Isabella Alden was particularly close to her niece, Grace Livingston Hill. Grace was a writer, too, and her books were incredibly popular and are still widely read today.
But Grace wasn’t merely a best-selling authoress; Grace was also a teacher. She was dedicated to teaching Sunday-school classes at her church, and when her daughters Margaret and Ruth were old enough to attend school, Grace decided to teach them at home, just as her parents had taught her.
Grace’s desire to teach wasn’t limited to her family. For years Grace ran a Bible class for children at a nearby Presbyterian church. She was the guiding spirit in establishing a mission Sunday School for immigrant families, and she personally paid to send innumerable young people to Pinebrook School, a well-known Christian Bible conference in the Poconos.
Education was something Grace was passionate about, and when she passed away in 1947 her daughter Ruth Hill Munce took steps to honor Grace’s teaching ministry. Ruth purchased a 30-acre site in St. Petersburg, Florida and built a school, which she named after their mother.
Grace Livingston Hill Memorial School had just four classrooms and 75 students when it officially opened in 1953, but the Christian day school grew with each passing year. Ruth served as the school principal for 15 years. Under her direction, she ensured that Christian education was at the core of every class, saying, “God would be the sum of the equation, the Bible a textbook.”
In 1962 the school changed its name to Keswick Christian School, and it’s still operating today under that name. But it had its roots as a tribute to Grace Livingston Hill, who loved God and used her talents for writing and teaching in order to serve Him.
You can read some of Grace’s short stories for free on this site. Just click on one of the images below to begin reading.
Much has been written about Isabella’s first book, Helen Lester, and how it came to be published.
Less has been written about her last novel, An Interrupted Night. Here’s an interesting fact about the book: in the same way her first novel Helen Lester was published with the help of her best friend, Theodosia Toll Foster, Isabella’s last novel was published with the help of her beloved niece, Grace Livingston Hill.
Here’s how it happened. In 1924 Isabella was 82 years old. During that year she suffered great loss: her dear sister Marcia, her husband Ross, and her son Raymond all died within months of each other. Isabella’s writing took a back seat as she made her way through that difficult time.
Two years later, in 1926, Isabella was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Palo Alto, California, where she was residing. She lived with the pain of her injuries for years afterward.
Then, in 1929, due in part to those old automobile accident injuries, Isabella fell and broke several bones including her hip. From that point on, Isabella was confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain.
Still, despite everything she had been through, at the age of eighty-seven she had one more story to tell.
Between intervals of constant pain and visits from friends and well-wishers, Isabella began writing her last novel. But even with her best efforts, she struggled to complete the story because, as she said, her body . . .
. . . was unfit for the work that needed to be accomplished.
Finally, determined to get her promised manuscript into the hands of the publisher, Isabella called upon her niece Grace Livingston Hill for help.
By that time, Grace was a successful novelist in her own right. Still, Grace said of her aunt’s request:
I approach the work with a kind of awe upon me that I should be working on her story! If, long ago in my childhood, it had been told to me that I should ever be counted worthy to do this, I would not have believed it. Before her I shall always feel like the little worshipful child I used to be.
But Grace took up the task, and helped her Aunt Isabella — by then confined to her bed — finish the book.
The novel was titled An Interrupted Night. Isabella said the story was based on actual facts, told to her by one of the people characterized in the story as “Mrs. Dunlap.”
The novel was published by J. B. Lippincott Company in 1929 and received very favorable reviews.
One particular review, found in the Fort Lauderdale News on July 12, 1929, begins with this this sentence:
Old readers must have gaped with surprise and thought that their glasses were at fault when they read that a new book by Pansy, Mrs. G. R Alden, will be published soon by Lippincott’s. Shades of sainted grandmothers and all the dear old ladies of the Presbyterian fold, who reveled and doted upon Pansy when they were little girls!
That’s quite a beginning to a book review, isn’t it? Although the review begins with a rather sarcastic tone, it ends on a more respectful note. You can read the entire review by clicking here or on the image below.
Because it’s still protected by copyright, we can’t make An Interrupted Night available to you, but copies of the book do surface in libraries and book stores on a fairly regular basis.
If you find a copy of An Interrupted Night, you’ll be treated to a marvelous story about Mrs. Dunlap and her efforts to convince a young woman to abandon her plans to elope with a man who seems, on the surface, to be her ideal mate.
It’s a Pansy story in the truest sense, with a wonderfully sweet ending, engaging dialog throughout, and important life lessons for her characters —and readers! — to learn along the way.
This is the last post in 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 Macdonald Alden was born the youngest child in a loving, and very tight-knit family.
She and her sisters were especially close, even though there was a vast difference in their ages.
For example, Isabella celebrated her first birthday the same year her eldest sister, Elizabeth, married and moved into a home of her own. But since Elizabeth’s new house was only a few steps from the Macdonald’s front door, Isabella and Elizabeth shared a close relationship.
The same was true of Mary, who was 14 years older than Isabella. When Mary wed and set up housekeeping, her home was built on property that abutted the Macdonald’s back garden. As a result, Isabella spent a lot of time with Mary and they, too, had a special bond.
It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella married and began keeping a house of her own, she made certain the door was always open to family members. She wanted her sisters to feel the same welcoming spirit in her house as she had always felt in theirs.
When her son Raymond was young, Isabella and her husband Ross began taking him to Florida, hoping the southern climate would benefit Raymond’s health. To their relief, Raymond’s health did improve, so the Aldens decided to make Florida their winter home.
They bought a plot of land in the new town of Winter Park, and began building a house that would be big enough to accommodate plenty of family members.
They built on an oversized lot on the corner of Lyman and Interlachen avenues, right across the street from All Saints Episcopal Church.
The house was completed in 1888. Ross dubbed it “Pansy Cottage,” a name that stuck and was soon known all over town. This photo shows the size of the “cottage”:
The inviting home was three stories tall, with large yards in front and back, and a wrap-around porch that invited family, friends and neighbors to sit down and enjoy a cozy chat. It was the perfect place for the family to gather, far away from the cold New York winters.
In this photo you can see family members on the front steps and porch, in the yard, and even peeking out of the top-most windows. They look like they’re having fun!
Isabella and her family members spent many happy winters at the Pansy Cottage; and the Florida climate did improve Raymond’s health.
In 1906 Ross and Isabella began their preparations for retirement. They sold Pansy Cottage and moved to their new house in Palo Alto, California where, once again, everyone was welcome in Isabella’s new home.
In fact, she and Ross shared the California house with their son Raymond, and his wife and children, as well as Isabella’s sisters Julia and Mary.
After Ross and Isabella sold Pansy Cottage, it was passed along to different owners. Eventually, it was turned into a rooming house; and in 1955 Pansy Cottage was demolished. But thanks to photos like these, we can still peek into Isabella’s world and imagine a bit of her life with those she loved in turn-of-the-century Florida.
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 on Friday, September 28.
Yesterday you read a lovely letter Isabella wrote to the students of an elementary school, thanking them for planting a tree in her honor.
Isabella’s writings—her books, stories, letters, and lessons—are filled with quote-worthy lines. Here’s an example from her novel, Tip Lewis and His Lamp:
In the story, The Reverend Mr. Holbrook asked that question of young Tip Lewis to help him realize that his resentment toward another boy was jeopardizing his own standing with God.
It was Isabella’s way of illustrating the Bible verse: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
That was Isabella’s genius: she had a talent for explaining the Bible in terms anyone—young or old—could understand.
One of the greatest admirers of Isabella’s talent was her niece, Grace Livingston Hill. When Grace was twenty-three years old, she was the newly published author of her first book, A Chautauqua Idyll. And she was ready for her next project.
Grace turned her attention to her Aunt Isabella’s books. She combed through them, selected inspiring quotes, and organized them into a daily devotional, with each quote accompanied by an applicable verse from the Bible.
The result of Grace’s efforts was called Pansies for Thoughts, and it became her second published book.
Isabella wrote a brief Preface for the book, with a prayer that . . .
The Holy Spirit would use these pages in a way to lead some souls daily higher, and higher, even into the “shining light” of the “perfect day.”
Pansies for Thoughts is a wonderful daily devotional, and you can read the book for free! Click here to download the e-book version for your Kindle, Nook, or tablet. Or you can download a PDF version to print or read on your computer.
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 on Friday morning, September 21!
This short story by Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill, first appeared in a Christian magazine in 1917.
In “A Journey of Discovery” Louise Hasbrouck knows what everyone expects of her. She just received an offer of marriage from Halsey Carstairs, one of the city’s most eligible bachelors. Louise should feel honored and happy; instead she feels restless and anxious to talk to her old friend, Cecilia, who became a bride herself just two years before.
But when Louise arrives at Cecilia’s sweet little cottage in the country, and sees the life she leads away from the city’s whirling social scene, Louise begins to question the path society has plotted for her. Should Louise accept Halsey’s proposal, or will she find the strength to follow her heart?
You can read this story on your phone, ipad, Kindle, or other electronic device.
Or you can read it as a PDF document on your computer screen. You can also print the story to share with friends.
Click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.
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!
This post is part of our Blogiversary Celebration! Leave a comment below or on Isabella’s Facebook page to be entered in Friday’s drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card!
Chances are, you’re reading this post because you love Isabella Alden’s books.
From the time her first book, Helen Lester, was published in 1865, Isabella enjoyed success as an author.
By the late 1880s readers were buying over one-hundred-thousand copies of her books every year:
When Isabella wrote her novels, there were no Internet sites like Goodreads or online retailers like Amazon for readers to post their reviews of Isabella’s books.
Instead, Isabella’s books were reviewed by literary editors in newspapers across the country.
When her novel Making Fate came out in 1896, a Boston newspaper declared:
Readers of all classes, from the serious to the frivolous, can read this story with entertainment and rise from its perusal refreshed.
In 1901, a San Francisco newspaper reviewed Isabella’s novel, Pauline, and declared Isabella to be “a gifted writer.”
Unfortunately, not all reviewers were so generous with their praise. One literary critic in a Pittsburgh newspaper wrote that Isabella’s 1902 novel Unto the End “is really not half a bad story in its way.” The critic goes on to classify Isabella’s readers among “those who ask from their literature nothing but that it shall not require them to think.” (You can read the entire review by clicking here.)
But reviews like “Pittsburgh’s” were few and far between. On the whole, Isabella’s novels were well received, and millions of Isabella’s faithful fans relied on those reviews to notify them when her new books were available for purchase.
Several times, in her stories and memoirs, Isabella mentioned keeping a scrapbook; it’s possible that’s where she kept clippings of her book reviews.
And if that’s true, she probably also kept reviews of the books written by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.
Grace’s writing career took off in the 1900s. When her novel The Best Man was published in 1914, The Boston Globe’s literary critic praised the novel, saying it was “full of thrilling moments.”
Many people who love to read Isabella Alden’s books also enjoy the novels written by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.
If you’ve ever searched for some of Grace’s titles, you’re not alone. Used copies of her novels are hard to find. If they are listed for sale on Internet sites, such as Ebay, fans immediately snap them up.
In the days before the Internet, fans had to search through used book stores to find her books. In some cases, they turned to newspapers to try to find copies. Here’s one example:
In the 1990s an Illinois newspaper had a regular column called “Good Neighbors.”
The column shared readers’ advice on a variety of topics, and gave readers a chance to ask or answer questions.
In March 1996 they ran a brief paragraph in the Good Neighbors column:
The newspaper received quite a few responses! Here are some of them:
You can tell there was a little bit of a bidding war going on, with some readers offering to pick the books up and pay for telephone calls (at a time when there were “toll” charges for calling a number in a different area code).
It happened again in 2001, when “M.B. of Lexington” offered to give away dozens of Grace Livingston Hill books:
It sounds like the newspaper was quite surprised to learn so many people were interested in novels that were written (at that time) almost 100 years before. And yet, Grace Livingston Hill’s books are still popular!
How about you? Do you read and collect Grace Livingston Hill novels? Do you have a complete collection? What are the methods you use to hunt down copies of her books?
In 1915 Isabella’s niece, writer Grace Livingston Hill, was profiled in The Book News Monthly magazine.
The magazine printed two articles, the first of which was written by Grace’s long-time friend Hilda von Markhen. Hilda described Grace’s “workshop” for writing: an ample, business-like desk at the sunshiny side of an upstairs room. On the desk was her typewriter and a few necessary reference books; behind her was a glass door which led to a small un-roofed upper porch set in the midst of trees in which played birds and squirrels.
In addition to describing Grace’s workspace, Hilda told the story of how Grace’s first books were published. Sprinkled throughout the article are hints of Grace’s strong Christian beliefs and the work Grace did for those in need, the Sunday school classes she taught, the children Grace “adopted,” and her commitment to The Christian Christian Endeavor society.
The second article was written by Norma Bright Carson and provides some insight into Grace’s personality and the impression she made on the article’s author.
You can read both articles right now by clicking on the image below.
Here’s some little-known trivia about Isabella’s family, beginning with Isabella’s mother, Myra Spafford.
Myra was close to her sister Julia; they were born only a year apart in Canaan, near Johnstown, New York.
Myra and Julia’s father (Isabella’s grandfather) was Horatio Spafford. Horatio was a teacher, inventor, author, and—for a few years—a newspaper publisher.
When she was still a teenager, younger sister Julia married Duncan Macdonald, who also grew up in Johnstown, not far from the Spaffords.
Like his new father-in-law, Duncan was a newspaperman. He was famous for his work as a journalist; and his newspaper, The Schoharie Free Press, was well-known throughout the state of New York.
A few years after Julia’s marriage to Duncan Macdonald, Myra married Duncan’s brother, Isaac.
Myra and Isaac went on to have seven children—the sixth of which was Isabella Macdonald Alden.
Myra and Isaac, Julia and Duncan, lived very near each other and raised their children together in Johnstown, New York.
And just as they lived their lives together, they also went to their final rest together. Myra and Isaac are buried near Julia and Duncan in the Johnstown Cemetery.
A generation later, Isabella’s family welcomed another pair of siblings to the family. Isabella’s eldest sister Elizabeth married Hiram Titus in 1843. They set up house in Gloversville, not far from Isaac Macdonald’s box-making factory, and had eleven children.
Then, not long after, Isabella’s older brother James married Hiram’s sister Sarah, and they had five children.
In her memoirs, Isabella often mentioned how much her family meant to her, and how close they remained over the course of their lives. Her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, also wrote about their bond, and how they all spent time together as one family.
The days were one long dream. Hard work? Yes, but good fellowship. Everybody working together with a common aim, and joy in the work and the fellowship!
You can read more about Isabella’s family and her life in the Johnstown/Gloversville area in these posts: