Marking Ester’s Bible

Ester Ried owned a Bible—a “nice, proper-looking Bible” that she read from time to time when she remembered to do so.

If her Bible was at hand when Ester was ready to read, she used it. If not, she took her sister Sadie’s, or picked up “the old one on a shelf in the corner, with one cover and part of Revelation missing.

But when Ester traveled to New York to visit her cousin Abbie, she packed in such haste, she forgot to add her Bible to her suitcase—a circumstance Abbie immediately tried to correct.

“Oh, I am sorry—you will miss it so much! Do you have a thousand little private marks in your Bible that nobody else understands? I have a great habit of reading in that way. Well, I’ll bring you one from the library that you may mark just as much as you please.”

Mark in a Bible? That was an entirely new concept for Ester.

She had never learned that happy little habit of having a much-used, much-worn, much-loved Bible for her own personal and private use, full of pencil marks and sacred meanings, grown dear from association, and teeming with memories of precious communings.

Once Abbie delivered the Bible to her, Ester began to think the idea of marking certain verses was an excellent one. The only problem was, she didn’t know how to go about it and had only a pencil to at her disposal.

When Isabella wrote Ester Ried in 1870, there were no Bible journal kits, stickers or markers like the ones we can buy in stores today.

Colorful Bible tabs from

And she probably never imagined there would one day be Bibles specifically designed for readers to create their own artwork inspired by a verse on the page, like the one below:


So when Isabella wrote Ester Ried, she had her title character take a much more simple approach; she had Ester merely underline certain Bible verses that had meaning to her, which was a perfectly sensible method for a young lady who was new to regular Bible study. As Ester progressed in her Christian journey, so, too, did her ability to memorize and mark verses that held special meaning for her.

Reverend Dwight Lyman Moody was a friend of Isabella’s family, and a keen proponent of Christians marking their Bibles.

Dwight Lyman Moody

He rarely went anywhere without his Bible, which he called his “Old Sword.”

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871—a disaster that caused so much loss for so many people—someone asked Rev. Moody what he had lost in the fire. Rev. Moody focused on what was important:

“I have not lost my Bible, or my reputation.”

Anyone who was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pages of his Old Sword would have seen proof of Rev. Moody’s constant study.

“My Bible is worth a good deal to me because I have so many passages marked that, if I am called upon to speak at any time, I am ready.”

He often told people not to buy a Bible they were unwilling to mark up or write in; and he suggested using a Bible that was printed in a way that offered plenty of room for jotting notes and suggestions.

“Bible-marking should be made the servant of memory; a few words will recall a whole sermon. It sharpens the memory, instead of blunting it, if properly done, because it gives prominence to certain things that catch the eye, which by constant reading you get to learn by heart.”

So what method did Rev. Moody use to mark in his Bible? Below is a plate (unfortunately it’s a little fuzzy after being duplicated many times) that shows his Bible, open to the first chapter of Ephesians. (You can click on the image to see a larger version.)

In addition to notes and references to other verses, he utilized a series of underlines and diagonal lines, which he called “railways.” It may look like a jumble of lines and notes, but his system was really very simple.

In the first column in the page on the right you can see how he used railways to connect words of promise that had meaning to him:


In the second column he underlined words he identified as “together” words. Then, in the blank area on the page on the left, he cited additional “together” verses he found in Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, Romans, and I Thessalonians.

Although this system worked for him, Rev. Moody encouraged everyone to find their own methods.

“There is a danger, however, of overdoing a system of marking, and of making your marks more prominent than the Scripture itself. If the system is complicated it becomes a burden, and you are liable to get confused. It is easier to remember the texts than the meaning of your marks.”

In 1884 Rev. Moody wrote an introduction to a book titled How to Mark Your Bible, which incorporated many of the methods he used in his own Bible markings.

The book shares many examples of how to mark your Bible with railway connections and word groups in the same way Rev. Moody did.

You can read the book for free. Just click on the cover to get started.

Do you use markings, colors, stickers or tabs in your Bible?

What marking method works best for you?

Little Minie Heaton

Isabella often modeled the characters in her books after family members and friends. That was the case with “Little Minie” who appeared in more than a dozen of Isabella’s novels under the names “Minie” or sometimes “Minnie.”

In real life, “Little Minie” was Myra Heaton, but her family—including her adoring “Auntie Belle”—called her Minie.

Minie was born on May 30, 1861, and was named for her grandmother, Myra Spafford Macdonald (Isabella’s mother).

Minie’s mother was Isabella’s older sister Mary; her father was George Heaton, a newspaper publisher.

George Heaton’s advertisement for his newspapers in the 1870 Gloversville directory.

You may remember that it was George who published the first story Isabella wrote. Titled “Our Old Clock,” it appeared in his newspaper when Isabella was just a child. (You can read more about that here.)

George was a devout Christian, a temperance worker, and active in his church. This record from the First Presbyterian Church in Gloversville, New York shows George was elected as a Church Elder in 1864 and served in that capacity until his death in 1870.

Isabella was 23 years old and still living at home when Minie was born. Isabella called her “the special darling of our home.”

She forged a special bond with Minie, which was helped because Minie lived so close by. Isabella, her sister Julia and their parents lived in a large home in Gloversville. On adjoining lots were the homes of Isabella’s oldest sister, Elizabeth, who was married to Hiram Titus, and Mary, who was married to George Heaton.

Family members named in this post are highlighted in red boxes.

Family members passed between the three houses often and with ease, which was especially fortunate. As Isabella later wrote of her mother, “no one in our family ever could get ready to do anything without grandma’s help.” If there was a large meal to prepare, travel trunks to be packed, or big cleaning jobs to be done, Isabella’s mother—as well as members of all three extended families—had only to go “next door” to ask for or offer help.

Isabella wrote that the Heaton home was “at the upper end of the garden” behind her house, so it was only a few easy steps to visit Minie, or gather her up to take her back to Isabella’s own home for a visit and some pampering.

Minie grew up loving Jesus and trusting God. When Minie’s parents had to take a week-long trip, Minie stayed with Isabella and “Auntie Belle’s” mother and father. As Isabella walked Minie through the garden to the Macdonald home to spend her first night there, wise little Minie gave Isabella this advice:

“Auntie Belle, you must say your prayers every night and morning, always, no matter if your mamma is away; because God isn’t away, you know—he never packs his trunk and goes on a journey.”

Isabella adored her Minie, and spent precious time with her every day.

When Isabella married the Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden in 1866, she chose Minie’s fourth birthday as her wedding day, and Minie enjoyed special privileges throughout the day. She even joined the bride and groom on their ride in a beautiful barouche to the train station after the ceremony and reception. Thereafter, Minie often visited Isabella and Ross, who lived not far away.

In 1870, when Minie was eight years old, Isabella’s father became ill, and it was clear to everyone in the family that he was dying.

Minie and Isabella spent most of their summer in Isaac Macdonald’s room, keeping him company and soothing him when needed. Isabella wrote:

It was her delight to fan him, to arrange the pillows for him, to read to him in her soft, gentle voice; to sing to him when he was restless and feverish.

Minie would recite many little pieces to him, but his favorite was:

Many kinds of darkness
In the world are found;
There’s sin, there’s want, there’s sorrow,
So we must shine.
You, in your little corner,
And I, in mine.

Isabella’s father died on July 26, 1870, not long after Minie finished singing one of his favorite hymns to him. The entire family grieved, but Minie cheered Isabella with this perspective:

“Oh, Auntie Belle, if he could only have taken us all right up to heaven with him, how sweet it would have been.”

By 1875, Minie was a vibrant, active fourteen-year-old; but in December of that year, she, too, fell ill. She was sick only a week, Isabella later wrote. Minie died on December 30.

A week later, Isabella wrote of the loss of her “special darling” in a letter to her Pansy Society, which she published in The Pansy magazine.

“Last Thursday at midnight the Lord Jesus called our darling Minie. He wanted her to come up to His beautiful home to live. She was not one bit afraid to go, for she knew and loved Jesus, and remembered His promise that she should come up there some day.

“Minie is resting today and forever with Him. But, oh—we miss her so!

“Still, we cannot help being glad that she will never be sick, or afraid, or unhappy anymore; and that we are all invited to come and live if we choose in that beautiful world, by and by. I choose. Do not you? I have promised to follow His directions. Have you? I am surely going, are you?”

As always, Isabella turned her heartbreak into an opportunity to talk to her young readers about God’s promise of salvation through Christ.

She received many replies from young members of her Pansy Society, and later said, “I like to think that dear Minie has already welcomed precious friends to that eternal home. It is a joy to me to linger over the memory of the earthly life of this young disciple who was not quite fifteen when God called her home.”

Now you know what inspired Isabella to create a “Minie” character in her Ester Ried books, in her novels Chrissy’s Endeavor, Only Ten Cents, and so many others. In each story, Isabella paid a small tribute to her “special darling,” little Minie Heaton.

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 tomorrow!

Isabella’s Critic, Friend, and Helper

Isabella had a special bond with her father, Isaac Macdonald. She might even have been what we would call in today’s world a “daddy’s girl.” But the truth was that her father was undoubtedly the single most influential person in her life when she was growing up.

In his younger years Isaac Macdonald earned his living as a farmer, but with a wife and six children to support, he left farming and established a box-making business in Gloversville, New York.

Many years later, after Isabella became a best-selling author, a Gloversville newspaper wrote a brief article about her early years in that town. The writer of the article briefly mentioned her father:

Isaac was a box maker, and if his boxes are any index to his character, he was staunch and worthy. He lies in our pleasant cemetery, but there are boxes still in use made by his faithful hands.

It’s a brief paragraph, but with its use of the words character, worthy, and faithful, we get a glimpse of Isaac Macdonald’s reputation among his neighbors and friends.

In the many stories and anecdotes Isabella shared about her father, she paints a picture of a loving man of immense faith.

In his home circle, he ably fulfilled his role as provider, protector, leader and teacher. He was eternally patient with his children and grandchildren; and he instilled in them an unbreakable faith in God and His Word.

Most of all, Isaac valued honesty, a fact Isabella illustrated in a story that took place when she was an adult and her young niece Minie was staying at the family home.

Isabella’s sister Julia teasingly told little Minie that she was going to serve butterflies and caterpillars for tea, which greatly shocked and upset the little girl. Julia, however, thought Minie’s reaction was funny; she told the story to the family later that day “with many descriptions of Minie’s shocked tones and looks, and much laughter.”

Only Isaac looked grave. When the laughter was over he said to Julia:

“How many years do you suppose it will be before Minie will discover that you haven’t told her the truth?”

“The truth!” said Julia, in surprise. “Why, of course it wasn’t truth. It was only in fun, you know. Whoever supposed that the absurd little monkey would believe it?” and she laughed again at the thought.

“But, you see, she did believe it,” Isaac said. “She believed it because you told it to her. She has great faith in your word, you see. I would be very careful not to give that faith a shock if I were you.”

“Why, dear me!” Julia said, with puzzled face; “I never thought about its being anything serious. Don’t you think it is right to say anything in fun to a child?”

“I don’t think it is right to say anything but the truth to anyone,” Isaac said, emphatically; “least of all to a child.”

Isabella never forgot the lesson.

Isaac’s teachings with Isabella extended beyond those that would shape her character. In an interview with The Ladies Home Journal, Isabella said that it was her father who taught her to write at an early age.

He was the first to encourage her to keep a diary; and he also taught her to take notes during their minister’s sermons on Sunday morning. Together they would review her notes, and he encouraged her to use her own imagination to expand on them and weave stories from the lessons and bits of wisdom she had recorded.

That early discipline soon bore fruit. When she was about seven or eight years old Isabella wrote a story about the family clock (read more about her story here).

Her story was published in the local newspaper (coincidentally, the newspaper was owned by her sister Mary’s husband and little Minie’s father). Isaac insisted that the story be published under a pseudonym, saying:

“We don’t wish anyone to know that you wrote it, and so we will sign it, Pansy, for pansy means tender and pleasant thoughts, and you have given me some thoughts that are tender and pleasant.”

This incident, too, offers a glimpse into Isaac Macdonald’s character, and his desire to protect his daughter from public scrutiny and the hazards of fame.

Thereafter, Isabella was often writing or telling a story. Her books Four Girls at Chautauqua and Ester Ried made “Pansy” a household name around the world. It was while she was writing Ester Ried that her father became ill.

Isabella mentioned that when she was young, she always hoped she would never have to tend to anyone who was sick; she thought it would be “so dreadful to look at anybody knowing that he was soon to die.”

But she found it made a difference who the sick person was, and how he felt about death himself. Her father, she knew, wasn’t afraid of dying. He used to say to her:

“It is nice to have my children all about me, and it seems sad sometimes that I must go and leave them—sad for them, I mean. But what a blessed thing it will be when we all get up there where none of us will have to go away any more. It will be vacation there all the time, won’t it?”

When her father fell ill in the summer of 1870, Isabella spent as much time with him as she could, and often read to him from his Bible. She described it as a large-print Bible, all full of leaves turned down and verses marked.

She said there was no need to ask which verse was his favorite; he had left “marks of his love” all through the book.

One afternoon when Isabella was with him, she read verses here and there as her eye caught his different markings:

“And they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads.

“And there shall be no night there.”

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with Songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”

And there was this verse:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.”

She knew that verse was among the dearest to her father in the entire Bible. (Read the story behind the verse here.)

During that summer of Isaac Macdonald’s illness, Isabella was writing Ester Ried.

An early cover for Ester Ried

Her father, as always, was interested in her writing progress; but he showed particular interest in the story of Ester Ried. He told Isabella that “he prayed that it might be a blessing to some young life.” Sadly, he passed away on July 26, 1870, before Isabella finished writing the novel.

Isabella later wrote:

“It was while the tears were gathering thick in my eyes as I looked out upon his grave that I wrote the last chapter of the book, feeling that my closest, strongest friend and critic, and wisest helper had gone from me.”

Isaac Macdonald’s grave marker.

Isaac Macdonald’s prayer for Ester Ried was answered over and over again. Ester Ried was a great success and proved to be a blessing to generations of girls and young women who read it.

Isabella’s love for her father was evidenced in the books she wrote. She used him as the model for many of her male characters who were wise in judgment and strong in faith.

You’ll catch glimpses of him in Dr. Deane in Wanted and in Dr. Everett in Workers Together; an Endless Chain.

You can read more about the special bond between Isabella and her father Isaac Macdonald in these posts:

Isabella’s Early Writings

A Teachable Moment

Julia’s Occupation

A Woman’s Voice

A New Brother

Isabella and the “It” Girls

Toward the end of Isabella’s life, her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, encouraged her to write “just one more book.” Grace suggested that it be about Ester Ried’s grand-daughter or great-grand-daughter, in order to bring the great message of the original Ester Ried novel to a whole new generation of readers.

Isabella Alden in an undated photograph.
Isabella Alden in an undated photograph.

Isabella’s fertile imagination still had plenty of stories waiting to be told. She recognized that there were some loose ends from the Ester Ried series that needed to be tied up, as Grace suggested.

She also knew, based on the letters she received, that fans of her books wanted to know more about some of the other characters she had created.

But Isabella chose not to write those sequels. In 1927 she told Grace:

I am not capable of writing a story suited to the tastes of present day young people. They would smoke a cigarette over the first chapter, and toss it aside as a back number. I haven’t faith in them, nor in my ability to help them.

Cover of a 1925 edition of Life magazine.
Cover of a 1925 edition of Life magazine.

It’s unfortunate that Isabella was so disillusioned with the “present day young people” of the 1920s. She didn’t understand the new generation of young people, and she strongly believed she had nothing in common with them.

While Isabella still dressed modestly in long gowns with high collars and full sleeves, young women of the 1920s wore short, sleeveless dresses.

A 1920s dress, from
A 1920s dress, from

They rouged their knees and polished their shoulders.

A 1920s advertising flier for the Bassett's Ice Cream stand located in the Reading Terminal Market, Pennsylvania.
A 1920s advertising flier for the Bassett’s Ice Cream stand located in the Reading Terminal Market, Pennsylvania.

They plucked their eyebrows, painted their lips, and lacquered their fingernails.

Actress Clara Bow on the cover of a 1920s magazine.
Actress Clara Bow on the cover of a 1920s magazine.

Hollywood star Clara Bow set the trends. She was nicknamed the “It Girl” for playing the role of a plucky shop girl who made good. She was the first Hollywood sex symbol, and Americans couldn’t get enough of her.

A 1922 photograph of actress Clara Bow in a daring backless dress. From the U.S. Library of Congress.
A 1922 photograph of actress Clara Bow in a daring backless dress. From the U.S. Library of Congress.

Teenaged girls and grown women copied her make-up and clothes. If Clara Bow smoked cigarettes in a movie, they smoked, too.

Life magazine cover from the 1920s.
Life magazine cover from the 1920s.

Like Clara, they challenged social mores by drinking alcohol and driving fast cars, just like men did.

A 1920s flapper and her flask of alcohol. From the U.S. Library of Congress.
A 1920s flapper and her flask of alcohol. From the U.S. Library of Congress.

And like many of the characters Clara Bow played on screen, they were headstrong and modern and fond of nightlife.

A cover of Puck magazine.
A cover of Puck magazine.

Isabella couldn’t understand it. She wrote:

I saw the trend away from Christ long ago. I recognized the downward trend not only in girls and boys, but in their mothers and teachers and pastors. I came by degrees to understand that the class of young people to whom I had dedicated my life had made a distinct descent, and that for me to do the same in my writing would be to dishonor Jesus Christ.

So Isabella watched with sadness as a new generation of readers turned to the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Warner Fabian, and Virginia Woolf, while her own novels gradually fell out of favor.

Original cover of Unforbidden Fruit by Warner Fabian. The 1928 novel was shocking in its day for depicting single women's sexuality.
Original cover of Unforbidden Fruit by Warner Fabian. The 1928 novel was shocking in its day for depicting single women’s sexuality.

Grace and others urged her not to give up her life work, but Isabella was adamant: she would not write except to try to win souls for Christ.

I think we all realize in these days that even Jesus Christ is not popular. Therefore we who want to follow Him closely must not try to be.

In 1929 Isabella published An Interrupted Night. Like her novel, Unto the End, An Interrupted Night was written for adults and dealt with issues of love, marriage, infidelity, and sacred vows. The book received good reviews, but it would be Isabella’s final novel.

The cover for Isabella's 1929 novel, An Interrupted Night.
The cover for Isabella’s 1929 novel, An Interrupted Night.

Unfortunately, Isabella Alden passed away the following year, in 1930, never knowing that—almost one hundred years later—an entirely new generation of “present day young people” would love and cherish her books.

Julia’s Occupation

Cover_Julia RiedIsabella Alden’s series of books about the Ried family were her most popular novels. In Julia Ried, book 2 of the series, the Ried family falls on hard times, and daughter Julia decides to strike out on her own. She takes a job as a bookkeeper in a paper box factory in the neighboring town of Newton.

In choosing Julia’s career, Isabella was on solid ground. She was able to write convincingly about Julia’s job and work environment, because Isabella’s father, Isaac Macdonald, operated a paper box factory in Gloversville, New York.

Page from an 1870 Fulton County New York Business Directory.
Page from an 1870 Fulton County New York Business Directory.

Gloversville, the little village where Isabella grew up, was celebrated for its glove-making industry.

A 1908 postcard of Gloversville showing the intersection of Main Street, with its many retail glove shops, and Fulton Street where Isaac Macdonald's box factory was located.
A 1908 postcard of Gloversville showing the intersection of Main Street, with its many retail glove shops, and Fulton Street, where Isaac Macdonald’s box factory was located.

Between 1890 and 1950, Gloversville supplied nearly 90 percent of all gloves sold in the United States.

1913 paper glove box; from Pinterest.
1913 paper glove box; from Pinterest.

Besides the many “skin mills” and glove manufacturing business in the little village, the industry spawned a host of supporting businesses, such as box makers, tool and die manufacturers, and dealers in buttons and threads.

Box for Silkateen brand ladies gloves. From Etsy.
Box for Silkateen brand ladies gloves. From Etsy.

Isabella’s father, Isaac Macdonald owned one of four or five box-making factories in Gloversville. While there’s no record that Isabella ever worked in her father’s factory, she had a good grasp of the working conditions, and she conveyed her thorough knowledge of the business in Julia Ried.

Women workers at a box factory, about 1890.
Women workers at a box factory, about 1890.

In Julia Ried, Isabella gave lively descriptions of the “shop-girls” who folded and pasted the cardboard boxes together. According to Frank Hooper, one of those shop-girls in the book, they worked ten hours a day, six days a week.

A 14-year-old girl at work in a paper box factory. From National Archives.
A 14-year-old girl at work in a paper box factory. From National Archives.

Pasting cardboard boxes together was a sticky, messy, exhausting job; but it was a job that was often performed by women and children.

A young girl working alongside a woman in a paper box factory, 1912. From National Archives.
A young girl working alongside a woman in a paper box factory, 1912. From National Archives.

Small boxes especially—like those that contained gloves for ladies and children—needed to be assembled and pasted by women or children with small hands.

From the Gloversville Daily Leader, March 12, 1900.
From the Gloversville Daily Leader, March 12, 1900.

Yet in the glove-making industry—and its supporting businesses—women and girls earned half as much as men.

The work could be dangerous. Accidents were common, and some injuries could be severe.

From the Gloversville Daily Leader, May 12, 1898.
From the Gloversville Daily Leader, May 12, 1898.


A young box factory worker after an accident with a veneering saw; 1907.
A young box factory worker after an accident with a veneering saw; 1907.

Isabella drew on her knowledge of the box-making business to create some of her most beloved characters. The characters of Frank Hooper and Jerome Sayles (whose father co-owned the box factory in the story) made return appearances in other books in the Ester Ried Series.

Women and girls working in a box factory, 1910.
Women and girls working in a box factory, 1910.

You can learn more about Gloversville, Isabella’s home town, by reading these related posts:

Helena’s Alexandre Gloves

Deerville, My Home Town




Dell Bronson’s Porte-Monnaie

In The King’s Daughter, the heroine of the story is Miss Dell Bronson, a fashionable young lady, raised in the lap of Boston luxury by a wealthy aunt and uncle.

An antique porte-monnaie made of metal mesh
An antique porte-monnaie made of metal mesh

In writing about Dell, Isabella described her as dainty, neat, and graceful. Dell was always fashionably, but tastefully dressed; and because of her uncle’s wealth, Dell was able to afford the latest styles of dress and accessories.

A sterling silver porte-monnaie. It's long shape suggests it was carried in a pocket.
A sterling silver porte-monnaie. It’s long shape suggests it was ideal for carrying in a pocket.

One of Dell’s accessories was a porte-monnaie, which she carried in her skirt pocket.

A silver porte-monnaie, lined in blue leather. From Etsy.
A silver porte-monnaie, lined in blue leather. From Etsy.


The blue leather interior of the silver porte-monnaie features bellows to separate coin denominations. From Etsy.
The blue leather interior of the silver porte-monnaie features bellows to separate coin denominations. From Etsy.

Literally, a porte-monnaie was a place for money—specifically coins. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, men and women carried their paper money and coins separately. Paper bills were carried flat in wallets or bill-folds, but all the many coins in circulation at the time were usually carried in porte-monnaies.

A two-cent piece, in circulation until 1873. It was the first American coin to carry the motto, In God We Trust.
A two-cent piece, in circulation until 1873. It was the first American coin to carry the motto, In God We Trust.

And what a variety of coins there were! In addition to the pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters we know today, people commonly carried:

Two-cent pieces
Silver three-cent pieces
Three-cent pieces made from nickel
Twenty-cent pieces

The three-cent piece, made of nickel, was in circulation until 1889.
The three-cent piece, made of nickel, was in circulation until 1889.

And gold coins (also known as Eagles) weren’t uncommon. They were minted in denominations of $1, $2.50, $5, $10, and $20.

Carried by both men and women, porte-monnaies were made of sturdy material, such as leather or silver. At home, women kept their porte-monnaie in the pocket of their skirt or apron. Outside the home, women would often tuck their porte-monnaie inside their purse or reticule.

Antique silver porte-monnaie. The center emblem has a space for engraving the initials of the owner. From Pinterest.
Antique silver porte-monnaie. The center emblem has a space for engraving the initials of the owner. From Pinterest.

Men kept a porte-monnaie in a desk drawer at home, and carried it in a pocket while out and about.

A French porte-monnaie made of mother-of-pearl, with brass and silver inlay. From Pinterest.
A French porte-monnaie made of mother-of-pearl, with brass and silver inlay. From Pinterest.

References to porte-monnaies date as far back as the 1850s but the term came into fashion during the American Civil War, when Americans considered anything French to be the height of fashion.

Which of the fashionable porte-monnaies pictured here do you think Dell Bronson would have carried? Cast your vote below

The Trouble with Paper Dolls

In Isabella’s book Ester Ried, Ester’s youngest sister Julia found herself in trouble, all because of paper dolls.

Ester had charged Julia with taking an important letter to the post-office. Julia obediently started out, immaculate in white apron and white stockings, but then she met temptation in the form of a little girl playing with her paper dolls.

Mascot Bread_Many Lands ed

While Julia was admiring them, the letter “had the meanness to slip out of her hand into the mud!”

Horrified, Julia and the little girl put their wise young heads together, and decided to give the muddy letter a thorough washing in the creek. But no sooner were they standing ankle deep in the mud, vigorously carrying their idea into effect, than “the vicious little letter hopped out of Julia’s hand, and sailed merrily away, downstream!”

Baby in Rocking Cradle

It’s understandable that Julia was a little bewitched by her friend’s paper dolls. Paper dolls were colorful and beautifully detailed little works of art, usually depicting handsome men, beautiful women, and charming children. Paper dolls of fairy tale characters were popular, too, like this set of Tom the Piper’s Son:

Tom Tom the Pipers Son

And this fanciful set from 1912 depicts characters from the story of Aladdin.

Aladdin fairy tale 1912

Because every respectable paper doll needed a suitable paper home in which to live, children could collect paper doll furniture pieces, too. Here’s a cabinet suitable for a paper doll’s fashionable drawing room:

Drawing room cabinet

Paper dolls even had lovely chairs and settees on which to sit.

Drawing room chairs


Drawing room settee
No paper doll drawing room would be complete without a grandfather clock and a decorative screen to block out cold drafts.

Grandfather clock

Drawing room screen

Here’s a paper doll house accessory that Isabella might have liked for herself: a pot of colorful pansies.


Pansies instructions

You can click on any of the paper doll images in this post to open a larger version to print and assemble for yourself.

And click here to see a previous post about paper dolls

Fan Mail and Ester Ried

At the height of her popularity, Isabella Alden was one of the most widely-read authors in the world. One of the things that made her so popular—and unique—was the varying ages of her readers: she had just as many children who were dedicated fans of her books as she had adult fans. And they all wrote letters to her.

She received letters by the thousands, addressed to her publisher, to her home, and to the offices of her magazine, The Pansy. And she answered them all!

Isabella Alden in an undated photograph.
Isabella Alden in an undated photograph.

Some fans wrote to request her autograph and a photo. Others asked for advice on how to become a great author or they sent their own manuscripts and asked for her opinion.

Some asked for advice on other topics, from how to get a good husband to the best way to stop fingernail biting. One fan even asked for pieces of her best dress so they could be sewn into a patchwork quilt the fan was sewing!

An early cover for Ester Ried
An early cover for Ester Ried

But the fan mail Isabella received most often was about her book Ester RiedEster Ried was incredibly popular and prompted scores of readers to send Isabella letters thanking her for the book’s message.

New cover for the 2016 release of Ester Ried
New cover for the 2016 release of Ester Ried

Fans wrote to Isabella about how they saw themselves in Ester’s struggles and her impatience with life’s daily annoyances. But mostly, readers identified with the lessons Ester learned; they took to heart the promise that God would bring peace and happiness to their lives, if only they trusted in Him.

What started as a single book soon blossomed into an ongoing series. The Ester Ried series gave fans of the original book glimpses into the lives of the characters they loved. Readers grabbed up each new story about the Ried family members and their trials as they grew up, married, and learned to trust God to help them through a sometimes difficult world.

Cover_Julia Ried

Two years after Ester Ried was published came Julia Ried, a sequel that focused on Ester’s younger sister Julia and the lessons she learns about faith in times of temptation. It also brought readers up to date on Abbie Ried’s story after the tragic turn her life took in Ester Ried.

Cover_The King's Daughter

The following year Isabella published the third book in the series, The King’s Daughter. In this book Isabella introduced the character of Miss Dell Bronson. Unlike Ester or Julia, Dell was rock solid in her faith and trusted God in her daily life, but she still had challenges to face. And she still had lessons to learn in Wise and Otherwise, the next book in the series.

Cover_Wise and Otherwise

Isabella commissioned her best friend Theodosia Foster to write book five. Echoing and Re-Echoing (written under Theodosia’s pen name Faye Huntington) centers around Ralph Ried, Abbie’s brother, who, as a new minister, struggles to reach his flock through his Sunday sermons.

Cover_Echoing and Re-echoing

Isabella’s fans particularly loved the sixth book in the series, Ester Ried Yet Speaking, because it included the character of Flossy Shipley. Flossy was originally introduced to readers in Four Girls at Chautauqua. In Ester Ried Yet Speaking readers got to find out what happened to Flossy after her marriage to Evan Roberts. They also met Dr. Everett, Hester Mason, and Joy Saunders, who were the main characters in Isabella’s later book, Workers Together; An Endless Chain.

Cover_Ester Ried Yet Speaking

Isabella waited nine years before she published Ester Ried’s Namesake. It was intended to be the last book in the series, but fans wrote to beg for more.

Cover_Ester Rieds Namesake

Even Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill, encouraged her to write “one more long story.” Grace suggested she write about Ester Ried’s granddaughter or great-granddaughter, and thereby reach an entirely new generation of readers with the original book’s message.

But by that time, Isabella was 86 years old and in failing health. One more “long story” was beyond her abilities, she told Grace. “You have altogether too high an opinion of me.”

Many fans of the series think the Ester Ried books are perfect, just as they are; the only difference is that today’s readers have the option to read the books electronically. A new generation of Ester Ried e-books is available on Amazon and other e-book retail sites.

Boxed set e-book cover for Ester Ried, the Complete Series.
Boxed set e-book cover for Ester Ried, the Complete Series.

Have you read the books in the Ester Ried Series? Which book is your favorite?

You can click on any of the book covers in this post to find out more about each title.

Queen of the Kitchen

If the study was the domain of the man of the house in Isabella’s time, the kitchen was the empire of the lady of the house.

A middle-class kitchen in the early 1900s
A middle-class kitchen in the early 1900s

Women toiled long hours in kitchens to make meals, preserve food for future use, launder clothing and linens, and heat water for baths and house-cleaning tasks.

A modern kitchen in 1914
A modern kitchen in 1914

Even when the lady of the house had help in the kitchen—a live-in maid or a local “girl” who came for the day—they still spent the majority of their time in the kitchen, where conditions could be extreme.

An American kitchen, circa 1900
An American kitchen, circa 1900

In many households the kitchen stove burned 24 hours a day. The stove was stoked early in the morning to raise the heat so water could be boiled and breakfast could be cooked. It then burned throughout the remainder of the day until bedtime. In winter the kitchen was the warmest room in the house. In summer the kitchen was sweltering, with inadequate ventilation and no escape from the heat.

Baking Bread in 1914
Baking Bread in 1914

Isabella’s book Ester Ried opens with a scene in the Ried kitchen, with Ester toiling in the kitchen on a hot day:

Apron 1910 It was a very bright and very busy Saturday morning.

“Sadie!” Mrs. Ried called, “can’t you come and wash up these baking dishes? Maggie is mopping, and Ester has her hands full with the cake.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Sadie, appearing promptly from the dining-room, with Minnie perched triumphantly on her shoulder. “Here I am, at your service. Where are they?”

Ester glanced up. “I’d go and put on my white dress first, if I were you,” she said significantly.

And Sadie looked down on her pink gingham, ruffled apron, shining cuffs, and laughed.

“Oh, I’ll take off my cuffs, and put on this distressingly big apron of yours, which hangs behind the door; then I’ll do.”

“That’s my clean apron; I don’t wash dishes in it.”

“Oh, bless your careful heart! I won’t hurt it the least speck in the world. Will I, Birdie?”

And she proceeded to wrap her tiny self in the long, wide apron.

Apron and Laundry

Later in the book, when Ester returned home after a lengthy visit with her cousin:

Full apron 1906Ester was in the kitchen trimming off the puffy crusts of endless pies—the old brown calico morning dress, the same huge bib apron which had been through endless similar scrapes with her.

Not all aprons were as large as the kitchen apron Ester wore. In fact, ladies often had different aprons for different tasks.

Apron 1917

Work aprons were large and covered the entire front of a woman’s dress. They had plenty of pockets for thimbles, spools of thread, needles and pins, or any other household item the lady of the house wanted to have immediately at hand as she went about her daily housekeeping chores.

A 1910 photograph with the women of the family wearing three different styles of apron.
A 1910 photograph with the women of the family wearing three different styles of apron.

At the other end of the spectrum, tea aprons were feminine half-aprons that tied around a lady’s waist and covered her lap as she entertained family and guests at tea or luncheon.

Apron 1922

Aprons were relatively simple to make; popular ladies’ magazines often featured apron patterns or embroidery and trim designs to customize a home-made apron. In 1922 the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences published a pamphlet of instructions for making a variety of different aprons. You can download a copy of here.

A 1904 magazine ad for Green Brand aprons.
A 1904 magazine ad for Green Brand aprons.

Now, as in Isabella’s time, aprons come in many styles. And though they are no longer a staple in a woman’s wardrobe, there are many women today who love to make and wear aprons.

A 1914 ad for Dutch Cleanser
A 1914 ad for Dutch Cleanser

Want to see what’s hot in aprons today? Here are two sites that sell aprons:

Jessie Steele

Vintage Aprons

And you can visit Collectors’ Weekly to read a nice post about vintage aprons.

Do you ever wear an apron? Feel free to use the Comment box to share what you like about aprons or tell us where you like to shop for aprons.