Isabella Alden often drew on her own life experiences when she crafted her short-stories and novels. The incidents she wrote about weren’t necessarily historic or even life-changing, but she had a talent for sharing her own memories in a way her readers could identify with.
One of Isabella’s school experiences ended up as a short story titled “When I Was a Girl.” It happened when Isabella was a young student at Oneida Seminary in New York.
Gathered in the school assembly hall one day were all the teachers and pupils, as well as friends and parents of many of the students. Isabella was one of six young students chosen to read their own compositions at the assembly, and the audience was to vote by ballot for the best essay.
Being a talented writer from a young age, Isabella won the prize; but soon after she received her award, a rumor began to spread through school that the composition she read was not her own—that she had copied the words from a printed book!
Soon Isabella was in the office of Dr. Branner, the school principal. He confronted Isabella with the allegation, which she hotly denied.
Moments later, another student named Ophelia entered the office. Ophelia had been one of the five other students who read before the assembly, and she had been bitterly disappointed at not winning the prize awarded to Isabella—and it was Ophelia who was the source of that horrible rumor.
In her memoirs, Isabella described what happened next:
Dr. Branner’s manner was coldly dignified as he asked Ophelia:
“Am I to understand that you still insist that there is a book in your father’s library which has in it every word of the essay that took the prize in our school last week?”
Ophelia’s face as she answered the question was almost smiling, and she answered briskly:
“Of course, word for word. I didn’t suppose you were accusing me of telling lies!”
“Very well,” said the principal quietly. “Then you may go home at once and bring that book to me. We will wait here till you come.”
Isabella spent many anxious minutes waiting for Ophelia to come back with the book. In her story, “When I Was a Girl,” she described the moment when Ophelia returned. She made a few minor changes to some of the details in the story. For example, she changed the names of the school principal and the other student involved; she also added additional description she didn’t mention in her memoirs; but the finale—the truth of what happened when Ophelia returned to the principal’s office that day—is straight from Isabella’s childhood memory.
Click on the cover to the read Isabella’s short story, “When I Was a Girl” and find out how the story ended.
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.”
Chrissy 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 Grose began to doodle, putting the C and E together in different ways:
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.
Many 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
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:
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:
And this badge is from the 1909 national convention in Minnesota:
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.
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, TheGoldenRule. And her book GraceHolbrook 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.