Isabella’s brother-in-law Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained Bible verses that might seem confusing at first. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:
Bear ye one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Every one shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:5)
Cast thy burden upon the Lord. (Psalms 4:22)
How do we reconcile these verses that conflict one with another? Think in this way:
One day Martha went over the way to the pump with a four-quart pail for some water, and soon returned to her mother with it.
An hour later she went with an eight-quart pail and, filling it, tried to carry it back, but could not. Her neighbor, Mark, happened to be there with his three-quart pail. He offered to carry hers and let her carry his, and so they did and got on nicely.
Some time after they were both at the pump again, each with an extra pail. They were soon filled, but when they tried to lift them all and go forward they could not. Just then their good friend Moses came along and, seeing their trouble and their pleading looks, came to them, and with his two strong arms took up the extra heavy pails of water and easily and cheerfully carried them to their homes, while they followed with their other pails.
Maybe this will aid you to see that those three texts are not so hard, after all; that they do not go against each other, but go rather hand in hand.
What do you think of Rev. Livingston’s explanation?
Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:
A Hard Text
Matthew 10:34: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
In Luke 2:14 the angels sing of Jesus when He was born, “On earth peace.” At first sight these verses in Matthew and Luke seem to contradict each other. They do not. The blessed Book never does that. Remember:
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part, or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
“I come not to send peace” to a sinner if he stay in his sins. “There is no peace to the wicked.” There ought not to be. But as soon as a sinner asks Jesus for forgiveness, he gets peace. That’s the way peace comes on earth; it is the peace of God in the heart; peace and joy in believing.
Now, when one gets this peace, it seems so good that he wants some other one to get it, too. So he speaks to his other one and urges him to confess his sins and seek Jesus; and in most cases this other one gets angry and talks against Jesus or Christians. That often happens in a family where one is a true Christian and the others are not. You see how trouble will come. There will be war in that family. It may not be a war of swords, but it will be a war of words. Jesus does not want the war, and there wouldn’t be any if the sinner would give up. But he does not usually surrender till after a hard battle with Jesus. So Jesus is said to send a sword or war. It simply means, “I am come to fight against the wrong; and people who are on the wrong side and stay there, will fight against me and my soldiers.”
My dear, dear children, I wish you may never be found with a sword in your hand, or mouth, or heart, fighting against the Lord. Let Him put His sweet peace into your heart, and when you draw the sword, draw it against sin.
Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click on the links below to read more “A Hard Text” columns:
Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand.
Rev. Livingston wrote the following article for an April 1891 issue of the magazine:
A Hard Text
Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
Mark 5:1-2: And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit;
Luke 8:26-27: And they arrived at the country of the Gadarrenes, which is over against Galilee. And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.
They don’t seem to agree. How to account for that?
But don’t you see that if the writers wanted to cheat the readers they wouldn’t contradict each other?
The truth in this case is that they mention different cities but in the same region or neighborhood. Christ went into the same neighborhood.
“There met him two … ” says Matthew.
But Mark and Luke mention one, so then here’s another seeming contradiction. Two cannot be one. How to account for this?
Mark and Luke do not deny that there were two; they simply call special attention to the very furious one. He was a man of some standing before this and so his cure from such dreadful violence by the power of Christ would be so much the more noticeable.
This may be a key to many other “hard texts.” The writers only seem to contradict each other, whereas they may be telling different things about the very same person or thing, or calling special attention to one of several persons. When writers try to deceive, they do not give names and dates, [but] you will find them in the Bible.
It may not always be possible to harmonize all things as you read along in the Bible; but do not therefore conclude that those things cannot be harmonized.
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
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Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click here to read another “A Hard Text” article by Rev. Livingston.
For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine called The Pansy. While their names were credited on the magazine’s cover, the entire endeavor was a family affair.
Isabella’s son Raymond regularly contributed poems, short stories, and science-related articles.
Her sister Marcia wrote “Baby’s Corner,” a monthly column for the magazine’s youngest readers.
Marcia’s husband, the Reverend Charles M. Livingston, contributed stories, anecdotes, and news items.
Rev. Livingston had a talent for explaining the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. He told young readers:
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
In 1888 Rev. Livingston wrote a brief article for The Pansy magazine about a certain Bible verse that young people—and adults—often found very confusing!
Here’s what he wrote:
A Hard Text?
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
A hard text? Some readers think it is. But suppose it read this way:
“If any man come to me and love not his family less than me … he cannot be my disciple.”
The other way is simply a strong way of saying this idea, that Christ must always be FIRST to His child. He must have our supreme love, and nothing must stand in the way. Do you get the idea?
Of course it does not teach one to hate anybody, much less a dear father, mother, brother, sister.
You know this same Jesus who spoke Luke 14:26 also said:
“Love,” even one’s enemies, and “Honor thy father and mother.”
Jesus cannot contradict Himself.
Readers of The Pansy enjoyed Rev. Livingston’s lesson so much, he wrote several more installments, and “The Hard Text” became a regular recurring column in ThePansy magazine!
Would you like to see more “The Hard Text” columns by Rev. Livingston?
What do you think? Did Rev. Livingston do a good job of explaining the meaning of this particular Bible verse?
In 1883 Isabella was living in the small town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
Her husband had become pastor of Carbondale’s Presbyterian Church the year before, and he was already making his imprint upon the congregation.
Reverend Alden was pastor of the Carbondale church for only three years, but decades after his departure, members of his congregation still remembered him as a leader who encouraged his flock to immerse themselves in the Lord’s work.
One member of the church said:
“He brought the church up to a high state of activity.”
In 1883 Reverend Alden brought the great American evangelist Reverend A. B. Earle to Carbondale for a two-week-long revival meeting.
It was a resounding success. Thousands of people attended and hundreds committed their lives to Christ.
The following year Reverend Alden organized a temperance rally, where the featured speaker was evangelist and temperance advocate P. A. Burdick.
He, too, drew large crowds and had a profound effect on the community
Also in 1883 Reverend Alden organized an event of which he was extremely proud. The previous year, while at Chautauqua Institution, he had heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers perform; and he was so impressed by their performance, he immediately went to work to convince them to perform at his church in Carbondale.
The members of Fisk Jubilee Singers were all students at Fisk University in Nashville, a liberal arts university that opened in 1866. Some of the first students were newly freed or had family members that were freed slaves. To raise funds for the university, music professor George White organized a nine-member chorus to perform in concerts.
They introduced to the world the slave songs that “were sacred to our parents” and had never before been sung in public. The Jubilee Singers’ beautiful performances soon gained a following. They began to receive critical praise, and in 1872 they sang for President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House.
A year later a second company embarked on a tour of England, where they performed before Queen Victoria and Prime Minister William Gladstone.
At home they performed at Carnegie Hall, where Mark Twain was a member of the audience and remarked:
“It’s something I never heard before. I’d walk seven miles to hear them again.”
By 1883 there were different Jubilee troupes touring different parts of the country. One of those troupes performed at Chautauqua, where Reverend Alden heard them, and resolved to bring them to Carbondale.
The Fisk Jubilee Singers performed at the Presbyterian Church of Carbondale on June 12, 1883. You can feel Reverend Alden’s enthusiasm in the press release he wrote (co-authored with Isabella and her brother-in-law, Reverend Charles Livingstone) for the local newspaper:
“Carbondale may now make ready for one of the most enjoyable entertainments ever prepared for mortal ears. The Fisk Jubilee Singers are coming!”
Isabella Macdonald Alden was born the youngest child in a loving, and very tight-knit family.
She and her sisters were especially close, even though there was a vast difference in their ages.
For example, Isabella celebrated her first birthday the same year her eldest sister, Elizabeth, married and moved into a home of her own. But since Elizabeth’s new house was only a few steps from the Macdonald’s front door, Isabella and Elizabeth shared a close relationship.
The same was true of Mary, who was 14 years older than Isabella. When Mary wed and set up housekeeping, her home was built on property that abutted the Macdonald’s back garden. As a result, Isabella spent a lot of time with Mary and they, too, had a special bond.
It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella married and began keeping a house of her own, she made certain the door was always open to family members. She wanted her sisters to feel the same welcoming spirit in her house as she had always felt in theirs.
When her son Raymond was young, Isabella and her husband Ross began taking him to Florida, hoping the southern climate would benefit Raymond’s health. To their relief, Raymond’s health did improve, so the Aldens decided to make Florida their winter home.
They bought a plot of land in the new town of Winter Park, and began building a house that would be big enough to accommodate plenty of family members.
They built on an oversized lot on the corner of Lyman and Interlachen avenues, right across the street from All Saints Episcopal Church.
The house was completed in 1888. Ross dubbed it “Pansy Cottage,” a name that stuck and was soon known all over town. This photo shows the size of the “cottage”:
The inviting home was three stories tall, with large yards in front and back, and a wrap-around porch that invited family, friends and neighbors to sit down and enjoy a cozy chat. It was the perfect place for the family to gather, far away from the cold New York winters.
In this photo you can see family members on the front steps and porch, in the yard, and even peeking out of the top-most windows. They look like they’re having fun!
Isabella and her family members spent many happy winters at the Pansy Cottage; and the Florida climate did improve Raymond’s health.
In 1906 Ross and Isabella began their preparations for retirement. They sold Pansy Cottage and moved to their new house in Palo Alto, California where, once again, everyone was welcome in Isabella’s new home.
In fact, she and Ross shared the California house with their son Raymond, and his wife and children, as well as Isabella’s sisters Julia and Mary.
After Ross and Isabella sold Pansy Cottage, it was passed along to different owners. Eventually, it was turned into a rooming house; and in 1955 Pansy Cottage was demolished. But thanks to photos like these, we can still peek into Isabella’s world and imagine a bit of her life with those she loved in turn-of-the-century Florida.
This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card! We’ll announce the winner on Friday, September 28.
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.
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.
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.
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.
She also taught men’s classes in physical culture, such as fencing and Greek Posture:
And when she wasn’t teaching at the college, she taught physical culture classes at 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.”
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.
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
“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.”
One of the most interesting features of The Pansy magazine was the way it promoted The Pansy Society. Isabella Alden organized The Pansy Society as a children’s version of the Christian Endeavor program that had taken teens and young adults by storm in the 1880s.
Through stories and articles in The Pansy, Isabella encouraged young children to join The Pansy Society. Members of the Society had their own pledge:
Asking Jesus to help me, I promise to try to overcome the fault which oftenest tempts me to do wrong. This fault is _______.
Thousands of children filled in the blank for themselves, thereby pledging to harness their temper, obey their parents, be patient, read their Bible, or say only kind words.
Isabella encouraged children to use The Pansy Society “whisper motto” whenever they needed help controlling their fault:
I will do it for Jesus’ sake.
Thousands of children wrote to tell Isabella they whispered “For Jesus’ sake” regularly to keep them on the right path.
Every child who joined The Pansy Society received a membership card, personally signed by Isabella, and a badge to wear.
Isabella encouraged Pansy Society members (she often called them Pansies or Blossoms) to find other members in their neighborhood, and hold meetings to encourage each other in overcoming their faults and doing good for Jesus’ sake.
Isabella’s brother-in-law Charles Livingston (Grace Livingston Hill’s father) wrote a novel called The Poplar Street Pansy Society that told the story of the good accomplished by children who formed their own local Pansy Society.
Many children wrote to Isabella about their struggles to honor their Pansy Society pledge, and others wrote of their triumphs. She received hundreds of letters every month and answered every one. Many were published in The Pansy magazine, like these:
Dear Pansy: I live in Winona, Minn., and I have heard little girls grumble because they don’t live in a big city, but that is not right. I give my old Pansy books to a poor little girl across the street. She is sick, and she is trying to be a Christian; I will help her all I can. Eleanor Calvery
Dear Pansy: We have a little sister younger than ourselves, and she gives away sometimes to fits of temper, and says little naughty words, but since she has seen our badges, and has been told that we are going to try to be good boys, she begs to wear a badge, and says she wants to be good, too. Mamma asked her to say the pledge after her this morning, and she said it so sweetly. “I will do all the dood I tan.” Won’t you please enroll her and send her a badge, too? Her name is Vivian Allen. Harry L. A. Allen
Dear Pansy: Your Pansy magazine has helped me to lead a Christian life. Mamma likes to have sister Ruthanna and me help her about the house, and I do not enjoy it very much, so I nearly always grumble and try to get out of it. So I will try to overcome this, with Jesus’ help, and do my work cheerfully. Clara A. Simms.
Parents wrote letters, too, sharing stories of changes in their children’s behavior, all due to their child’s membership in The Pansy Society.
In return, Isabella wrote stories to help children remember their pledge, and to encourage them to take their troubles to Jesus. For example, “Polly’s Short Journey” appeared in an 1888 issue of The Pansy, and teaches children to appreciate what they have. You can read the story here:
Polly’s Short Journey
It was rather a sour-faced little maid who got on the train by herself at Glenburn station. She had on a brown suit, brown hat and gloves, and carried a brown basket. But she didn’t look half so pleased as you would expect a little brown sparrow of a girl to be when she was going on a journey in a nice plush-lined car, through a beautiful country.
The car was very full, and Polly Imboden flopped herself down in the first seat she came to, which was occupied by a sweet-looking old lady in Quaker bonnet and gown. The Friend eyed her with quiet amusement, and presently asked gently:
“Is thee going far today?”
“Only to Midvale,” answered the little traveler shortly.
“Then thee will not have time to grow tired; but I am going a thousand miles.”
“A thousand miles!” exclaimed Polly; and as soon as she forgot herself and began to be interested in somebody else, the ugly look took itself off somewhere, and you began to see that Polly had a sweet, bright face, and actually two dimples.
Her companion soon found out that Polly was pouting because her mother had gone to Philadelphia, and instead of taking her, had sent her to Midvale to stay with Aunt Mary. Mother did not seem to be to blame, as there was fear of scarlet fever in the square to which she was going, but that did not keep Polly from being cross about it.
“This is a patience lesson set thee, child,” said the old Friend. “There are many more for thee to learn, but if thee skip this one, the next will be harder.”
But Polly wasn’t listening to this little sermon. To her surprise there were rows upon rows of little boys and girls about her own age in the car.
“Is thee looking at my children?” said the old lady, smiling. “They are going with me on that long thousand miles to find homes in the West.”
“Aren’t they coming back to their fathers and mothers?” asked Polly, her lips beginning to tremble a little.
“They have no fathers and mothers on earth,” answered the friend, “but their Heavenly Father takes care of them.”
The tears were beginning to run down Polly’s cheeks at the thought of all that these little children had to do without.
The Friend laid her hand lightly on the little brown-gloved fingers. “Has thee ever seen a lesson-book?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” answered Polly, in surprise.
“What are the pictures for?”
“Why,” said Polly, still more surprised, “why, to show things.”
“Yes, that is it. Now, the great Teacher wants my little friend to be contented with her lot, to be so glad she has a dear mother and father and home, and friends to take care of her, but she wasn’t learning that lesson very fast, so he puts her on this train for a journey, and shows her all these little ones who have to do without these blessings. Will this picture make thee learn faster?”
Polly pulled out her handkerchief and scrubbed away at the tear drops. “I’d like to give one of them my basket. It’s got a lot of good things that mother put in it for me.”
“Thee will have to hurry, then,” said the Friend, well pleased, “for Midvale is in full sight.”
Hastily, Polly slipped off the plush seat, and picking out a pale, grave-looking child, she put the heavy basket in her hand, smiled a good-bye under the Quaker bonnet of the old lady, and here was Midvale.
And for a long time to come, when mother felt Polly’s arm close on her so tight that she could hardly breathe, she knew she was thinking about the old Friend, and her rows and rows of motherless children.
All of the black and white illustrations in this post came from original issues of The Pansy magazine.
For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine 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. Published by D. Lothrop and Company of Boston, the magazine was first produced as a weekly publication, and later changed to a monthly.
Editing and writing for the magazine was no easy undertaking and Isabella’s entire family pitched in to help.
Pick up any issue of The Pansy and you’ll find stories by Isabella’s sisters, Julia Macdonald and Marcia Livingston, or her best friend, Theodosia Foster (writing as Faye Huntington).
Margaret Sidney, famous for the Five Little Peppers books for children, published some of her books as serials in The Pansy, as did author Ruth Ogden. Even Isabella’s brother-in-law Charles and beloved niece Grace Livingston (before her marriage to Reverend Frank Hill) contributed stories.
Isabella’s son Raymond wrote poems, and her husband Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden contributed stories and short homilies like this one:
Sometimes, the family banded together to write stories for the magazine. In 1886 each family member—Isabella, Ross, Marcia, Grace, Raymond, Theodosia, and Charles—took a turn writing a chapter of a serial story titled “A Sevenfold Trouble.” In 1887 they continued their collaboration by writing a sequel titled, “Up Garret,” with each writer again producing a different chapter. In 1889 the combined stories were published as a book titled A Sevenfold Trouble.
Isabella also previewed some of her own books by publishing them as serial stories in the magazine. Monteagle and A Dozen of Them first captured readers’ hearts in the pages of The Pansy.
The magazine was a resounding success. Thousands of boys and girls from around the world subscribed. Many children grew to adulthood reading the magazine, as Isabella remained at the helm of The Pansy for over 23 years.
Isabella Alden tells a lovely story about a very special Thanksgiving she spent in Auburn, New York.
She was 22 years old at the time, and living with her older sister Marcia and brother-in-law Charles, while Charles attended Auburn Theological Seminary.
That year Marcia and Isabella prepared the family’s Thanksgiving feast, and Isabella was responsible for baking the pies. She wrote:
My mother was a wonderful cook, and her pumpkin pies were especially renowned, but I, her youngest daughter, had been busy since very early in life in other places than the kitchen, and knew almost nothing about cooking.
Despite her doubts, Isabella’s pies were a success, and Charles declared:
“Upon my word, I believe this pumpkin pie is every bit as good as our mother can make. And we three know that there can’t be any greater praise for pumpkin pie than that!”
When they’d finished eating and had cleared away the dishes, Charles suggested they ask some of his fellow seminary students to come in and share their cheer.
Of course Marcia and Isabella agreed; and while Charles was gone, hunting up lonely students to bring back to the house, Marcia and Isabella prepared turkey sandwiches and sliced the remaining pies Isabella had made.
Charles soon returned with one lonesome stranger in tow. Isabella described her first impression of their guest:
He looked uncommonly tall to me, and he certainly liked pumpkin pie. My sister had no difficulty in persuading [him] to take another piece. Also, there was much fun over the fact that these were the very first pumpkin pies I had ever made.
They spent an enjoyable evening together, unaware of how great a role their guest would play in their futures.
As Isabella later wrote:
That lonesome stranger who ate my first pumpkin pie was the man who afterward became my husband!