Tag Archives: Faye Huntington

Fan Mail and Ester Ried

9 Aug

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.

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The Pansy Magazine

6 Jan

For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine called The Pansy.

Pansy Cover 1886 Jul

 

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.

D. Lothrop and Company sales room

 

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.

The 1881 cover of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

The 1881 cover of The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney

 

Isabella’s son Raymond wrote poems, and her husband Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden contributed stories and short homilies like this one:

Don't Gossip. Children, avoid this evil. I am pained every day at seeing the work which mischief-makers do. Someone has compared this evil to pin-making. “There is sometimes some truth, which I call the wire. As this passes from hand to hand, one gives it a polish, another a point, others make and put on the head, and at last the pin is done.” The Bible speaks much against mischief-making, and I would advise you to collect all the verses in this book, bearing on this subject, and commit them to memory, and then I do not think you will ever be guilty of this sin. Remember, my little friends, that you can never gather up the mischief you may do by gossip.

 

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.

An original illustration for A Sevenfold Trouble, published in an 1887 edition of The Pansy.

An original illustration for A Sevenfold Trouble, published as an 1887 serial in The Pansy.

 

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.

Cover of 2015 e-book edition of Monteagle

 

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.

Next week: The Pansy Society

Docia’s First Book

15 Dec

Isabella tried for years to persuade her friend, Theodosia Toll (who everyone called Docia) to become a writer. In 1865 Isabella sold her first book, Helen Lester, thereby launching her own writing career; and she had the same dream for her friend.

Undated photo of Theodosia Toll

Undated photo of Theodosia Toll

From experience she knew Docia was a gifted writer, and she often encouraged her to write stories for young people “which would help to develop their lives in the right directions and also to be a pecuniary help to herself.”

But Docia disagreed. She was convinced she had no special talent for writing, and despite Isabella’s encouragement, Docia wouldn’t even try to write for commercial reasons, a fact which frustrated Isabella. One day, when Isabella became upset with Docia’s lack of interest in becoming an author, Docia surprised her.

She laughed heartily … and told me not to despair, that the day might come when I would actually possess a book written by her.

Several weeks after Docia spoke those words, Isabella received a package and letter from Docia. Docia’s letter read, in part:

The package which will accompany this contains a book, every word of which was written by myself! Moreover, it was written especially for you. I have spent much thought and care upon it, and know to a certainty that every page of it in every particular is strictly correct. Also, I have great pleasure in adding that I believe you will derive great benefit from giving it daily reading, and obeying its teachings in every particular.

Kitchen Recipe cards 02Intrigued by the promises in Docia’s letter, Isabella opened the package.

It was a book certainly, beautifully bound, and Docia had certainly written (not printed) every word of it in her own small clear style.

But the book Docia sent was not a novel. Instead, every page of the book told exactly how to prepare, or bake, or boil or fry, or stew, or freeze some dish. It was a cookbook that explained every little detail, and it was clearly designed for the novice.

None knew better than Docia that, so far at least as cooking was concerned, the name applied to me. That blessed little book! I loved it at first glance.

Oh, I could easily fill a small volume with stories in detail about the times when the wisdom found in that book saved me in the early months of my life as a chief cook and general manager of a minister’s home.

A cook book dated 1883

A cook book dated 1883

Not long after sending Isabella the cook book, Docia embarked on the writing career Isabella always wanted her to have, publishing under the pen name, Faye Huntington. In her memoirs Isabella recalled:

She wrote many books after that, which were read and appreciated by hundreds, that without doubt helped in much more important matters than furnishing food for the body, but personally, I never ceased to feel a peculiar sense of gratitude for that first one.

An 1896 cook book

You can read more about the friendship between Isabella and Docia in these previous posts:

BFFs at Oneida Seminary

Free Read: The Book that Started it All

The Heroine of the Temperance Cause

31 Jul

Isabella Alden was a great campaigner for the temperance movement. She had seen for herself the consequences of an unregulated alcohol industry. Alcoholic drinks in her time were often far more potent than commercial beer, wine and distilled liquor we’re used to today, making them much more addictive. Sometimes alcoholic beverages were laced with other substances, like cocaine; and alcohol was openly marketed to children.

This short video by documentary film maker Ken Burns describes the influence of  liquor on America at the turn of the Twentieth Century.

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Isabella’s dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster (whose nom de plume was Faye Huntington) was another tireless worker for the cause of temperance. Many of her novels were written for publication by the National Temperance Society and described the impact of alcoholism on the lives of individuals and communities.

Cover_John Remington MartyrAnd in her own books, Isabella often wove stories around the impact alcoholism had on families. She and her sister Marcia Livingston co-authored the novel, John Remington, Martyr, which chronicled one man’s efforts to fight the power of the alcohol industry and its hold on society.

Isabella, Theodosia and Marcia, as well as Marcia’s daughter, Grace Livingston Hill, were active members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The W.C.T.U. began in 1874 as a “crusade” of 208 dedicated temperance workers.

The Baptist Church in Fredonia, NY. Here on December 15, 1873 208 crusaders met and organized the Women's Christian Temperance Union

The Baptist Church in Fredonia, NY. Here on December 15, 1873 208 crusaders met and organized the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

When Frances Willard was named the W.C.T.U.’s president in 1879, she inherited an organization comprised of several autonomous chapters with no unified action plan to achieve the group’s goal of reforming the distribution and sale of alcohol in America.

Up to that point, the organization was known for it crusades—bands of women visiting local saloons to pray and ask saloonkeepers to close their doors and stop selling spirits. For the most part, they were seen as teetotaling moral zealots.

An 1874 illustration of crusaders

An 1874 illustration of crusaders

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Frances Willard had a different vision for the organization. By profession she was a teacher. She was educated, dynamic, and persuasive; she used those talents to redefine the W.C.T.U. Knowing that America’s high rate of alcoholism was directly related to crime, sexual assault, poverty, and domestic violence, she redirected the organization to focus on social reform and political activism.

Frances Willard in an undated photo

Frances Willard in an undated photo

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She formed alliances with politicians, instilled a sense of sisterhood in W.C.T.U. members, and cultivated powerful and influential allies.

W.C.T.U. card from about 1912

W.C.T.U. card from about 1912

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Lewis Miller, co-founder of Chautauqua Institution and a multi-millionaire industrialist, was a staunch supporter of the W.C.T.U.; his wife Mary was one of the first members of the Ohio W.C.T.U., a well-organized and militant branch of the organization.

Mina Miller at about age 19

Mina Miller at about age 19

Their daughter Mina recalled how her mother, with other “dauntless women” visited saloons and pleaded with the male proprietors to close their doors. They were often subjected to insults and even had buckets of water thrown on them.

After Mina Miller married Thomas Edison, the great American inventor, she used her influence as “Mrs. Edison” to further the W.C.T.U.’s programs.

And what programs they were! W.C.T.U. members developed and taught temperance lessons to children in Sunday schools and visited drunkards in prison. They lobbied for free public kindergartens and prison reform. By 1889 W.C.T.U. chapters were operating nurseries, Sunday schools, homeless shelters, and homes for fallen women. Members supported labor reform, suffrage, disarmament, and the eight-hour work day.

The W.C.T.U. Marching Song

The W.C.T.U. Marching Song

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Isabella often wrote about the activities of the W.C.T.U. in her books. Most striking was her novel One Commonplace Day. In that story, a group of people come together on their own to help one family overcome the effects of alcoholism; and they employ many of the  W.C.T.U. methods to do so.

W.C.T.U. headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution, New York

W.C.T.U. headquarters building at Chautauqua Institution, New York

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Isabella and Frances Willard often lectured together, speaking before different chapters of the Sunday School Assembly and at regional Chautauqua locations.

Statue of Frances Willard in the United States Capital, Washington D.C.

Statue of Frances Willard in the United States Capital, Washington D.C.

By the time Frances Willard passed away in 1898 the W.C.T.U. was an acknowledged political and social force in the United States. Under her leadership the organization united women from varied backgrounds, educated them and empowered them to form one of the strongest and most influential women’s organizations in American history.

In 1905 a statue of Frances Willard was erected in National Statuary Hall at the United States Capital in Washington D.C. Her statue was the first honoring a woman to be chosen for the National Statuary Hall Collection.


Would you like to learn more about Frances Willard and the W.C.T.U.? Click here to visit the organization’s website.

Click on this link to read more about the statue of Frances Willard in Statuary Hall at the United States Capital.

Grace Livingston Hill wrote a short biography of Frances Willard’s early years. Click here to read her 1909 article.

You can watch the full 90-minute Ken Burns documentary “A Nation of Drunkards” here:

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. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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