Isabella Alden was one busy lady! In addition to writing novels and short stories, she wrote Sunday school lessons for teachers, and edited The Pansy magazine for children.
Along the way, she also wrote articles for many different Christian publications, including the monthly magazine Christian Endeavor World. Her good friend Amos R. Wells was the long-time editor of Christian Endeavor World, and through their mutual commitment to both the magazine and the Christian Endeavor movement, Isabella and Amos became good friends.
Their friendship was strong enough to withstand a good bit of teasing. In 1902 Amos published a new book of poems for children, titled Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.
Isabella promptly obtained a copy of the book and wrote a delightful tongue-in-cheek review , which was published in American newspapers on December 18, 1902:
Dear Mr. Wells:
I owe you a grudge; you have robbed me of an entire morning, and of no end of pocket money! Yesterday, just as I was seated in my study, all conditions favorable for work, the mail brought to me a copy of your latest book, “Rollicking Rhymes for Youngsters.”
I meant only to look at the covers and the type, and wait for leisure; but I took just a peep at the first poem and indulged in a laugh over a droll picture or two, then “Carlo” caught me, and we went together, “over the fields in the sunny weather.” On the way I met the “little laddie of a very prying mind” and—you know the rest.
It is the old story; somebody tempted me, and I fell. How could I remember that the morning was going, and the typewriter waiting, and the editor scolding? I never stopped till I reached the suggestive lines, “Two full hours ago, believe me, was this glorious day begun.” Alas for me, the morning was gone!
How delightful in you to write that which the children and their elders can enjoy together, not one whit the less because, sandwiched all throughout the fun, are charming little lessons that will sink deep into young hearts, and bear fruit. How cruel in you to write a book which a million weary mothers will have to read, and re-read and read again?”
Yours sincerely, Isabella Macdonald Alden.
Amos Wells probably had a good laugh over Isabella’s clever “mock review” of his new book, and Isabella probably enjoyed the chance to support her friend and fellow author (and indulge in some good-natured teasing at the same time).
You can also read many of Amos’ other books online. Like Isabella, he was a prolific writer and published more than 60 titles during his lifetime. And like Isabella, he had a passion for properly educating the men and women who taught Christian Sunday-school lessons; he wrote many books, pamphlets, and articles on the topic. Click here to read some of Amos’ other titles.
Throughout her adult life, Isabella wrote many short stories that were published by different Christian magazines. For your enjoyment, here is a sweet short story Isabella Alden wrote for Christian Endeavor World magazine:
My friend Muriel is the youngest daughter in a large family of busy people. They are in moderate circumstances, and the original breadwinner has been long gone; so in order to enjoy many of the comforts and a few of the luxuries of life the young people have to be wage-earners. I am sure that they enjoy life just as much as they would if such were not the case, though there are doubtless times when they would like to be less busy. Still, even this condition has its compensations.
“Other people do not know how lovely vacations are,” was the way Esther expressed it as she sat one day on the side porch, hands folded lightly in her lap, and an air of delicious idleness about her entire person. It was her week of absolute leisure, which she had earned by a season of hard work. She is a public school teacher, belonging to a section and grade where they work their teachers fourteen hours of the twenty-four.
Alice is a music teacher, and goes all day from house to house in town, and from school to school, with her music books in hand.
Ben, a young brother, is studying medicine in a doctor’s office, also in town, and serving the doctor between times to pay for his opportunities. There are two others, an older brother just started in business for himself, and a sister in a training school for nurses.
So it was that this large family scattered each morning to their duties in the city ten miles away, and gathered at night, like chickens, to the home nest, which was mothered by the dearest little woman, who gave much of her time and strength to the preparation of favorite dishes with which to greet the wage-earners as they gathered at night around the home table. It is a very happy family, but it was not about any of them that I set out to tell you. In truth, it was Muriel’s apron that I wanted to talk about; but it seemed necessary to describe the family in order to secure full appreciation of the apron.
Muriel, I should tell you, is still a high school girl, hoping to be graduated next year, though at times a little anxious lest she may not pass.
But about her apron . . . I saw it first one morning when I crossed the street to my neighbor’s side door that opens directly into the large living room, and met Muriel in the doorway, as pretty a picture as a fair-haired, bright-eyed girl of seventeen can make. She was in what she called her uniform, a short dress made of dark print, cut lower in the neck than a street dress. It had elbow sleeves, and a bit of white braid stitched on their bands and around the square neck set off the little costume charmingly.
Her apron was of strong dark green denim, wide enough to cover her dress completely. It had a bib waist held in place by shoulder straps; and the garment fastened behind with a single button, making it adjustable in a second. But its distinctive feature was a row of pockets—or rather several rows of them—extending across the front breadth; they were of varying sizes, and all bulged out as if well filled.
“What in the world . . . ?” I began, and stared at the pockets. Muriel’s merry laugh rang out.
“Haven’t you seen my pockets before?” she asked. “They astonish you, of course; everybody laughs at them. But I am proud of them; they are my own invention. You see, we are such a busy family all day long, and so tired when we get home at night, that we have a bad habit of dropping things just where they happen to land, and leaving them. By the end of the week this big living room is a sight to behold. It used to take half my morning to pick up the thousand and one things that did not belong here, and carry them to their places. You do not know how many journeys I had to make, because I was always overlooking something. So I invented this apron with a pocket in it for every member of the family, and it works like a charm.
“Look at this big one with a B on it; that is for Ben, of course, and it is always full. Ben is a great boy to leave his pencils, and his handkerchiefs, and everything else about. Last night he even discarded his necktie because it felt choky.
“This pocket is Esther’s. She leaves her letters and her discarded handkerchiefs, as well as her gloves. And Kate sheds hair ribbons and hatpins wherever she goes. Just think how lovely it is to have a pocket for each, and drop things in as fast as I find them. When I am all through dusting, I have simply to travel once around the house and unpack my load. I cannot tell you how much time and trouble and temper my invention has saved me.”
“It is a bright idea,” I said, “and I mean to pass it on. There are other living rooms and busy girls. Whose is that largest pocket, marked M?”
“Why, I made it for mother; but, do you know, I have found out just in this very way that mothers do not leave things lying around. It is queer, isn’t it, when they have so many cares? It seems to be natural for mothers to think about other people. So I made the M stand for ‘miscellaneous,’ and I put into that pocket articles which will not classify, and that belong to all of us. There are hosts of things for which no particular one seems to be responsible. Is it not a pity that I did not think of pockets last winter, when we all had special cares and were so dreadfully busy? It is such a simple idea you would have supposed that any person would have thought of it, but it took me two years. I just had to do it this spring, because there simply was not time to run up- and downstairs so much.”
“You have proved once more the truth of the old proverb, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’” I said. “And, besides, you have given me a new idea. I am going home to work it out. When it is finished, I will show it to you.” Then I went home, and made rows and rows of strong pockets to sew on a folding screen I was making for my work-room.
Isabella Alden was very close to her sister Marcia Livingston. Like Isabella, Marcia was a writer and they often co-wrote stories together.
After the sisters married, the Alden and the Livingston families remained close. They spent much of their time together, and Marcia’s daughter Grace grew up in the creative atmosphere of writers and books.
Grace learned her ABCs on her “Aunt Belle’s” typewriter. At the age of ten she wrote a story of her own called, “The Esselsltynes; or, Marguerite and Alphonse,” which the family published for her as a surprise. That gift, along with the encouragement and work example set by her family, inspired Grace to continue writing.
She followed the adage of “write what you know.” When Grace became involved in the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor, she wrote stories about that experience; many of those stories were published in Christian Endeavor World magazine.
The Epworth Herald also published Grace’s stories that illustrated simple truths about the Christian life. One such story was “Hazel Cunningham’s Denial,” which described a young woman’s dilemma while vacationing at a summer resort
“Hazel Cunningham’s Denial” first appeared in The Epworth Herald on August 9, 1902, and it’s available for you to read for free.
Click on the cover below to begin reading “Hazel Cunningham’s Denial” by Grace Livingston Hill.