Tag Archives: Chrissy’s Endeavor

Something Sweet and Sticky

15 Mar

With a few exceptions, the women in Isabella’s stories spent a lot of time in the kitchen. One hundred years ago when Isabella wrote her novels, keeping house for her family was a woman’s primary concern; and preparing food filled up the majority of her waking hours.

Magazine illustration of a 1913 kitchen.

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Chrissy Holmes Hollister was a something of an exception to the rule. Although she could easily afford to hire someone to do the daily cooking, Chrissy’s mother had taught her how to properly manage a kitchen. Chrissy had also been taught to bake a decent loaf of bread and prepare a delicious meal when needed.

Cover illustration for a 1908 cook book.

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In Her Associate Members Chrissy’s husband Stuart was struggling to recover from an illness. On doctor’s orders, Chrissy and Stuart removed to a warm southern state to pass the winter; but Chrissy had a hard time finding a boarding house that was well-run and could serve palatable meals to her invalid husband.

Vacancy sign on an Alabama boarding house in 1936.

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In the boarding house they finally settled in, Chrissy found the food so distasteful, she negotiated with her landlady, Mrs. Stetson, for permission to make Stuart’s meals herself.

A model kitchen in 1921; from an issue of Ladies Home Journal magazine.

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Soon Chrissy’s trips to the chaotic and messy kitchen to prepare a cup of beef tea for her husband became opportunities for her to teach Mrs. Stetson to run her kitchen more efficiently. That’s when she discovered how much Mrs. Stetson disliked having to cook for her boarders.

“What in the name of wonder will I get for dessert?” Mrs. Stetson pronounced the word as though she were speaking of the plains of Sahara. “I wish to the land folks didn’t have to have dessert every blessed day of their lives! It hasn’t got any reason nor sense in it, to my way of thinking. Eat a good big dinner of roast beef, and two kinds of potatoes, and beans, or something, and pickles and bread and jelly, and everything they can get, and then begin all over again, with fresh plates and all, and swallow down something sweet and sticky. I’d like to know who first got up such a ridiculous fashion, anyway! But there is no use in talking; folks do it, and so I s’pose folks will keep on doing it to the end of time. But I don’t know more than the babes in the woods what to have, nor how to make it.”

Mrs. Stetson’s lament gave Chrissy an idea. Since her arrival she had been patiently waiting for an opportunity to do something nice for overworked Mrs. Stetson, and she now saw an opportunity:

“Mrs. Stetson, I have been looking at some beautiful lemons while I was at work. Do your boarders all like lemon pie, and do you care to have me make some for dessert?”

Mrs. Stetson didn’t hesitate in answering:

“Like lemon pie? I should say they did. Every last one of them looks as though he had had a fortune left him when he sees a piece coming!”

An illustration of a variety of desserts from a 1911 cookbook.

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So Chrissy set to work preparing her ingredients, while Mrs. Stetson sat back and had a much-needed rest.

Although Chrissy made it sound as if it were easy to whip up a lemon pie, dessert making was a tricky business.

Ovens in those days did not have thermostats, and cooks who followed printed recipes had to know what it meant when a recipe called for a “quick oven” instead of a “moderate oven.”

A 1917 recipe for Strawberry Shortcake with instructions to bake the cake in a “moderate” oven.

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Stove-top cooking had its challenges, too. Burners had no gauges to modulate high, low, or medium heat; cooks controlled the level of heat with the amount and type of wood they fed their stove. One too many pieces of wood on the fire or one too few, and a cook could easily scald the contents of a pot, or undercook a sauce on a burner that wasn’t hot enough.

If you’d like to get a sense of what it was like to cook and bake in Isabella’s time, visit A Hundred Years Ago, a blog that prints old recipes, then updates them for today’s cook.

Recently, A Hundred Years Ago took a 1916 dessert recipe for Baked Rice Pudding and updated it with instructions that make it easy for you to make the creamy, sweet delight today.

In previous posts, One Hundred Years Ago has also printed old recipes for making candies and fudge, then tweaked them, of course, to also print updated versions of the original recipes.

Illustrations of chocolate candies from a 1911 cookbook.

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One thing that becomes clear as you read through those old recipes is the amount of time cooks must have spent stirring, beating and whipping their ingredients together. Since they didn’t have the luxury of our modern-day mixers and blenders, it’s easy to understand why Mrs. Stetson grew to hate making desserts each day for her boarders.

But Mrs. Stetson’s life was about to change, because Chrissy soon became not only Mrs. Stetson’s new boarder, but her friend, too. And as Chrissy helped Mrs. Stetson implement simple changes in her kitchen that made her life easier, Chrissy kept watch for a chance to make over Mrs. Stetson’s heart, as well.

The Boy Killer

20 Apr

An 1894 issue of the Christian Intelligencer printed this letter from a young reader of the magazine:

“We have a league in our school; perhaps you have heard of it before? It is called the Anti-Cigarette League. I am a member of it.  Arthur Brown.”

A 1903 hand-colored photgraph

A 1903 hand-colored photgraph

When Isabella Alden saw that brief letter, she took up the cause of promoting the Anti-Cigarette League to young readers of her own magazine, The Pansy.

An undated ad for Moorhouse's Cigars

An undated ad for Moorhouse’s Cigars

Smoking among boys—and even some girls—was not uncommon in the late 1800s. Cigarettes were readily available and manufacturers targeted their cigarette ads directly at children.

For over 50 years tobacco companies inserted collectable cards into their product packages and encouraged consumers to "collect them all." This card, one of a series of 50, equated the wholesome Boy Scout organization with cigarettes.

For over 50 years tobacco companies inserted collectable cards into their product packages and encouraged consumers to “collect them all.” This card, one of a series of 50, equated the wholesome Boy Scout organization with cigarettes.

There were no restrictions on how cigarettes were made, so cigars and cigarettes were often laced with opium, strychnine, and arsenic.

Illustration on the lid of The Fritz Bros. & Co. cigar box.

Illustration on the lid of The Fritz Bros. & Co. cigar box.

They were inexpensive, too; cigarettes made of inferior tobacco and paper sold for mere pennies, and some saloons and retailers gave cigarettes away to children so they would become addicted and return to purchase more.

Cigarette pack trade card, 1908.

Cigarette pack trade card, 1908.

Isabella was disgusted by such practices and wrote an article on the topic that appeared in Christian magazines, including The Pansy. Her opening paragraph was powerful:

The “Boy-Killer”

This is a startling name which a prominent New York physician gives to the cigarette. He describes the vile thing as made of tobacco soaked in nicotine, which has in it several other deadly poisons. Even the paper in which it is wrapped is whitened with arsenic. He declares that the lists of deaths found daily in our papers, caused by “heart-failure,” ought most of them to read, “caused by cigarette smoking.”

Admonition Cigarette

She was fighting an up-hill battle. For every physician who believed cigarettes were dangerous, there were dozens who believed cigarette smoking was helpful to patients. Doctors prescribed cigarettes to cure a variety of complaints, from asthma to stuttering to nervous conditions.

An undated trade card for a carriage and buggy dealer

An undated trade card for a carriage and buggy dealer

But Isabella was convinced cigarette smoking was dangerous, especially for growing boys. She wrote:

One cannot walk the streets of any town or village without having cigarette-smoke puffed in one’s face, from the lips of mere boys.

Skull undated

She felt it was her duty to explain to parents the risks of smoking for children, and she didn’t shy away from using her pen to spread the word.

Artwork from a promotional calendar distributed by a tobacco company in 1893.

Artwork from a promotional calendar distributed by a tobacco company in 1893.

In The Hall in the Grove, Isabella described the character Paul Adams this way:

To put it in brief: at the time our story opens, Paul Adams was an ignorant, good-natured, tobacco-chewing, cigar-smoking street loafer. He smoked cigars when he could get them. Not that he began by being particularly fond of them—in fact, he found it unusually hard work to learn. He had to devote to this accomplishment the courage and perseverance that would have told well for him in other directions; but it is a taste that once acquired a boy will gratify if he can.

In Chrissy’s Endeavor, Chrissy Hollister learns her own brother Harmon is heading down a dangerous path, when his health begins to fail. Chrissy’s father gives her the bad news and asks her to “get such an influence over Harmon as would induce him to give up late hours, and late suppers, and cigarettes.”

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of which Isabella was an active member, used their regular weekly newspaper columns to warn parents of the perils of tobacco.

From The Enterprise (Wellington, Ohio). September 13, 1893.

From The Enterprise (Wellington, Ohio). September 13, 1893.

By the early 1900s the tide shifted; the public and the medical community began to reconsider the effects of smoking on health. Although the tobacco companies continued to glamorize cigarette smoking, churches and communities banded together to raise public awareness about the dangers of smoking. They petitioned lawmakers to enact legislation to eliminate tobacco sales and ran articles and warnings in newspapers across the country.

From The Bemidi Daily Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota). May 18, 1907.

From The Bemidi Daily Pioneer (Bemidji, Minnesota). May 18, 1907.

Schools began educating children about the dangers of smoking and found unique ways—like this essay contest—to drive the lesson home:

The Willmar Tribune (Willmar, Minnesota). June 7, 1922.

The Willmar Tribune (Willmar, Minnesota). June 7, 1922.

These efforts—and millions more like them—laid the foundation for the regulations and laws we have today that prohibit cigarette companies from selling and marketing tobacco products to children.


Would you like to learn more? Stanford School of Medicine researched the impact of tobacco advertising. Click here to see more examples of tobacco company advertising.

You can also click here to see vintage advertising from the late 1800s and early 1900s on Isabella’s Pinterest board.

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Quotable

22 Oct

Olga Heese 1913 Praying Woman 600 dpi v2 edited2One must stand somewhere. Either you are willing to try to please the Lord Jesus Christ today, or else you are not willing. There is no middle ground.

—from Chrissy’s Endeavor

Isabella and the Young People’s Society

6 Oct

Isabella often received invitations to speak to Christian organizations and she accepted as many as she could. Sometimes she would speak to the group on a topic that was dear to her heart, but often she would read one of her not yet published short stories.

Logo Young Peoples Society of Christian EndeavorOne day she received an invitation to go to a small town and read one of her stories to the “Y.P.S.C.E.”

“It was the first time I had seen those five letters of the alphabet so grouped,” she said, “and I could not decide what they meant.”

She puzzled over those letters for some time and finally decided that the first three initials stood for “Young People’s Society.” But what about the C and E? Why hadn’t the writer explained what the letters meant? How was she supposed to select the right story for her audience when she had no idea of the purpose of the organization?

At last she went to her husband for help and found him reading a newspaper.

“I was just coming to consult you,” Reverend Alden said. He pointed to an article in the newspaper. “I found a splendid name for our young people! This name suggests the very thought we have been struggling for. ‘Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor.’”

Suddenly Isabella realized the meaning of the initials on that invitation.

An artist's illustration of Reverend Francis E. Clark, 1897.

An 1897 artist’s illustration of Reverend Francis E. Clark, founder and president of Christian Endeavor.

The very next day she set out to learn everything she possibly could about the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. She wrote to the Society’s founder, Dr. Francis Clark, or “Father Endeavor Clark,” as he was affectionately called by the young people in the organization. He immediately wrote back with information about the Society, and he invited Isabella attended a Christian Endeavor Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. There she met Dr. Clark in person.

Her first thought as he cordially shook her hand was, “Why, he is just a young man!”

A Christian Endeavor Convention, 1921

A Christian Endeavor Convention, 1921

But she soon realized, after watching Dr. Clark interact with the young people at the convention, that he was an earnest and deeply spiritual leader who had a special gift for inspiring young people in Christian work.

A 1914 postcard depicting Williston Church, where the first Y.P.S.C.E. meeting was organized on February 2, 1881.

A 1914 postcard depicting Williston Church, where the first Y.P.S.C.E. meeting was organized on February 2, 1881.

Isabella used her own experiences with the Y.P.S.C.E as the inspiration for her book, Chrissy’s Endeavor. She even incorporated into the story her first encounter with those baffling initials, “Y.P.S.C.E.”

After the book was published, Isabella received an astonishing number of letters praising her book. One such letter read:

“We want to say that we think here that the book ‘Chrissy’s Endeavor’ is doing a work in the world which will be to its author one of the surprises of heaven.”

Isabella remained actively involved in the Y.P.S.C.E, as did her husband and other members of her family. Over the course of many years, she saw the results of the Society’s good works, and she was thankful for having had the chance to know Dr. Clark in person.

San Francisco Call article banner

In 1897 The San Francisco Call published a full-page article about the Society of Christian Endeavor, with details about how it came to be organized, and it’s growth world wide to over two million members. Click on this link to read the article.

Cover_Chrissys Endeavor v3You can find out more about Isabella’s book, Chrissy’s Endeavor. Click on the cover to read reviews and sample chapters.

Chrissy’s Endeavor Pin

17 Feb

.  Logo Young Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor

When Chrissy Hollister arrived to spend the summer with her friend Grace, she was shown to a guest room that was decorated in blue and white and was “just as sweet and cool and charming as it can be.”

Presently her eyes rested on the blue satin pincushion, covered with white lace. Across it lay a ribbon—a badge of some sort. Chrissy laughed as she noticed that even the ribbon, which had evidently been dropped there by accident and forgotten, partook of the general character of the room, being of white satin, and bearing on its surface, painted in delicate tints of blue, five mystic letters: “Y. P. S. C. E.”

Victorian pin cushion smallChrissy studied them curiously, admiring the graceful curves of the rustic work, but wondering much what those letters could represent.

As Chrissy would later discover in a rather embarrassing way, those initials stood for Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. She would also discover just how important that distinctive pin was.

The design of the official Christian Endeavor emblem is attributed to Reverend Howard Benjamin Grose, a Baptist minister and editor of The Home Mission Monthly magazine. As a Christian Endeavor trustee, he felt strongly that the Society needed to adopt an official emblem, but the designs he’d seen were either too elaborate or expensive to produce. He wanted a simple design and felt, given the long name of the organization, the letters C and E should be made prominent.

Reverend H. B. Grose

Reverend H. B. Grose

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Reverend Grose began to doodle, putting the C and E together in different ways:

Pin sketches

He proposed sketch No. 9 to the trustees, and the monogram pin was unanimously adopted in 1887.

The C embraces the E. The Endeavor is all within the Christ.

Christian Endeavor_PinMany emblems are more showy, more glittering, more ornamental, perhaps; but I see none that satisfies me so well, or that awakens so many feelings of affection, gratitude, consecration, and hope,  as the strong, simple, speaking monogram in which the E that means Endeavor is made sublimely significant by the encompassing C that marks it all as Christian.

—Rev. Francis Bell, Founder, the Society of Christian Endeavor

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Once adopted, the Christian Endeavor emblem remained unchanged for generations. The distinctive design was enhanced only slightly for pins produced for the children’s society and Christian Endeavor organizations in other countries, such as this pin from Scotland:

Christian Endeavor_Pin Junior    Christian Endeavor_Pin Scotland

The ribbon badge Chrissy saw in the guest room at Grace’s house may have been a local Christian Endeavor badge. Many state and local societies adopted their own unique Christian Endeavor colors, which they wore as ribbons on their lapels. The ribbons were usually printed or embroidered with the state name, as well as the initials Y.P.S.C.E. and the words Christian Endeavor.

Ribbon badges were also created to commemorate Christian Endeavor annual conferences. Below is an example of the badge worn by attendees at the 1892 annual conference in New York:

Christian Endeavor Badge 1892 New York

And this badge is from the 1909 national convention in Minnesota:

Christian Endeavor Badge 1909 Convention

After Chrissy became a Christian and organized a Christian Endeavor Society in her own town, she learned the power of the little pin while riding the streetcar one day:

A plainly-dressed girl of about her own age, with a good earnest face, sat opposite her, watching her with an intentness that was only excusable because of the absorbed and almost tender light in the girl’s eyes, which lifted her act far above the commonplace stare. At last, seeming to have gathered courage for a resolve, she arose and took a vacant seat beside Chrissy.

“I beg your pardon,” she said in low, well-bred tones, “may I speak to you? I am a stranger, but I see that we are kindred.” Touching as she spoke, the tiny silver badge she wore, bearing the magic letters “C. E.,” and glancing significantly at the corresponding one of gold, which fastened Chrissy’s linen collar.

There was an instant clasping of hands, and an exchange of cordial smiles.

The plainly-dressed girl explained that a friend of hers had attended a Christian Endeavor meeting—the very Christian Endeavor Chrissy organized in her town.

‘And she liked it all so much, that she came home and told about it, and did not rest until she had started a society out of our class in Sunday school. I joined as an associate member, because I was ready to do whatever the others did, but I got acquainted in that society with Jesus Christ. I signed the pledge, and gave myself to Him forever; and I’ve had a good winter.”

Chrissy was surprised and humbled to know that her efforts resulted in a soul being won for Christ. “Unfaithful, unreliable in every way, yet He had used her in the harvest field!” wrote Isabella Alden.

Posing in the shape of the CE monogram ca 1898

Members of two Christian Endeavor Societies pose on the steps of Antioch College in the shape of the CE monogram, circa 1895.

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Isabella and her husband, Reverend Alden were tireless workers for Christian Endeavor. Isabella featured the society in her books Chrissy’s Endeavor, Her Associate Members, Pauline, and What They Couldn’t. She also wrote several short stories about Christian Endeavor: One Day’s Endeavoring and A Christian Endeavor Revenge were published in the Christian Endeavor magazine, The Golden Rule. And her book Grace Holbrook was a compilation of several short stories that illustrated the principles of Christian Endeavor for children.


You can learn more about today’s Christian Endeavor by clicking here to visit their site.

Click on the book covers below to find out more about the books mentioned in this post.

Cover_Chrissys Endeavor v3    Cover_Her Associate Members v2 resized

Cover_Pauline    Cover_What They Couldnt 02 resized

 

Off to See the Circus

7 Oct

At the time Isabella Alden wrote her books, there were no movie theaters, telephones, radios or televisions. Few had the means to attend the theater and the concept of “entertainment” was usually confined to people finding ways to amuse themselves within the drawing-rooms and parlors of individual homes.

Circus Poster - Parade through town

But quiet American life changed the moment the traveling circus came into town (click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version). When a circus company arrived in a new place, the acts and animals paraded through the town, firing people’s imaginations and enticing them to follow the parade back to the performance tent.

Circus Poster - Equestrians Riders and Horses

The mainstay of the circus was the equestrian acts. Trick riders atop well-trained horses performed remarkable feats and thrilled audiences with their precision. Clowns, jungle animals, and rare, exotic people rounded out the bill. The circus was the only entertainment of its kind, thrilling audiences with new experiences and feats they’d never seen before. The atmosphere under the tent was electric, with real performers and real animals executing larger-than-life tricks right in front of the audience.

Circus Poster - Amazing Sideshow

It was heady stuff at the time, and circuses owned an exclusive corner of the entertainment market. It was natural, then that Isabella Alden would have mentioned circuses in her novels.

In Stephen Mitchell’s Journey, Stephen’s sister Sara Jane sighed over the family’s poverty and her dream of being able to do things other people could afford to do:

Circus Poster - Charles 1st Chimpanzee

 

“I wish we knew about things. I am dreadful sick of sticking here on this stony old farm and not knowing what is going on. I wish I could go to the circus. There is going to be one next week, and I would give most anything to go to it; but there! I don’t suppose it is of any use.”

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Sarah Jane may have longed to go to the circus, but Isabella Alden didn’t believe the circus was an appropriate venue for Christians.

Circus Poster - Cleopatra Spectacle

In Chrissy’s Endeavor, Chess Gardner explained to Joe the stable boy why Christians should not attend the circus:

Circus Poster - Jupiter the Balloon Horse“It is said that there are at these places, exhibitions more or less offensive to good taste and good manners; women who dress in a manner not agreeable to refined people, and who ride in a way that would not be pleasant to us if they were our sisters, for instance. This being the case, the latter part of the other statement applies, that to attend, and to pay money for doing so, helps to sustain such entertainments.”

After more discussion, new Christian Joe decided to skip going to the circus, saying:

“Well, I don’t believe Jesus Christ would go to a circus if he were here; I don’t, honest.”

Circus Poster - Lady Equestrians

The explanation Chess Gardner gave reflected a popular view of the time about people who performed in circus shows, especially women. While some, like the equestrians in the above poster, were conventionally attired, others wore costumes that were more daring and much more provocative, like these scandalously-clad acrobats.

Circus Poster - Acrobats

But costumes and lady-like riding aside, Isabella had a more important reason for believing the circus was the wrong place for Christians to be. Her belief was founded in a verse from Corinthians that she used as her guide for daily living:

 Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31

The verse was the yardstick against which she measured her behavior. When she was faced with a dilemma—such as whether to attend a circus or theater production—she asked herself whether doing so would glorify God.

And it wasn’t just in big decisions that she applied the verse. She took it literally, believing that even in small things, such as eating and drinking, Christians should strive to do all things in ways that glorified God.

She wove the verse into many of her books as a touchstone for her characters whenever they were faced with a decision about what to do. In the case of going to the circus, Isabella’s characters asked themselves whether going to see a performance would add to the glory of God.

Circus Poster - Equestrian Maypole

While some of her characters made conscious decisions to stay away, Sarah Jane Mitchell continued to dream of someday going to the circus and the marvelous things she would see there.

Circus Poster - Grand Ethnological Congress

You can click on these links to read more about Stephen Mitchell’s Journey and Chrissy’s Endeavor.

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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