This month’s Free Read may strike a chord with anyone who tried to cook something that didn’t turn out right (like a Thanksgiving turkey)!
“The Wife’s Dilemma” is a sweet short story written by Isabella’s sister (and Grace Livingston Hill’s mother) Marcia Livingston. Marcia was a prolific author in her own right. She published many short stories in a variety of magazines, and co-wrote stories with Isabella.
Here’s the blurb for “The Wife’s Dilemma”:
Newlywed Dora Avery is well educated in math and science, and speaks several languages; but Dora has never learned the fine art of keeping house. No matter what dishes she sets before her new husband, they’re either burnt or sour. It isn’t long before Dora realizes that all her logical plans and recipe books won’t fill her husband’s empty stomach!
Somehow she must hire an experienced cook or learn the proper way to prepare meals herself; but how?
This month’s free read is a lovely short story written by Isabella’s sister Marcia Macdonald Livingston.
When Miss Esther Harlowe decides to visit the residents of a nearby Old Ladies’ Home, she only wants to bring a little bit of cheer to the residents’ lives. But when she meets Katherine Lyman, she feels a instant bond with the elderly Christian woman. Soon, Esther looks forward to their visits just as much Katherine does, and Esther quickly discovers her life will never be the same again!
You can read “My Aunt Katherine” on your smart phone, iPad, Kindle, computer, or other electronic device. Just click on the book cover to choose your preferred e-book format from BookFunnel.com and download the story for free!
Isabella’s sister, Marcia Livingston penned this month’s delightful Free Read.
In the “Season of Giving” Miss Rachel Whitaker is no stranger to charitable causes. She’s a good Christian woman who faithfully donates to her church and mission boards, like her parents did before her. But when she is confronted by someone in need on her own doorstep, will she answer the call?
You can read “Miss Whitaker’s Blankets” 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.
To begin reading, just click on the book cover to choose your preferred format from BookFunnel.com.
Isabella Alden often collaborated with her sister Marcia Livingston on many books and stories. In 1880 they combined their talents to produce a collection of short stories titled Divers Women.
Divers Women offers ten different stories about ten different women who face struggles in their lives until they put their faith in God to bring them the peace and happiness they’re unable to find on their own.
Marcia’s story “Sunday Fractures” is the first story in the book, and you can read it for free! Just click here or on the book cover to begin reading now.
Isabella was very close to her niece, Grace Livingston. She was 24 years old when Grace was born, and she did her best to spend as much time with little Gracie as she possibly could.
She was especially fascinated with Gracie’s developing personality. When the child was only three years old, Isabella said that Grace was as “full of fun and frolic as a mortal child could be. Oh, the mischief that that morsel could get through in a day! It seemed to me that the little feet and hands and tongue must ache at night; but they were never quite ready to have night come—in fact, as it drew toward bedtime she seemed to have more to do than before, and many a nice plan was spoiled right in the best of it by the call to bed.”
Many times Isabella and her sister Marcia (Grace’s mother) had long talks about Gracie’s willfulness and the odd way she had of looking at the world.
Isabella wrote that when Grace was about three years old, she developed the habit of waking in the morning and announcing her mood. “Gracie is a naughty baby this day.”
She seemed to think that this made everything all right, and nobody had a right to complain as long as she took the pains to explain to them what she meant to do up front.
Isabella wrote, “Sure enough, from morning until night everything went wrong. If she had planned everything that was to happen, with the direct aim of helping her to be a naughty girl, she could not have done it better; so that we grew to dread the days that were begun with that sentence, “Gracie is a naughty baby!” The worst thing about it was her serene unconsciousness of having done anything wrong. Hadn’t she told us that she meant to be naughty?”
The family looked forward to the days when Gracie would announce, “Gracie is a good girl today!” But those days sometimes seemed few and far between.
“Why can’t you always be such a sweet, pleasant little girl?” Isabella asked after one of Gracie’s sunshiny days.
“Why, Auntie Belle, this is my good day. I’m not a naughty baby today at all. But I can’t always be good, you know.”
Isabella wrote that on one of Gracie’s naughty days, she had got into a great deal of mischief, even burning her finger after getting hold of a candle she knew she was not supposed to touch. Marcia bandaged the injured finger in cotton, while Gracie wailed and cried; then mother and aunt took Gracie upstairs to get her ready for bed. Here, in Isabella’s own words, is what happened when it was time for Gracie to say her nightly prayers:
“Well,” Gracie said, looking into her mother’s face, and speaking slowly and solemnly, “I’ve got a good deal to say tonight, haven’t I? Mamma, which do you think is the baddest thing that I did today?”
“I don’t think I can tell,” Marcia said, with a sober, troubled face; “and that isn’t the thing that you are to think about, anyway. It makes no difference which is the worst thing; everything that you knew was wrong to do has made Jesus feel badly, and you want to ask him to forgive you for them all; besides, you want to ask for a new heart, so that you will be willing to try not to be so naughty.”
There was never a time in her little life that Gracie wasn’t ready for an argument. She tried to get one up now.
“But, mamma, if I could find out which was the very baddest thing that I did, I could make up my mind that I certainly true would never do that again, and then I would be sure not to be so bad next time. Don’t you see?”
I shall have to confess that I felt very much like laughing. She was such a little bit of a mouse, and she was trying so hard to be wise. But her poor troubled mamma did not smile.
“I see that you don’t know what you are talking about,” she said. “I can only hope that when you are older you will be a great deal wiser.”
This was certainly hard for a little girl who thought she made a very sensible remark. She gave a little bit of a sigh, and then knelt down beside her mamma. Very slowly and reverently she went through the prayer that I think every little girl in the world must know, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” After the “Amen” she always added a little prayer that she said came right out of her own heart; and tonight it was, “Dear Jesus, please bless Gracie; make my heart not feel so bad; make me feel just as though I was a very good girl, and take away my naughty sins and give me some good sins.”
That was really the most that Gracie knew about it. There seemed to be no use in trying to make her understand that everything that wasn’t right was wrong, and that God thought so.
Isabella wrote that Marcia was troubled that her daughter might actually believe there was such a thing as “good sins.” But in her heart, Isabella wasn’t worried. When she looked at Gracie, she saw independence, the ability to reason things out for herself, and a true knowledge of what was right and wrong. She had no fear for Gracie’s future. She knew that Gracie’s parents—and all of the members of their tight-knit family—would raise Grace to be a woman of faith who followed Christ in her everyday life.
You can read more about Isabella and her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, in these posts:
Isabella Alden was very close to her sister Marcia, who married the Reverend Charles Livingston. For many years Isabella’s and Marcia’s families lived together under the same roof.
In the summer months the Aldens and the Livingstons traveled to Chautauqua, New York and shared a cottage on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution.
In the winter they made the pilgrimage to Florida, where the two families lived in a large house in Winter Park.
Isabella’s son Raymond and Marcia’s daughter Grace attended Rollins College in Winter Park, and Grace went on to teach physical education classes there.
Before Grace took up her pen to write some of America’s most beloved novels under the name Grace Livingston Hill, she was one of the first teachers at Rollins College. She was also a true advocate for the “physical culture” movement that was sweeping the country at the time. She recognized the freedom it gave women to pursue physical health in a way they hadn’t been able to before. At Rollins she taught ladies’ classes in calisthenics, basketball, gymnastics, and fencing.
She also taught men’s classes in physical culture, such as fencing and Greek Posture:
And when she wasn’t teaching at the college, she taught physical culture classes at the Florida Chautauqua.
Like her niece, Isabella appreciated the physical culture movement. She even featured the craze in one of her short stories, “Agatha’s Uknown Way.”
And she wrote “Too Much of a Good Thing,” a story about how one young girl got so caught up in the physical culture craze, that she made life difficult for her entire family. You can read “Too Much of a Good Thing” for free below.
Would you like to learn more about Grace Livingston’s teaching years at Rollins College? Click this link to read a fun story about one of her biggest challenges at the school, and how she convinced the faculty to see things her way.
You can read Isabella’s short story, “Agatha’s Unknown Way” for free. Just click this link.
Enjoy Isabella’s story, “Too Much of a Good Thing”:
Too Much of a Good Thing
Downstairs everyone was busy. Uncle Morris and his entire family, just from Europe, were coming by an earlier train than it had been expected they could take, and many last preparations for making them comfortable had still to be attended to.
Mrs. Evans had been up since daylight, planning, directing, and helping to the utmost that her small strength would admit.
Indeed, her eldest daughter Laura had constantly to watch, to save her mother from lifting something heavy, or reaching for something high. Often her clear voice could be heard with a “Oh, mother, don’t! Please—I’ll take care of that.” And often the gentle answer was:
“Dear child, you cannot do everything, though your will is strong enough. Where is Millie?”
“Millie has gone to sweep and dust the hall room; you know we didn’t think we should need that, and I used it as a sort of store room; but since Arthur is coming with them, we shall have to get it ready; and he will need to go at once to his room, since he is an invalid, so I sent Millie to put it in order. I told her just what to do, and she will manage it nicely. She must be nearly through now, and I’ll have her finish dusting here, so I can help you with those books; they are too heavy for you to handle.”
No, Millie wasn’t nearly through. In fact, she could hardly have been said to have commenced. The truth is, she had been thrown off the track. It was an old print which fell out of an, unused portfolio that did it. The print showed the picture of a girl in fun Greek costume, and reminded Millie of what was not long out of her mind, that in the coming Physical Culture entertainment she was to chess in a costume which was supposed to be after the Greek order.
“Let me see,” she said, bending over the print, “this girl has short sleeves and low neck. Why, the dress is almost precisely like the one which Laura wears with her lace over-dress; I might wear that. It would be too long, of course, but it could be hemmed up. I am almost sure Laura would let me have it; and with her white sash ribbon tied around my waist it would be just lovely. Then that would save buying anything new, and save mother any trouble. I mean to go this minute and try on the dress, before I say anything about it.”
Away dashed the Greek maiden to one of the guest chambers which Laura had left in perfect order, dragged from a seldom used drawer the elegant white mull dress with its lace belongings, all of which saw the light only on state occasions, and rushed back to the hall room again, where she had left the print she was trying to copy. In her haste, she dragged out with the dress various articles of the toilet. Laura’s white kid gloves which she wore when she graduated, a quantity of laces, and a handkerchief or two, to say nothing of sprays of dried flowers. These she trailed over the carpet, seeing nothing of them. The important thing in life just now was to get herself into that dress.
It was accomplished at last, not without a tiny tear having been made in the delicate stuff, but which Millie’s fingers were too eager to notice. She tied the white sash high up about her waist, after the fashion of the picture, seized the dust brush in one hand as if it were a dumb bell, or an Indian club, and struck a graceful attitude with her arm on the corner of the mantel.
“There!” she said, “I would like to have my picture taken in this dress; I have a very nice position now for it. I wish the girls were here to see me. Laura must let me wear this; it fits exactly. I don’t believe it is much too long for a Greek maiden. I should like to wear my dresses long; it must be great fun. I wonder if we couldn’t have our pictures taken in costume? I think it would be real nice; and our folks would each want to buy one. Perhaps we could make some money.”
There were hurried steps in the hall, and the Greek maiden’s musings were cut short. Laura came forward rapidly, talking as she
“Millie, aren’t you through here? You have had plenty of time, and mother needs your help right away. Hurry down just as quickly as you can; she is over-doing, and it is growing late; the carriage may come any minute now. Why, Millie Evans!”
She stopped in amazement, for the Greek maiden was still posing. She smiled graciously and said: “Don’t I look fine? I borrowed it a minute to see if it will do to wear to the entertainment. It is just the thing, isn’t it? You will lend it to me, won’t you? Just for one evening? I’ll be awfully careful of it.”
“And you have been to that drawer where all the nice things are packed, and dragged them out! There is one of my white gloves under your feet, and my only lace handkerchief keeping it company! I must say, Millie Evans, you deserve to be punished. Here we are trying our best to get ready for company, and keep mother from getting too tired, and you neglect your work to rig up like a circus girl; and go to a drawer which you have no right to open. I shall certainly tell father of this.”
The Greek maiden’s cheeks were in an unbecoming blaze. Laura was hurried and tired, and spoke with more severity than was her custom. It certainly was trying to find the room in disorder, and her best dress in danger.
“Take care,” she said, as Millie’s frantic efforts to get it off put it in greater danger. “Don’t quite ruin that dress. Indeed you shall not wear it. I am astonished at you for thinking of such a thing; when father hears what you have been doing, I doubt if you will need a dress for the entertainment.”
Then Millie lost all self control. “You are a hateful, selfish thing!” she burst forth. “Take your old dress; I don’t want to wear it; and I won’t be ordered about by you as though you were my grandmother. I’m nearly fourteen, and you have no right to manage me. I’ll just tell father myself that I—”
“What is all this?” Mr. Evans’ voice was sternness itself, and he looked at the girl with blazing cheeks, in a way that made her angry eyes droop.
“What does it mean, Millicent? I heard you using very unbecoming language to your sister, and to judge from your appearance you have been about some very inappropriate work.”
“Well, father, Laura burst in here and—”
“Never mind what Laura did, Millicent. Unfortunately for you, I know which daughter tries to care for and spare her sick mother in every possible way. I overheard enough to show me which one is to blame. Laura may tell me what is the trouble, and you may listen.”
But Laura was already sorry that she had spoken so sharply, and tried to soften the story as much as truth would permit.
“Her mind is so full of the Physical Culture entertainment, father, that she does not stop to think. I know she did not mean to hinder and make trouble.”
“I see,” said Mr. Evans, speaking grimly. “I have heard a good deal about this Physical Culture business. If everyone is as much carried out of common sense by it as our Millicent is, I should say it was high time to have some moral culture. Millicent, you may put yourself into a suitable dress for sweeping, and do the work you were sent to do, at once; and you will not need to think any more about a dress for the entertainment, for you are to be excused from attending it. You may tell your teacher that I said so.”
Poor Millie! The hall bedroom floor might almost have been washed, if that were desirable, with the tears she shed. No hope had she of any change of mind on her father’s part. He rarely interfered with his children, but when he did, his word was law.
And poor Laura! She went downstairs heavy-hearted and miserable. Why had Millie been so silly, and why had she allowed her vexation to make matters worse?
The poor frail mother actually cried when she heard of Millie’s disappointment. “Yet I really cannot ask her father not to notice it,” she said sorrowfully. “Millie has been so remiss in her duties for weeks, all on account of the hold which that Physical Culture craze has upon her. It is too much of a good thing. I am afraid her father is doing right.”
For over twenty years Isabella Alden and her husband edited a children’s magazine called The Pansy.
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.
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.
Isabella’s son Raymond wrote poems, and her husband Reverend Gustavus “Ross” Alden contributed stories and short homilies like this one:
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.
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.
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.
When Isabella wrote Missent; the Story of a Letter, she created a heroine named Sarah Stafford. Sarah was strong, yet sympathetic; wealthy, but lonely, too. Alone in the world, Sarah yearned for a family, which is one of the reasons she decided to rent rooms as a boarder in the home of the Dennison family.
There Sarah spent Christmas day with the family and took part in their Christmas celebration and fun. In the book, the family made a game of distributing gifts by making up rhymes and riddles, and having the recipient guess what the gift was before it could be opened.
That game was actually part of Isabella’s real family tradition. The entire family gathered together at Christmas—Isabella, with her husband and son; Isabella’s mother and sister Julia; her sister Marcia, with her husband Charles and daughter Grace.
On Christmas morning, there were many gifts to be opened, “nearly all of them quite inexpensive, most of them home-made, occupying spare time for weeks beforehand; occasionally a luxury, but more often a necessity, a little nicer perhaps than would have been bought at an ordinary time because it was Christmas.”
Isabella’s niece, Grace Livingston Hill, remembered those family Christmas mornings with love. “Our Christmases together were happy, thrilling times.”
Grace also described the process they used for handing out the gifts:
The ceremony of distribution was a long delight, because it was a rule that each present, no matter how small, should be accompanied by an original poem or saying that was appropriate to the gift, the giver or the receiver. The rite lasted usually far into Christmas morning, with shouts of laughter over each reading, and Aunt Julia, or Grandma, or one of the others would frequently have to be excused and the ceremonies held up for a few minutes while the turkey was basted, or the mince pies taken out of the oven, filling the house with delicious Christmas odors.
It was on one of those Christmas mornings that Isabella gave her niece a gift that would influence her life: one thousand sheets of typewriter paper. With the paper was a note, wishing Grace success with her writing and encouraging her to “turn those thousand sheets of paper into as many dollars.”
At the time, Grace was just beginning to write bits of stories with no thought of ever trying to publish them. But Isabella’s gift changed that.
It was the first hint, Grace later wrote, that anyone thought she could write professionally.
It’s no wonder that Isabella used her own experience to write about Sarah’s Christmas with the Dennisons in Missent; the chapter was completely based on her happy and love-filled Christmas mornings with her own family. You can click on the book cover to learn more about Missent; the Story of a Letter.
Do you have a Christmas tradition that brings your family together? Please share it in the reply section below.
Faith and Love is now available in print! This exclusive collection of short stories by Grace Livingston Hill and her mother Marcia Livingston is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever print books are sold.
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.
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.
And 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.
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.
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.
She formed alliances with politicians, instilled a sense of sisterhood in W.C.T.U. members, and cultivated powerful and influential allies.
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.
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.
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.
Isabella and Frances Willard often lectured together, speaking before different chapters of the Sunday School Assembly and at regional Chautauqua locations.
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.