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Isabella Alden’s father Isaac Macdonald is often credited with instilling in her a love of writing. He gave her a journal when she was very young and—to teach her to pay attention in church—he encouraged her to take notes during Sunday sermons so they could discuss the minister’s message later in the day.
But it was probably Isabella’s mother, Myra, who taught Isabella to be a great story-teller.
At a young age—even before she could write—Isabella’s mother encouraged her to make up little stories about things.
“Make a story out of it for mother,” she would say; and out of those beginnings, Isabella began to develop the writing skills that would serve her as an adult.
Myra was herself a story-teller, and often entertained her six children with stories of her own younger years.
Myra’s father was Horatio Gates Spafford, a well-respected author and New York newspaper editor, so she developed her own writing skills at a very early age.
Isabella credited her mother Myra with teaching her how to weave a story centered on a well-loved Bible verse. It was Myra’s habit to gather her children—and later, her grandchildren—around her in the evening to tell them stories that were entertaining and and helped make sense of a Bible verse or Sunday-school lesson.
Her stories always contained a practical lesson in walking daily with Christ—a theme Isabella adopted and perfected in her own stories.
When Isabella’s father Isaac Macdonald died in 1870 Isabella and her husband Ross made certain Myra came to live with them. Although Ross’s career as a Presbyterian minister caused them to move regularly from one town to another, Myra made her home with the Aldens for the next fifteen years.
They were living in Carbondale, Pennsylvania when Myra died at home in 1885. Isabella was 43 years old when her mother passed away, and she missed her terribly.
At that time Isabella was editing The Pansy magazine; and since she and her family members—including Ross, her son Raymond, her sister Marcia, and Marcia’s husband Charles—were all contributing articles and stories to the magazine, Isabella and Marcia found a way to pay tribute to their mother in the pages of The Pansy.
They began publishing short stories for children in The Pansy under the pseudonym “Myra Spafford.” The stories were reminiscent of the kind of stories Myra told her children and grandchildren.
In 1887 Isabella published Grandma’s Miracles; Stories Told at Six O’clock in the Evening. The book is a fictionalized account of those tender and loving evening story-times Myra had with her children and grandchildren.
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