Tag Archives: Agatha’s Unknown Way

Too Much of a Good Thing, and a New Free Read

19 Jul

Isabella Alden was very close to her sister Marcia, who married the Reverend Charles Livingston. For many years Isabella’s and Marcia’s families lived together under the same roof.

Isabella Alden (left) and her sister, Marcia Livingston in an undated photo.

Isabella Alden (left) and her sister, Marcia Livingston in an undated photo.

In the summer months the Aldens and the Livingstons traveled to Chautauqua, New York and shared a cottage on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.

In the winter they made the pilgrimage to Florida, where the two families lived in a large house in Winter Park.

The Alden house in Winter Park. From Winter Park Public Library archives.

The Alden house in Winter Park. (From Winter Park Public Library archives.)

Isabella’s son Raymond and Marcia’s daughter Grace attended Rollins College in Winter Park, and Grace went on to teach physical education classes there.

Grace Livingston Hill in her early twenties.

Grace Livingston Hill in her early twenties.

Before Grace took up her pen to write some of America’s most beloved novels under the name Grace Livingston Hill, she was one of the first teachers at Rollins College. She was also a true advocate for the “physical culture” movement that was sweeping the country at the time. She recognized the freedom it gave women to pursue physical health in a way they hadn’t been able to before. At Rollins she taught ladies’ classes in calisthenics, basketball, gymnastics, and fencing.

Grace Livingston (front and center) with her Greek Posture Class, about 1889.

Grace Livingston (front and center) with her Greek Posture Class, about 1889. (From Rollins College Archives.)

She also taught men’s classes in physical culture, such as fencing and Greek Posture:

Grace teaching a fencing class in 1890. (From the Rollins College Archives.)

Grace teaching a fencing class in 1890. (From the Rollins College Archives.)

 

Men's Greek Posture Class, about 1890. From Rollins College Archives.

Men’s Greek Posture Class, about 1890. (From Rollins College Archives.)

And when she wasn’t teaching at the college, she taught physical culture classes at the Florida Chautauqua.

An 1889 announcement from the Florida Chautauqua.

An 1889 announcement from the Florida Chautauqua.

Like her niece, Isabella appreciated the physical culture movement. She even featured the craze in one of her short stories, “Agatha’s Uknown Way.”

Image of the cover for Agatha's Unknown Way

And she wrote “Too Much of a Good Thing,” a story about how one young girl got so caught up in the physical culture craze, that she made life difficult for her entire family. You can read “Too Much of a Good Thing” for free below.

Would you like to learn more about Grace Livingston’s teaching years at Rollins College? Click this link to read a fun story about one of her biggest challenges at the school, and how she convinced the faculty to see things her way.

You can read Isabella’s short story, “Agatha’s Unknown Way” for free. Just click this link.

You can also read a previous post about the birth of gymnastics at Chatuauqua Institution.

Enjoy Isabella’s story, “Too Much of a Good Thing”:


Too Much of a Good Thing

Downstairs everyone was busy. Uncle Morris and his entire family, just from Europe, were coming by an earlier train than it had been expected they could take, and many last preparations for making them comfortable had still to be attended to.

Mrs. Evans had been up since daylight, planning, directing, and helping to the utmost that her small strength would admit.

Indeed, her eldest daughter Laura had constantly to watch, to save her mother from lifting something heavy, or reaching for something high. Often her clear voice could be heard with a “Oh, mother, don’t! Please—I’ll take care of that.” And often the gentle answer was:

“Dear child, you cannot do everything, though your will is strong enough. Where is Millie?”

“Millie has gone to sweep and dust the hall room; you know we didn’t think we should need that, and I used it as a sort of store room; but since Arthur is coming with them, we shall have to get it ready; and he will need to go at once to his room, since he is an invalid, so I sent Millie to put it in order. I told her just what to do, and she will manage it nicely. She must be nearly through now, and I’ll have her finish dusting here, so I can help you with those books; they are too heavy for you to handle.”

No, Millie wasn’t nearly through. In fact, she could hardly have been said to have commenced. The truth is, she had been thrown off the track. It was an old print which fell out of an, unused portfolio that did it. The print showed the picture of a girl in fun Greek costume, and reminded Millie of what was not long out of her mind, that in the coming Physical Culture entertainment she was to chess in a costume which was supposed to be after the Greek order.

“Let me see,” she said, bending over the print, “this girl has short sleeves and low neck. Why, the dress is almost precisely like the one which Laura wears with her lace over-dress; I might wear that. It would be too long, of course, but it could be hemmed up. I am almost sure Laura would let me have it; and with her white sash ribbon tied around my waist it would be just lovely. Then that would save buying anything new, and save mother any trouble. I mean to go this minute and try on the dress, before I say anything about it.”

Away dashed the Greek maiden to one of the guest chambers which Laura had left in perfect order, dragged from a seldom used drawer the elegant white mull dress with its lace belongings, all of which saw the light only on state occasions, and rushed back to the hall room again, where she had left the print she was trying to copy. In her haste, she dragged out with the dress various articles of the toilet. Laura’s white kid gloves which she wore when she graduated, a quantity of laces, and a handkerchief or two, to say nothing of sprays of dried flowers. These she trailed over the carpet, seeing nothing of them. The important thing in life just now was to get herself into that dress.

It was accomplished at last, not without a tiny tear having been made in the delicate stuff, but which Millie’s fingers were too eager to notice. She tied the white sash high up about her waist, after the fashion of the picture, seized the dust brush in one hand as if it were a dumb bell, or an Indian club, and struck a graceful attitude with her arm on the corner of the mantel.

“There!” she said, “I would like to have my picture taken in this dress; I have a very nice position now for it. I wish the girls were here to see me. Laura must let me wear this; it fits exactly. I don’t believe it is much too long for a Greek maiden. I should like to wear my dresses long; it must be great fun. I wonder if we couldn’t have our pictures taken in costume? I think it would be real nice; and our folks would each want to buy one. Perhaps we could make some money.”

There were hurried steps in the hall, and the Greek maiden’s musings were cut short. Laura came forward rapidly, talking as she
came.

“Millie, aren’t you through here? You have had plenty of time, and mother needs your help right away. Hurry down just as quickly as you can; she is over-doing, and it is growing late; the carriage may come any minute now. Why, Millie Evans!”

She stopped in amazement, for the Greek maiden was still posing. She smiled graciously and said: “Don’t I look fine? I borrowed it a minute to see if it will do to wear to the entertainment. It is just the thing, isn’t it? You will lend it to me, won’t you? Just for one evening? I’ll be awfully careful of it.”

“And you have been to that drawer where all the nice things are packed, and dragged them out! There is one of my white gloves under your feet, and my only lace handkerchief keeping it company! I must say, Millie Evans, you deserve to be punished. Here we are trying our best to get ready for company, and keep mother from getting too tired, and you neglect your work to rig up like a circus girl; and go to a drawer which you have no right to open. I shall certainly tell father of this.”

The Greek maiden’s cheeks were in an unbecoming blaze. Laura was hurried and tired, and spoke with more severity than was her custom. It certainly was trying to find the room in disorder, and her best dress in danger.

“Take care,” she said, as Millie’s frantic efforts to get it off put it in greater danger. “Don’t quite ruin that dress. Indeed you shall not wear it. I am astonished at you for thinking of such a thing; when father hears what you have been doing, I doubt if you will need a dress for the entertainment.”

Then Millie lost all self control. “You are a hateful, selfish thing!” she burst forth. “Take your old dress; I don’t want to wear it; and I won’t be ordered about by you as though you were my grandmother. I’m nearly fourteen, and you have no right to manage me. I’ll just tell father myself that I—”

“What is all this?” Mr. Evans’ voice was sternness itself, and he looked at the girl with blazing cheeks, in a way that made her angry eyes droop.

“What does it mean, Millicent? I heard you using very unbecoming language to your sister, and to judge from your appearance you have been about some very inappropriate work.”

“Well, father, Laura burst in here and—”

“Never mind what Laura did, Millicent. Unfortunately for you, I know which daughter tries to care for and spare her sick mother in every possible way. I overheard enough to show me which one is to blame. Laura may tell me what is the trouble, and you may listen.”

But Laura was already sorry that she had spoken so sharply, and tried to soften the story as much as truth would permit.

“Her mind is so full of the Physical Culture entertainment, father, that she does not stop to think. I know she did not mean to hinder and make trouble.”

“I see,” said Mr. Evans, speaking grimly. “I have heard a good deal about this Physical Culture business. If everyone is as much carried out of common sense by it as our Millicent is, I should say it was high time to have some moral culture. Millicent, you may put yourself into a suitable dress for sweeping, and do the work you were sent to do, at once; and you will not need to think any more about a dress for the entertainment, for you are to be excused from attending it. You may tell your teacher that I said so.”

Poor Millie! The hall bedroom floor might almost have been washed, if that were desirable, with the tears she shed. No hope had she of any change of mind on her father’s part. He rarely interfered with his children, but when he did, his word was law.

And poor Laura! She went downstairs heavy-hearted and miserable. Why had Millie been so silly, and why had she allowed her vexation to make matters worse?

The poor frail mother actually cried when she heard of Millie’s disappointment. “Yet I really cannot ask her father not to notice it,” she said sorrowfully. “Millie has been so remiss in her duties for weeks, all on account of the hold which that Physical Culture craze has upon her. It is too much of a good thing. I am afraid her father is doing right.”

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New Free Read: Agatha’s Unknown Way

8 Nov

Image of the cover for Agatha's Unknown WayAgatha Hunter is a determined young lady. She’s willing to brave the dangers of the big city in order to realize her dream of attending a church missionary meeting. Imagine meeting other women with the same blessed zeal, the same divine calling to further Christ’s work in foreign lands! Why, a big, splendid church in town must have hundreds of women working together for the Lord’s cause, and Agatha is certain she will find kindred sprits there.

But Agatha’s resolve is soon put to the test as the missionary meeting falls far short of her expectations; and instead of being kindred spirits, the ladies of the missionary society would rather talk about housekeeping than evangelism. Can Agatha plant a seed for Christ in the hearts of these city people?

Click on the book cover to begin reading Isabella Alden’s 1898 short story, Agatha’s Unknown Way right now!

You can find more free reads by Isabella Alden by clicking on the Free Reads tab above.

A Tour of Chautauqua: A Healthy Body

8 Nov

In the middle of the 19th Century a new craze began to take hold on American college campuses. The new fad was a revolutionary form of physical exercise called gymnastics.

Image of a Chautauqua ExerciseClass in Physical Education 1913

A Chautauqua exercise class in Physical Education, 1913

German in origin, gymnastics spread in popularity and were ultimately integrated into college sports programs. By the end of the century, gymnastics training—as well as the concept of regular exercise for overall health and well-being—made the leap into public consciousness and became a popular concept in the lives of everyday Americans.

The founders of Chautauqua Institution saw the rise of public interest in physical education and knew the concept had a place at Chautauqua. Bishop John Vincent strongly believed that a healthy body was essential to a healthy mind and soul.

Quote from Bishop John Vincent: "Self-Improvementin all our faculties, for all of us, through all time, for the greatest good of all people--this is the Chautauqua idea."

Chautauqua had always offered plenty of exercise for visitors who wanted to be active. There were athletic clubs for men, women and children. Classes were offered in hiking and riding bikes; wrestling and fencing; swimming, diving, hurdle-jumping and golf.

Image of swimmers in the lake at Chautauqua Institution, 1908

Bathing at Chautauqua, 1908

Even their courses on gardening and horticulture emphasized the mental and physical benefits of growing orchard and garden crops.

Image of beginning riders posing with their bikes in the Bicycle School circa 1896

Beginning riders in the Bicycle School, ca. 1896

Image of shuffleboard players at the Chautauqua Sports Club about 1920

A leisurely game of shuffleboard at the Chautauqua Sports Club, ca. 1920s

With the nation’s growing interest in fitness and outdoor sports came an increased demand for trained teachers of athletics. Chautauqua Institution answered the call by establishing the Chautauqua School of Physical Education. The school focused on preparing teachers for placement at schools, universities, Young Men’s Christian Associations, and athletic clubs; and they were the first to give certificates to teachers in physical education.

Image of physical education students at the Chautauqua in 1896

Students at the Chautauqua Gymnasium, 1896

As usual, Chautauqua Institution offered the best instruction that could be furnished in several lines of athletics.

And, as always, Chautauqua assembled the country’s premier instructors for each area of specialty. Here, for instance, is a roster of the faculty during the summer of 1903:

Image listing the 1903 Faculty of Chautauqua School of Physical Education

Between 1886 (when the school was founded) and 1904 the school trained an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 physical education teachers from across the United States. In addition to the Normal Course, the school offered classes “suited to the needs of men, women, misses, boys and children.”

Image of Chautauqua Class in Physical Culture dated 1896

Chautauqua Class in Physical Culture, 1896

In other words, summer visitors to Chautauqua had ample opportunity to learn track and field, gymnastics, and virtually every other athletic technique from the country’s best instructors, assembled in one place.

Quote by Carrica Le Favre: To each spiritual function responds a function of the body. To each grand function of the body corresponds a spiritual act."

A unique aspect of the physical education training offered at Chautauqua was the melding of three different physical education systems.

  • The German gymnastics system was based on strenuous exercise performed on equipment such as pommel horses, parallel bars, climbing walls and rope mechanisms.
  • The Swedish gymnastics system focused on calisthenics, stretching and breathing.
  • And the Delsartean system integrated lighted physical exercise with artistic movement and relaxation techniques. The system was named for Francois Delsarte, who devoted his life to studying the laws of human motion, gesture and expression.

Together these three systems formed the school of physical culture. As students learned to master the different techniques, they often exhibited their skills in the Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Image of a gymnastics Class exhibiting in the Amphitheatre circa 1895

A Gymnastics Class exhibits in the Amphitheatre, about 1895

Chautauqua Herald Article dated July 19 1901 about a Physical Education Class exhibition

Click on this image to read a 1901 article from the Chautauqua Herald about a Physical Education Class exhibition

The Physical Culture exhibitions were extremely popular as a form of entertainment for summer Chautauquans. At the time, most people had never before seen athletes displaying skills with light devices such as dumb-bells, rings, poles, and Indian Clubs. As a source of entertainment, these displays were something of a phenomenon.

Image of a Physical Culture Class displaying Gymnastic Compositions 1890

But athletes didn’t demonstrate strength and skill alone. The Delsartean system stressed beauty of movement. Under Delsartean teaching it wasn’t enough for students to simply lift a dumb-bell in front of an audience; they learned to lift dumb-bells in prescribed forms that created pleasing compositions, all accompanied to appropriate music.

Image of a physical culture class using dumb-bells, 1890

Physical Culture Class using dumb-bells, 1890

Image of a physical culture class using gymnastic rings, 1890

A Physical Culture Class using rings, 1890

Image of a Physical Culture Class using gymnastic poles, 1890

A Physical Culture Class using gymnastic poles, 1890

Image of a Physical Culture Class using Indian Clubs 1890

Physical Culture Class using Indian Clubs, 1890

Perhaps the most popular portion of the program was the display of mastery of Indian Clubs. Indian Clubs looked something like modern-day bowling pins. They were often hollow with removable tops so sand or other substances could be inserted to give them weight. By swinging the clubs according to Delsartean rhythms and movements, men, women and children got an effective upper body workout.

Image of a man demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

Image of a man demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

Isabella Alden wrote about a public performance of Indian Clubs in her short story “Agatha’s Unknown Way.” She described the exhibition as “fancy club-swinging.”

Image of a woman demonstrating an Indian Club exercise

Demonstrations like the one Isabella described were extremely popular and drew large audiences, which is exactly what happened in “Agatha’s Unknown Way.”

Image of a woman demonstrating an Indian Club Exercise

In the story, the solo performer was a woman, which would have been very unusual at the time, and she certainly would have drawn a crowd. She also probably stimulated audience members to try exercising with Indian Clubs themselves.

Quote by Carrica Le Favre: "Who can know that we are beautiful, good and true if we do not show it forth through the instrument that is given us for that purpose?"

It would have been easy enough to learn how. By the turn of the century over 20 different best-selling books had been published on Delsartean techniques. People bought the instruction books and used them to practice the system of movement and exercise in the privacy of their own homes.

Other exercise-at-home books sold well, too, such as this Ladies’ Home Calisthenics book published in 1890.

Image of frontispiece from the book, Ladies Home Calisthenics published in 1890

In this book, push-ups, weight lifting, and club swinging exercises were modified for women in consideration of the restrictions on their movements caused by their corsets.

Image of woman holding hand weights and flexing her wrists in 1890

Hand Exercise from Ladies’ Home Calisthenics, 1890

Image of woman doing push-ups against a table in 1890

How to do push-ups, from Ladies’ Home Calisthenics, 1890

Women were expected to wear their corsets at all times, even while exercising; but at least one corset manufacturer, spotting the new exercise trend, advertised that women wearing their corset could “perform in comfort any exercise of physical culture.”

. . . . . . . . . .Image of corset advertisement showing woman holding hand weights from 1890     Image of corset ad showing woman riding a bike from 1890

The physical culture movement wasn’t just about lifting weights and swinging clubs. The Delsartean system had at its core a principle of movement based on art, relaxation, balance and the natural flow of breath. Over time, the Delsartean system expanded to address areas of “self-expression.” For example, some public speaking classes at Chautauqua adopted the breathing and relaxation techniques designed by Delsarte, as did courses on deportment and “self-expression.”

Announcement in 1901 edition of Chautauqua Herald announcing class in self-expression

Announcement of a new class at Chautauqua

In Four Mothers at Chautauqua Isabella Alden wrote about a Chautauqua class on relaxation that was founded on Delsarte’s principles. Grumpy Mrs. Bradford learned about the relaxation techniques after her daughter Isabel showed her a brochure about the class.

“‘Exercise that rests.’ I wonder what kind it can be? I’m sure I have exercise enough, but I must say I don’t feel especially rested. Why in the world do you want me to go and look on at those idiots twisting their bodies into all sorts of shapes? Look at this one trying to reach her toes without tipping over! I must say I have no patience with women who make fools of themselves taking such exercises. It is bad enough for silly girls to waste their time and money in that way.”

However, she had turned from her doorway and was allowing the eager Isabel to pilot her down the avenue toward the “School of Expression.” She continued to read, as she walked, and to make comments. “‘It is not the work we do, but the energy we waste when not working that exhausts us.’ Humph, much she knows about it! I never waste any energy.”

Yet perhaps there was never a woman who wasted more than did Mrs. Bradford. The trouble with her, as with many another, was that she did not know herself.

She read on: “‘Learn to relax, to let go—physically and mentally—to untie the fuss and worry knots.’ Yes, I wonder how? It’s easy enough to talk!” But the tone was less scornful; there was even a touch of wistfulness in it.

Isabel caught at the wistful tone and answered it.

“You wait, Mother, she will tell you how. She says she has been doing it a good many years, and has rested more tired women than she can count.”

And it was a fact that as soon as the teacher began to talk, to explain, to answer with ready comprehension and sympathy the volley of questions poured at her, to move that supple body of hers that seemed to have no more weight in it than a cork, and did her instant bidding with an unfailing ease and grace, Mrs. Bradford discovered what every member of the large class had done: that here was one body that was a willing servant, instead of a tyrant demanding from the jaded spirit impossibilities.

“You want to learn how to get a good healthy ‘tired,’ that will make rest a joy, and work that follows it a pleasure;” she said brightly, as if that was a very ordinary lesson easily mastered.

Mrs. Bradford, from listening with an air of endurance as one who had been smuggled in against her will, grew interested, grew absorbed in the genial flow of talk that was not a lecture nor a lesson, and yet was distinctly both. When she came to herself, and found herself standing with the others trying to reach her toes without tipping over—the precise effort that she had so sharply criticized—she did not know whether to be ashamed, and indignant at somebody, or to laugh. But fun got the upper hand, and she joined in the hearty laugh that was going the rounds at the expense of them all. After that, she forgot that it was a class, and a lesson, and that she was a middle-aged woman with dignity to sustain. For a full half hour she did that excellent thing for such women as she:  forgot Mrs. Bradford entirely.

Mrs. Bradford laughed outright, a merry laugh such as she had not in years relaxed sufficiently to give. The comic side of this strange morning was getting possession of her.

Next stop of our tour of Chautauqua: The Teacher’s Retreat

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Click here to read more about Four Mothers at Chautauqua.

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Cover for Agatha's Unknown WayYou can read “Agatha’s Unknown Way”  for free! Click on the book cover to read Isabella Alden’s short story now.

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You can learn more about the Delsartean system of Physical Culture by following these links:

Read about “the Philosophy of Rest” in an article that appeared in the August 1895 edition of The Chautauquan

Delsartean Physical Culture, by Carrica Le Favre (1892), available on Google Books.

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Other sources from the period:

Physical Culture, by E. B. Houghton (1891)

Physical Culture, by Benjamin Franklin Johns (1900)

A Delsartean Scrapbook, by Frederic Sanburn (1890)

Gestures and Attitudes; an Exposition of the Delsarte Philosophy of Expression, by Edward Barrett Warman (1892)

 

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