishness which was troubling Carrie this holiday morning. She had a curious question to decide, a question to which she had given some puzzled thought several times during the year. Just a year ago this morning she and her brother Ford had had a talk about the Bible verse which Carrie had recited at family worship, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

“I suppose that must be true,” Carrie had said, “because it is in the Bible; but I never could realize it. I do so like to receive gifts, and I cannot imagine myself feeling perfectly happy if I had received nothing from my friends this morning, even though I had been able to give to ever so many. I think people must have to wait until they get old and wise before they appreciate that verse.”

Quite an argument had followed, Ford trying to produce an illustration of the verse’s meaning which would satisfy her, and Carrie declaring laughingly, yet with an undertone of earnestness, that she must be more selfish than other people, because she knew if she had it to decide whether to go without herself, or let others go without, she would be sure to choose for herself.

“Suppose it were a choice between mother and yourself?” Ford asked.

“Oh! Mothers?” said Carrie, with a bright look over at the fair-faced woman who sat by the window. “Of course mothers and fathers are to have the best of everything, and any girl of common sense would be glad to give up for their sakes. But I mean among girls, for instance, equals and friends. It seems to me that the rule does not apply there, unless, of course, it is something one ought to do for the sake of a person in need; but just a mere present! I’m sure I should choose myself every time.”

Out of this talk had grown the scheme which was puzzling Carrie. Two hours afterward Ford brought her two sealed notes.

“Here are two letters,” he said, “which I would like you to keep until a year from today unopened. Next New Year’s morning you may consider which you will open first. The one you choose to accept and give first attention annuls the other; it will be of no use whatever to anybody. You will note that one is addressed to Miss Caroline Benham, and on the other is written, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ I do not mind telling you that both are New Year’s presents, from myself. I do not want you to come to any decision now, of course; but next year I would like you to choose between them. Not from a conscientious standpoint, because you do not know, and cannot know until after your decision is made, who may or may not be blessed by it. What I want you to do in a year from now is to decide on the whole, for the one which you believe will give you the greater pleasure, and see what will come of it. It is not a fair test, of course, of the verse about which we were talking, because the Lord does not generally ask us to work in the dark; but I choose to watch the outcome of this little plan of mine and see what will result.”

Carrie had exclaimed and demurred and coaxed to have just a hint of possibilities, and declared that she could never keep a letter from Ford a whole year without opening it, and declared that she knew perfectly well which she should choose; she did not mean to go without his present for the sake of anybody, unless, indeed — “Ford, it isn’t anything about father or mother, is it? Because if it is, I can decide now.”

No, Ford said, they were counted out.

It had ended by Carrie’s locking the letters up in her treasure box and forgetting them for weeks together, until some sudden overturning of the box in search of treasures would bring them to the surface; then she would study over the problem with a half-amused wonder as to which she would choose. It did not trouble her much while it was months in the future; but behold, here was the very holiday morning on which the decision must be made.

“Who would have thought it could have come so soon?” said Carrie, pausing, broom in hand, to ask herself which she should take. She had been very impressively reminded of her contract in the early morning, when family gifts were exchanged. There had been none for her from Ford; he had simply looked over at her and smiled significantly.

“Oh, dear!” she said, half-vexed over the situation, “I think it is almost too bad in Ford to give me such a problem. I want to give other people pleasure, I am sure I do. I can think of a dozen nice things that he may have given me a chance to do for the girls, and if I was sure it was one of them I believe I would go without my present; only it seems so queer not to have a present from Ford, and me going away so soon.”

You see, it had been settled at last that Carrie should enter at Hampton Institute for the spring term, in order to get well started in the routine of school before the actual hard work of the next fall. For two years Carrie had been looking forward to Hampton Institute as the place of all others where she wanted to go; but now that it was settled, and the time of going was near, she began to have a lonesome, half-home-sick feeling about it, and to wonder what it would be like to be suddenly set down among several hundred people whom she had never seen before.

“If I only knew what my present was,” she said wistfully. “It may be a lovely tinted picture of Ford, such as I have been wanting for so long; and then I almost could not give it up for anybody. Ford is so queer! Why can’t he do things like other people? I believe if I should decide for the other I would almost rather not know what was in mine; but he said I was to look at both as soon as I had decided, and make up my mind honestly about the blessedness; only I cannot change my decision after that. Oh, dear! It is certain to be something nice for one of his girls; something that I would have pleasure in giving them; but then it is a good deal to give up, I am sure.”

That phrase “one of his girls” perhaps needs explanation. You must know that Carrie’s brother Ford was the pastor of the church to which Carrie belonged, and of course all the girls in the large congregation were “his” in the sense that she meant, though there was a choice little company of her very special friends whom she felt sure he would choose from.

“It is almost certain to be Clara,” she said. “Ford knows it would be more blessed for me to give to Clara than any of the others; and she doesn’t have many gifts, and she is heart-broken now at the thought of my going away. If I were only sure it was Clara I believe I could decide. But then, it might be Helen Peck; Ford thinks a great deal of her. Well, so do I, but then—Oh, dear! Was ever a girl in such perplexity?”

Broom and dust-brush did good service for a few minutes, while Carrie knitted her brows and thought. “If there were only an ‘ought’ in it,” she said aloud presently, “it would be so easy.” And from that sentence you catch a hint of the manner of girl she was; for there are some to whom things are not easy, even when there is an “ought” in them. However, Ford had assured her that she was honestly to decide for that which she felt would give her the most pleasure.

“It isn’t really fair, as Ford said,” she told herself at last, “because I am so utterly in the dark, and because I do like gifts from Ford to keep as love tokens. But then I have ever so many, and I do like to give presents, and Ford may have planned a lovely pleasure for me. And besides, there is the verse, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ It doesn’t say ‘sometimes,’ or qualify it in any way. I just believe I will choose it.”

The duster was dropped presently, and Carrie’s brown head went down for a moment on the window-seat near which she stood. When she raised it there was a softened light in the brown eyes, and a glad ring in her voice, as she said:

“I have decided! I have so many lovely things of my own, I just long to give somebody else a pleasure. Now I am going to look; or no, wait until this room is in perfect order.”

The decision once made, it was hard to wait; but Carrie was trying to learn self-control, and held herself steadily to the task of dusting every little nook and corner, and placing every chair and book where they belonged. Then, at last, she drew from her pocket the two letters which had waited so long, laid the one addressed to herself on the window-seat with a loving little good-by pat, and broke the seal of the other.

Could she believe her eyes? It contained a check for a larger amount of money than she had supposed her brother could afford, and on the paper in which it was folded was written, in Ford’s clear hand, that it was to cover the expenses of Miss Clara Foster at the Hampton Institute for one year and one term, in order that she might have the pleasure of entering this spring with her dear friend, Carrie Benham, who delighted in giving her this New Year offering.

Carrie Benham, as she read, felt a curious sensation in her throat. She wanted to scream, to laugh, to cry. She did not know what she wanted. What, oh, what if she had chosen the other letter? Now Clara, her darling Clara, the dearest, best friend a girl ever had, could be with her every minute; and could have what she never had hoped to have—a chance for an education.

The pastor, in his study getting ready to make a five-minutes’ speech at the festival in the evening, was presently almost smothered with kisses.

“Have you opened the other letter?” he asked, when he could get breath to speak.

“No, Ford, I haven’t; I forgot all about it; there isn’t the least need for opening it. I know it is something perfectly lovely, of course, but it doesn’t matter in the least. Nothing in all the world could be so blessed as this. I was never so happy in my life.”

“Still it was in the bargain that the other should be opened and the two compared,” he said, with a fond smile for the happy-faced girl. “I must hold you to the terms. Where is the letter?”

Together they went in search of it; and Carrie opened with trembling fingers, to find another check, much smaller than the first, but yet of generous size, to be used in buying her the best bicycle that could be found in the market.

What shouts of laughter there were over this gift. A bicycle had been among Carrie’s supposed unattainable wants for two years; and behold, but two months before, on her birthday, a rich uncle who rarely thought of her had been moved—no one knew how or why—to send her by express a magnificent Victor bicycle, with all the modern improvements.

“Did you know he was going to give me one?” Carrie asked, almost breathlessly, as the thought struck her that Ford had planned with foreknowledge. But he shook his head promptly.

“Not a word about it until it came. No, this was all in good faith, and you would be without your bicycle still, according to your choice, if Uncle Ford had not mixed himself up in the matter. But I suspect, Carrie dear, that your Father in Heaven knew all about it.”

“Oh,” said Carrie, “doesn’t it seem wonderful? And oh, Ford! What if I had chosen for myself? Wouldn’t it have been dreadful?”

What do you think of Ford’s method for testing Carrie?

Which envelope do you think you would have chosen? 

 

Daily Thoughts for January

1 Jan

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

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

Frank Hudson’s Hedge Fence

Her Mother’s Bible

The Exact Truth

We Twelve Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or click here to download a simplified Word version.

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

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

     

     

 

 

What Have You Learned?

31 Dec

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

What lesson did you learn from the past year?

Isabella wrote:

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

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

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

The important question is, What have you learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think of this idea?

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

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

Wishing you a Merry and Blessed Christmas!

25 Dec

“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast Thou perfected praise.” Matthew 21:16

A Sweet Old Story

18 Dec

With holiday preparations in full swing, it’s nice to stop every once in a while to remind ourselves of the true meaning of the season.

“A Sweet Old Story” is a short piece Isabella wrote for The Pansy magazine in 1885, telling the story of Christ’s birth in simple terms. The lovely woodcut illustrations below were part of the original magazine issue.

 

Title Image: A Sweet Old Story

A great many hundred years ago, away and away across the water, one beautiful starry night something happened.

Up among the hills and the rocks the sheep were taking their rest; safe from wolf or tiger because the faithful shepherds watched all night.

They were gathered in a sheltered place around the fire and they were talking. Good men, they were, who believed what God had told them in the Bible, and were watching for his promises to come to pass.

If we had been near I think we might have heard something like this:

“It is a long time that we have been waiting for the King to come.”

“Yes,” says another; “years and years! I remember how my grandmother used to gather us about her and tell us how the Lord was to send us a king to rule over us, and to make all wrong things right. She used to think he might come in her day; and she sat often listening and watching, to see if she could hear his voice.”

“How do you think it will be?” asked a third. “Do you think He will come suddenly from the sky, with bands of music, and guards of angels, and with a crown on his head, speaking in a voice of thunder to all wrong doers?”

The first shepherd shook his head. “I do not know,” he said. “I often wonder how it will be; and I read over and over again the promises of his coming. Some of them sound as though he was to be poor and alone; but how can that be when he is to rule the world? I do not understand it; but I long to see my king.”

Just then a light brighter than the sun shone all around them.

“What is that?” they said.

Could the world be on fire? No, all was quiet down in the valleys; and the earth was sleeping. The shepherds looked at one another and said not a word; but their limbs trembled so that they could hardly stand.

“Look! What is that, coming from the brightness! It must surely be an angel.”

He is speaking. “Fear not,” and his voice was like the sound of music.

As he spoke, the fear seemed all to glide away from the shepherds, and they felt a strange, sweet happiness stealing over them.

Then came the wonderful words: “There was born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour for you; he is Christ the Lord.”

O glorious news! How shall they know where to find him?

“Listen,” the angels tell them. “You will find the baby in a manger.”

What strange news was this! The King of Glory, the Saviour of the world to be found in a manger!

But before they could say a word, suddenly the air was filled with angels. They were singing this song: “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth, peace, good-will toward men.”

Illustration of the baby Jesus asleep with seven cherubs surrounding him.

The Christ Child surrounded by angels, from Raphael’s painting

The music to which these words were sung was not like any that the shepherds had ever heard before; nor did they hear anything like it again, until the angels opened the golden gates and showed them the way to the palace of their King. Only a few minutes, and the angels soared away, the beautiful light faded, the sweet voices were lost in the blue distance, and there was only the sheep asleep on the hillsides, and the stars smiling down on them.

Do you think they thought it a dream? Oh no. Listen to what they said:

“Let us go right away to find the Lord. He will be in Bethlehem; that is the city of David. The Lord has sent his angels to tell this news; we shall see our King!”

And they hurried away.

Did they find the King? Yes, they found him; a little baby in a manger, his father and mother watching over him.

Oh, I don’t know what they said when they saw that baby. I have often wondered whether they dared to touch him, to put his soft hand on their faces, and kiss his sweet pure lips. But this I know. Wherever they went, they told that the King had come, and they had seen him.

Years and years ago it happened, yet the men and women, boys and girls are talking, singing and thinking about it today. The most wonderful night the world has ever known was that in which the angels sang the song of the new-born King.

Illustration of Mary holding the infant Jesus as winged cherubs surround them.

The First Christmas.

The shepherds who first told the story have been with the King in his palace, I suppose, for as many as eighteen hundred years, but on Christmas eve in the year eighteen hundred and eighty-five, two sweet little girls are going out with their baskets full of holly leaves and buds, and in the sweet moonlight with the stars looking down on them, are to sing for their sick mother the same sweet old story which I have been telling you.

Two little girls dressed in coats and hats and carrying baskets stand outside a building. They are looking up as if singing to someone who is on an upper floor of the building.

Singing Christmas carols to mamma.

These are the words they will sing:

The angels, the angels, who sang on Christmas eve,
And waked the shepherds so long ago,
What was the song that they caroled so?

Glad tidings, glad tidings, to you, to you, we bring,
Of peace on earth, good-will to men;
And angels echoed the song again
Glad tidings, glad tidings, to you, to you we bring.

They found Him, they found Him
Beneath the Eastern Star,
And kings and shepherds kneeled down to pray
Around the manger where Jesus lay.

What treasure, what treasure, can little children bring?
And where is the blessed Redeemer now,
That round His cradle we all may bow?

No treasure, no treasure, is half so sweet to Him,
As little children who greet Him here
With loving heart and open ear;
No treasure, no treasure, is half so sweet to Him.


A Note from Jenny:

Isabella often wove her own life experiences—and those of her family—into her stories. I suspect the two little girls and their ailing mother were real people Isabella knew. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to identify who they were, but one day, I hope to discover “the story behind this story” and share it with you.

New Free Read: Thankful’s Thanksgiving

27 Nov

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! In honor of the day, we’re sharing one of Isabella’s short stories from an 1884 issue of The Pansy magazine.

This charming story is about friendship, first impressions, and Thanksgiving blessings.

Read it for free!

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

Or you can read the story below, and print it to share with friends.


It began in the summer. It was when they were coming home from the closing exercises of the summer school, Harold Fisher and his cousin Lelia Fisher.

Coming home from the closing entertainment.

They did not belong to the school, these two; in fact, they lived in Boston; but they were in the country for the summer, and I don’t know that there was any place which Lelia at least, enjoyed more than she did the queer little country schoolhouse, painted red, having wooden seats from which all the paint was worn, and an odd-looking thing in the middle of the room which the children called a box stove. It was a thing of beauty all summer, for it blossomed out in ferns, and vines, and bright red berries, and Lelia thought it was “just lovely,” and that nothing in Boston could compare with it.

Well, they were coming home from the closing entertainment, where both Lelia and Harold had delighted the scholars by each giving a recitation; and Harold had a treasure grasped in his fat hand which had been given by the teacher; and in Lelia’s blue silk bag was another, a lovely card for herself, and as Lelia thought of it, and of all the happy days she had spent there, and of the fact that in a few weeks she must go back to Boston and perhaps never see the nice old red schoolhouse again, her face was sad, and she drew a long sigh and wished in her heart that all schoolhouses were red, and had lovely box stoves in the middle of them, and a great old tree in front of them, and that Miss Rebecca Smith was the only teacher there was in the world, and she was always to go to her school. Poor little Lelia; the country and the schoolhouse, and Miss Smith, had stolen her heart.

Within the little red schoolhouse.

Harold was not at all sad; he had had a good time, and he expected to have many another. He did not take in the fact that he would probably never sit on the low seat beside Miss Smith in the old red schoolhouse again. The days stretched before him, full of daily coming pleasures. He troubled himself not one whit about the future.

It was just at that moment that they met Thankful Hall. Not that they knew who she was, but she looked so queer to Harold’s city eyes, that he would stop and stare at her, though Lelia tried to pull him along.

She was a neat-looking little girl, with a fair face and pleasant eyes, but her pink calico dress, made to touch the tops of her strong little shoes, and her long-sleeved apron, was so entirely unlike anything that Harold had ever seen that he could not help staring at her. The little girls who went to the red school-house were dressed enough like Boston little girls for Harold not to notice much difference; though Lelia, with older eyes, saw a great deal.

But this little girl, though neither Lelia nor Harold knew it, was dressed after the fashion of the children of fifty years ago. No wonder Harold stared; not much could be seen of the little woman’s face, for it was hidden behind a strange-looking stiff brown gingham something, which neither of the children knew was a sun-bonnet.

“What is your name?” burst forth Harold at last, making the roses grow on Lelia’s cheeks.

The little girl smiled and answered pleasantly, “I am Thankful Hall.” And she made a neat little curtsy to Lelia, who had never seen the like before.

“Thankful!” repeated puzzled Harold. “What makes you thankful? I want to know what your name is!”

“It is that—Thankful.”

“Truly?” asked Harold, his great brown eyes seeming to grow larger.

The little girl laughed.

“Why, yes,” she said; “I wouldn’t have told you so if it hadn’t been.”

“What a queer name! Does your mama call you that? What makes her? It makes me think of Thanksgiving and turkey.”

Then both the little girls laughed merrily, though Lelia blushed a great deal.

“Oh, Harold!” she said, then to Thankful: “Do excuse him; he is such a queer boy! No one ever can think what he is going to say next.”

But what Harold said next was quite as embarrassing. “What makes you wear such a queer hat, and such a funny dress? Do you have turkey, and pumpkin pies, and lots of things at your house for Thanksgiving, and do you be thankful for them?”

Lelia tried to put her hand over the small mouth; but the busy little tongue rushed through this series of questions, and Thankful did not seem to care; she only laughed.

“I’m thankful all the time, whatever we have, because that’s my name,” she said brightly; “but we don’t have turkeys at Thanksgiving, because they cost so much.”

“Don’t have turkey! Then how can you have Thanksgiving?” asked puzzled Harold. Then both little girls broke into laughter, long and merry.

There was more talk, and it ended in this way: “I like you. I want you to come to my house for Thanksgiving, and turkey, and lots of things; to my house way down in Boston. Will you?”

“I will if I can,” said Thankful, and then she said she must hurry, for Aunt Patience would be waiting.

They talked about Thankful all the way home, and after they reached home.

“And mama,” said Lelia, “I did not know what to do with Harold, he would ask such queer questions, but Thankful did not seem to mind it; she was real nice.”

“She is a nice child,” said motherly Mrs. Freeman, who boarded the Boston party that summer. “They have only been here a little while. She lives with her aunt, Miss Patience Hall. A nice woman as ever lived, but land, she doesn’t know any more about a child than I do about an elephant, nor half so much. She dresses that little thing queer enough to make her a laughing stock. Actually puts on her some of the clothes she used to wear herself; and she is sixty if she is a day. Why, yes, she’s poor, to be sure, but calico don’t cost mud, and the little thing ought to look enough like other people not to be a show. I just feel sorry for the time when she will begin to go to school; I’m afraid the children will tease her so. She’s an orphan, poor thing. She has lived with her grandmother until this spring, and then she came to this aunt’s to live. She seems real nice and pretty behaved. I’m sorry for her. Oh, Miss Patience is good enough, but hard; as hard as the shell of this squash,” and good Mrs. Freeman applied her axe to it, and Lelia and her mother went away laughing.

It was but three days before Thanksgiving that Mrs. Freeman took a look in the oven at her pumpkin pies, then seated herself to read a letter; a dainty square-enveloped thing with a Boston stamp.

Such letters rarely fell into Mrs. Freeman’s hands; she was curious.

“Such a singular request to make,” so the letter ran, “but, my dear friend, I know your kind motherly heart will help us if you can. The truth is, our dear little Harold has been sick for four weeks! For a few days he lay at death’s door, and we thought there was no hope whatever. You can imagine what that time was to us! He is gaining rapidly now—is able to be about the house, and is looking forward to Thanksgiving, but he has one great sorrow, his little cousin Lelia who has always been with him at Thanksgiving time, has gone abroad with her parents, and he misses her so that it makes our hearts ache for him. Yesterday, some talk about the pleasant summer that we had in your home recalled to his mind that queer little “Thankful” in whom you remember he was so interested. He exclaimed suddenly that he asked her to come to his house in Boston for Thanksgiving; and since that moment he has talked of nothing else. He even dreamed of the child last night. Now, dear Mrs. Freeman, he has been so sick, and is so lonely without his cousin, and is so determined about this thing, that I haven’t the heart not to try to gratify him. I have promised that I will write to you to see if you cannot borrow the little girl for a few days. We will take the best of care of her, and return her safely in due time, if the aunt will only kindly lend her to our little boy for Thanksgiving. He says he promised her turkey, and lots of things.”

There was more to the letter, as to how little Thankful could be sent, if the aunt would lend her, and how they would arrange for her perfect safety and comfort.

Mrs. Freeman read through to the end, then took off her spectacles and talked to the pumpkin pies. “Well, now, I never! Did anybody ever hear the like? I know they didn’t! To think of not believing in Providence! Josiah, look here! There’s that poor Miss Patience not been three weeks in her grave, and she so troubled about Thankful that she couldn’t hardly die, and here comes an invitation for her, to go to Boston; and I shouldn’t wonder a mite if they kept her a month; for that Harold is a master hand to take a notion and stick to it.”

Well, Thankful went to Boston. She was expressed there; and the carriage met her at the depot; and Harold met her at the parlor, where his nose had been flattened against the glass half the afternoon waiting for her.

How quaint, and queer, and pretty she looked! Mrs. Freeman’s heart and home had taken her in for a time, until they could look about them and see what to do; for no relatives had little Thankful left this side Heaven and Miss Patience, you will remember, had been poor; but there were a few hundred dollars in the bank that she had saved for Thankful. Mrs. Freeman had not touched the money, and had not been able to make any changes in Thankful’s dress, beyond a smart little hat like other children for her to travel to Boston in; so Thankful with her long brown hair braided neatly, and her long brown stuff dress reaching to her toes, and her speck of a white ruffle round her neck, looked for all the world as though she had stepped from one of the old-fashioned picture frames in Grandma Fisher’s room.

And the Thanksgiving dinner was eaten. Such a wonderful dinner as Thankful had never dreamed of before, and Harold asked her, with wistful face, if she were not thankful now? And she smiled and said, oh, she was; he did not know how thankful she was.

And Mrs. Fisher thought she ought to have some Thanksgiving presents, she was such a sweet little thing. So a bright dress, made exactly after the pattern of Lelia’s, was bought her, and some kid boots, because her shoes were rather heavy for the Boston house; and the days passed and the visit was not yet finished. And the time came when Harold cried whenever anybody hinted that Thankful would have to go home. And she was so sweet and quiet and helpful that Mrs. Fisher said, one day, she thought that child was well named, for everybody in the house seemed thankful to have her around.

And the days passed, and then the months; not only Thanksgiving, but Christmas, and New Year’s, and the travelers came home, and in Lelia’s trunk was found so many clothes that she had outgrown which just fitted Thankful, that the two mothers said it really would be economy to have one a little smaller in the families to wear those things out. And Lelia coaxed to have Thankful go to school with her; it was so lonesome to go alone. And the spring opened, and there was Thankful still in Boston.

The box stove.

And the summer came, and they went, all of them, back to Mrs. Freeman’s, and roamed in the woods, and went to the little red school-house, and trimmed the box stove. One morning, Mrs. Fisher said, kissing her:

“Thankful, my child, you really need a new dress to travel in, for we would almost as soon think of going home and leaving our little boy behind as you. You are our Thankful, and we are thankful for you.”

 

 

GLH and The Story of a Whim

20 Nov

Have you read The Story of a Whim by Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill?

It’s a tale about mistaken identity, good intentions, and false assumptions. It’s also a story about the power of God’s healing love when we need it most.

The original 1903 cover for “The Story of a Whim”

The Story of a Whim was first published in 1903; then, in 1924 publishers J. B. Lippincott reprinted the novel for a whole new generation of readers.

To celebrate the re-release, Lippincott promoted both the book and the author to newspapers across the country.

Here’s one of those articles; it appeared 95 years ago in the Oakland Tribune (California) on Sunday, November 23, 1924, and summarized the plot of the novel very well:

The article reads:

Grace Livingston Hill has written a story that will take its place beside “Daddy Long-Legs,” for it is that kind of book. It concerns a lonely young man who spelled his name “Christie” and who thereby won happiness.

When a young girl wrote him an affectionate letter, believing he was another girl, Christie fell to the temptation of replying in the role. Representing himself as a spinster of 28, he kept up the writing friendship, adding details. Obligations followed, for the girl gave him work to do. After she had insisted upon his starting a Sunday school and has sent him an organ and music, she came down to investigate the stories she had heard concerning his success. One may guess at the conclusion.

It is a story with plenty of opportunity for gentle humor, a gay and wholesome tale fitted as a gift or a friend. It will be a favorite with a large number of readers.

The article was accompanied by a very nice photo of Grace:

That was 95 years ago! And readers today are just as enthusiastic about Grace’s “gentle humor” and “wholesome tales” as they were when her novels were first published.

Have you read The Story of a Whim? What do you think? Did the newspaper give an accurate summary of the book’s plot?

A Perfect Partnership: Isabella and Daniel Lothrop

13 Nov

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

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

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

Elias Riggs Monfort, about 1870 (Wikipedia).

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

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

Daniel Lothrop.

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

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

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

The interior of D. Lothrop and Company.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

Isabella was heartbroken. In her memoirs she wrote:

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

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

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

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


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

The Pansy Magazine

The Christian Endeavor Society

The Pansy Society

Isabella Goes West!

6 Nov

This is Part 2 of a story about Isabella’s farewell to Chautauqua in the Autumn of 1901. You can read Part 1 by clicking here.

When Isabella’s friend Frances Hawley wrote about the Aldens packing up their Chautauqua cottage, she ended her account by saying that the Aldens left for “a prolonged stay in the west.”

For Isabella and her family, “the west” meant California.

Their decision to make the journey had been in the works for some time. By autumn of 1901 the Aldens—Isabella, Ross, and their daughter Frances—were living in Philadelphia, and some key events had taken place in their lives:

  • Isabella’s husband Ross had retired from the ministry.
  • Isabella’s son Raymond had completed his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, and had already moved to Palo Alto, California
  • Isabella was beginning to feel the passage of time. She was about to turn 60 years old, and Ross was already 69.

Of her advancing age Isabella wrote:

I am really growing old very fast now, you know. It seems to me that I have changed a great deal lately. I cannot do anything as quickly as I once could and I tire very easily.

Their decision to retire to California was probably based on a number of things, the most important of which was that they had always been a tight-knit family; and with the exception of one or two short periods of time, they had always lived together as a family, too.

Since Raymond had already moved west, he might have written to them about California’s clean air and warm temperatures. And maybe he had written about the Presbyterian church he was attending and the welcome he received there. By November 1901 he was already teaching a Bible class at church.

From the Palo Alto Press, November 27, 1901.

A Cross-Country Trip

Whatever their reason for make a change, Isabella and Ross finished packing up their belongings at Chautauqua and immediately set out for California to join Raymond.

From the New York Daily Tribune, December 33, 1903.

The first leg of their journey was probably from New York to Chicago. If they took one of the many “express” or “limited” trains, they would have made the journey in about 24 hours. From there, they would have taken a train to California.

From the New York Tribune, December 8, 1903.

A “limited” train, like the one in the ad below, would have taken a direct route from Chicago to San Francisco, and would have made as few stops as possible, bypassing many of the towns on the route.

New York Tribune, April 24, 1902.

On a “limited” train, their journey across the country would have taken about 66 hours, or almost three days. By contrast, travel on a regular train, making all the stops along the way, would have doubled their travel time.

This 1895 map from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company shows the dizzying number of stops a regular train would have made en route from Chicago to San Francisco. Click on the map to see a larger version.

By Christmas 1901 the Aldens were in southern California, staying with their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Johnson.

Isabella’s fame followed her there. A local newspaper, The Los Angeles Herald, caught wind of her visit and arranged to interview her.

In addition to asking Isabella the usual questions (e.g. “How did you get the name Pansy?”) the article listed all Isabella’s work, and noted that in addition to writing novels, Isabella was still:

  • Editor of the Herald and Presbyter
  • Associate editor of Christian Endeavor World
  • Wrote stories every month for The Sunbeam (the Y.W.C.A. Gazette published in London)
  • Wrote for the Junior Christian Endeavor World
  • Composed Sunday-school lessons for the Presbyterian church’s “intermediate quarterly”

It’s no wonder Isabella was beginning to feel tired!

The article ended with news that Isabella was going to do a reading the following week from “an unpublished story,” titled David Ransom’s Watch (which was eventually published in 1905).

The interviewer must have asked Isabella what her plans were for the future, because the article ended with this prophetic sentence: “It is probable that the Aldens will make California their home.”

The Aldens continued their stay with the Johnsons through at least the end of January of 1902. Their visit was reported in the Los Angeles Times society page:

From The Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1902.

A New Life in Palo Alto

Sometime in early 1902 the Aldens left Los Angeles and returned to Palo Alto, and they settled into their new life in the Palo Alto community.

They joined the same Presbyterian congregation that had welcomed their son Raymond. By April, Isabella was in San Francisco where she delivered a speech on one of her passions: Mission work at home and abroad.

Around that time the Aldens also began a search for a home large enough to accommodate their entire family and expected houseguests. In the end, they decided to build a custom home that would satisfy their many and unique needs. They purchased property in Palo Alto, hired an architect, and began designing their dream home.

A few years later Isabella and Ross joined other Christians in attending the Mount Hermon Christian Camp when it opened in 1905.

The rustic Mount Hermon train station, about 1910.

Mount Hermon was the first Christian camp west of the Mississippi, and it must have reminded Isabella and Ross of Chautauqua’s early days. Isabella fell in love with the place. She wrote:

I wish I could give you a picture of Mount Hermon, a blessed place where I have spent precious weeks living out under the great redwood trees. It was wild and quaint and beautiful. I have many happy memories connected with it.

For the next few years they made annual trips to Mount Hermon until health concerns prevented them from traveling there.

From Daily Palo Alto Times, 1907.

Through all these new experiences Isabella kept busy writing books. Between 1901 and 1908 she published eight books, most of which were written with her adult readers in mind:

Mag and Margaret: A Story for Girls (1901)
Mara (1902)
Unto the End (1902)
Doris Farrand’s Vocation (1904)
David Ransom’s Watch (1905)
Ester Ried’s Namesake (1906)
Ruth Erskine’s Son (1907)
The Browns at Mt. Hermon (1908)

Isabella Returns to Chautauqua

Isabella also found time to return to Chautauqua on probably two occasions, where she stayed with friends or relatives who had cottages there.

In May 1912 Isabella and Ross traveled to New York, where they first visited her dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster (who co-wrote a number of books with Isabella under the nom de plume Faye Huntington). It is very possible the Aldens went from there to Chautauqua in June when the 1912 season commenced.

from the Rome New York) Daily Sentinel, May 14, 1912.

In 1914 the Aldens were again at Chautauqua, where Isabella and her niece, Grace Livingston Hill were among the authors honored at a C.L.S.C. reception.

By August of that year they were back home in California, where they were “welcomed by many of their friends.”

The Palo Altan, August 21, 1914.

It’s possible Isabella visited Chautauqua again in the years following, but no record of those visits survives.

Whether Isabella visited Chautauqua again or not, her friends at Chautauqua and in New York certainly kept track of her as a favorite daughter. In 1916 the newspaper in Rome, New York (located near the town in which Isabella was born and raised) covered Isabella and Ross’s golden wedding anniversary celebration with this article:

The Rome Daily Sentinel, June 6, 1916.

The article’s mention of their prominent place in Palo Alto society is a testament to the loving friendships the Aldens formed in their new home in California.


You can read more about Isabella’s dream home in Palo Alto by clicking here.

You can read more about Isabella’s adopted daughter Frances by clicking here.

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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