Tag Archives: Ruth Erskine’s Son

About Pansy, By Pansy

22 Jan

It’s safe to say that few places on earth celebrate fame more than the state of California.

When Isabella and her husband Ross moved to Palo Alto, California in 1901, she joined a community of talented authors, artists, musicians, and actors already in residence.

The California State Library had a system for documenting famous and notable residents through a series of biographical index cards.

Some of the cards date as far back as 1781. Each card detailed the names, birthplaces and accomplishments of artists, soldiers, statesmen, “and other notables.” In most cases, the cards were completed by the person in their own handwriting.

Here’s a biographical card completed by silent film star Douglas Fairbanks in 1916:

California State Library card dated 1916. Stage name: Douglas Fairbanks. Name in Full: Douglas Elton Fairbanks. Place of birth: May 23, 1883.

Interestingly, Fairbank’s education—first at a military school, then as an engineering major at Denver’s School of Mines—could not have been more contrary to his ultimate career as one of early Hollywood’s most beloved actors.

Author John Steinbeck was only 33 years old when he completed his card:

His most famous novels, Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, had not yet been published.

In 1906 the State of California asked Isabella to complete a biographical card.

In her own handwriting Isabella wrote out her personal information on the front of the card:

Name in full: Isabella Macdonald Alden
Born at Rochester, N.Y., on Nov. 3, 1841.
Father, Isaac Macdonald
Mother (maiden name in full), Myra Spafford.
If married to whom? Rev. G. R. Alden
Place, Gloversville, N.Y.
Date, May 30, 1866
Where educated, Seneca Collegiate Institute – Ovid, N.Y.
Years spent in California, five
Residences in State, Palo Alto, Calif.
Pseudonyms: Pansy
Present Address, 455 University Ave., Palo Alto, Calif.
(A state employee noted on the card Pansy’s date of death, August 5, 1930.)

The back of the card is also written in Isabella’s hand.

It reads:

Published works and periodicals for which you have written:

I enclose with this card a printed list of my books. I was for 25 years editor of a juvenile monthly magazine – named The Pansy; and for the same length of time I was the Editorial staff of the Westminster S. S. Teachers. I am now on the Editorial staff of the Herald & Presbyter, Cincinnati, with which paper I have been associated for 33 years.

I have for the past twelve years had a department in the Christian Endeavor World — As to Clubs, etc. I have been honored by being elected to a number of local literary clubs, and to membership in the Women’s Press Association.

When Isabella completed this card in 1906 her novel Ester Ried’s Namesake was published. In the following years she would go on to publish Ruth Erskine’s Son, The Browns at Mount Hermon, Four Mothers at Chautauqua, and five more novels.

This sample of Isabella’s handwriting reveals a few things about her. For example, the distinctive way she forms her capital letters—especially C, M and H—indicates she was taught to write script in a style that was popular around 1850. In particular, she forms her capital letters with a finishing loop that could easily be mistaken for a lower case “a” or “o.”

In this handwriting example from the 1850 United States Federal Census, you can see the census taker had a similar slant to his writing and formed his capital letters in the same way Isabella did.

Her card also shows she was very proud of her work as editor of The Pansy and other Christian publications. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a copy of the list of published works she referenced on her card; it would be interesting to see if there were any titles she listed that aren’t among Pansy’s known published works we’ve compiled!

Sometimes people who filled out the cards also submitted photographs, pertinent letters, and copies of published books. While there’s no record that Isabella submitted such items, it’s clear the State of California has an extensive and rich collection that would be interesting and fun for any researcher or fan to explore.

You can click on any of the images in this post to see a larger version.

 

Isabella’s Lady Golfer

19 Jun

All the world loves to play, and the characters in Isabella’s novels were no exception. Come springtime, many of Isabella’s characters headed outdoors to engage in some kind of sport for fun and relaxation.

The cover from a 1908 issue of Collier’s magazine.

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Ester Randall and her friends played tennis in Ester Ried’s Namesake.

“A Rally,” by Sir John Lavery, 1885.

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In What They Couldn’t, Professor Landis enjoyed neighborhood baseball games until his few leisure hours were overtaken by the duties of his profession.

On the other hand, Irene Burnham was a lady of leisure in Ruth Erskine’s Son. She had plenty of time to play tennis and golf.

By the time Irene Burnham appeared in the novel, lady golfers had been swinging their clubs for centuries. Mary Queen of Scots was said to be an avid golfer.

A romanticized rendering of Mary Queen of Scots, published by The Detroit Publishing Company, 1898.

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Legend has it Mary coined the term “caddie.” She also incurred the anger of her church and her subjects when, in 1567, she hit the links within days of her husband being murdered.

Queen Mary playing a round of golf

When Isabella was young, golf was a game of leisure and skill that few women could afford to play. But with the advent of public golf courses in the early twentieth century, more women began to take up the game.

In 1897 the first 7-hole tournament for ladies was held in Morristown, New Jersey.

In 1895 the first women’s amateur tournament was held in Hampstead, New York.

From the Casper Star Tribune, Monday, June 5, 1922.

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There was plenty of advice available for women who wanted to learn to play the game. That advice often focused on what women should wear on the golf course:

From Golf Illustrated magazine, December 7, 1900.

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A lady’s golfing outfit, from a 1912 issue of The Ladies Home Journal magazine.

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Other advice centered on women’s conduct on the links, as in this article from The Philipsburg Montana Mail, on Jul 22, 1898:

Click on the image to see a larger version

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Isabella’s friend and fellow author Margaret Sangster published a book of etiquette in 1904, in which she included a chapter on how women should behave on the golf course.

One of Ms. Sangster’s comments suggests she may have thought golfing an unfeminine pastime. She wrote:

Now, we do not presume to dictate, but we must observe that the posture and gestures requisite for a full swing are not particularly graceful when the player is clad in female dress.

Ms. Sangster also worried that male golfers might see their scores suffer when there were women on the course:

If women choose to play at times when the male golfers are feeding or resting, no one can object; but at other times—must we say it?—they are in the way, just because gallantry forbids to treat them exactly as men.

Are you a lady golfer, or know someone who is?

What do you think of those determined lady golfers of bygone years who risked their “graceful” femininity to play the game—and the “gallant” men who played with them?

You can read Margaret Sangster’s book, Good Manners for All Occasions, by clicking here.

Riding the Cars

14 Aug

Street-cars traversing Thomas Circle in Washington, DC in 1907

New York City looking north on Broadway in 1910.

 

When Isabella Alden wrote about her characters “riding the cars,” she wasn’t referring to automobiles. The “cars” she wrote about were steam cars and streetcars.

Steam cars were steam-engine locomotives, which ran between cities on rails. By the late 1800s, the period when most of Isabella’s stories take place, railroad stations were springing up in small towns and running across rural areas as fast as workers could lay the rails.

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Offices of The Herald newspaper in New York City.

Like locomotives, streetcars also ran on rails, but the passenger compartments were smaller and narrower.  They were typically powered by either cable-pulley systems or electricity, but early streetcars were pulled by horses. Streetcars were common forms of in-town transportation in the early 1900s. Small, mid-size, and major cities across the country had robust street-car systems to transport riders throughout a city’s major business areas and often from one end of town to another.

Streetcars running on First Avenue, downtown Seattle.

In Twenty Minutes Late, Caroline Bryant saw her first streetcar when she arrived in Philadelphia. Her only previous experience with riding a car was a seven-hour train trip she’d taken with her mother years before. In Philadelphia, her companion led the way to the street and lifted his hand in a peculiar manner.

A man who was driving what was to Caroline the strangest-looking wagon she had ever seen, drew up his horses and the wagon came to a stand-still. It had a number of little wheels, smaller than Caroline supposed wagon wheels were ever made.

“We’ll get into this car,” he said, “and that will save us a long walk and leave us a long enough one at the other end. I often wish I lived nearer the depot, but then it wouldn’t be so nice for my children as where I am now.”

Caroline was busy with one word: “car.” But there was no engine, only two horses.

“It must be a street car.”

She had heard Miss Webster speak of them, and also Judge Dunmore, and here she was getting into one!

When Twenty Minutes Late was published in 1893, horse-drawn streetcars were the norm, but by the early 1900s, streetcars became more mechanical and horse-power was replaced by cables or electricity.

04 Butte Montana 1907

Main Street in Butte, Montana about 1907.

Smaller cities and towns had streetcars, as well. This hand-colored photo from a 1907 postcard shows a streetcar running the length of Main Street in Butte, Montana.

In Judge Burnham’s Daughters, the Judge’s young son, Erskine, was very fond of riding the cars. One Sunday the Judge offered to take the family into the city to attend church at St. Paul’s, a fashionable church where the worship music was supposed to be very fine.

10 Worcester Mass Train Station

An example of a train and streetcar station. This one is in Worcester, Massachusetts.

It would have been an easy trip. From their small town the Burnhams would have ridden a steam car into the city. Upon arrival, they wouldn’t have had to leave the station to find a  streetcar to take them to the area of town by St. Paul’s church.

Busy Main Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1910.

Streetcar workers in New York City.

But the Judge’s wife Ruth refused to let little Erskine go because she believed it was wrong to ride the cars on the Sabbath.

“My darling, don’t you remember mamma told you how the poor men who have to make the cars go, cannot have any Sunday—any time to go to church, and read the Bible, and learn about God and heaven?”

Streetcar workers in Albany, NY.

“I know, mamma; but the cars go all the same, and the men have to work, and so why can’t we ride on them? They wouldn’t have to work any harder because we went along.”

In Ruth Erskine’s Son, the street-cars stopped at the corner of the Burnham’s residential street, where widowed Ruth Burnham lived with her son and his wife. Now an adult, Erskine Burnham took the 8:00 a.m. car to his office downtown each morning just “as surely as the sun was to rise”; and every evening he returned home by streetcar to his wife and his mother.

“I don’t suppose you two can fully appreciate what it is to me to get home to you after a stuffy, snarly day in town. I sit in the car sometimes with closed eyes after a day of turmoil to picture how it will all look. But the reality always exceeds my imagination.”

A streetcar running down a residential street in Bristol, Rhode Island.

In the evenings, his doting mother, Ruth, was able to watch for Erskine’s return from her bedroom window.

She leaned forward, presently, and watched Erskine’s car stop at the corner, and watched his springing step as he came with glad haste to his home.

In the majority of her books, Isabella Alden’s characters rode on the cars to get to work, to escape the city for a country idyll, or simply to run errands around town. But riding the cars was a little different for women than it was for men. Watch for a future post, Ladies Riding Cars, that will explore one of the unique challenges women faced while traveling on public transportation.

 

National Wear A Hat Day

17 Jan

January 17 is National Wear A Hat Day. In honor of the occasion, here are sketches of lovely ladies wearing hats that were popular at the turn of the 20th Century. Now yellowed with age, these black and white drawings were often used in advertisements and on trade cards.

Isabella Alden’s first book was published in 1865 and she continued to publish fiction through the 1920s. Her stories spanned many decades and she saw fashion styles come and go throughout her long life. These stylish hats might have been worn by Isabella’s heroines in her books, Making Fate, Overruled, As In A Mirror, Four Mothers at Chautauqua and Ruth Erskine’s Son, which were all published between 1895 and 1905.

Which hat is your favorite?

Black and White Bonnet 02 Black and White Bonnet 03 Black and White Bonnet 04 Black and White Bonnet 05 Black and White Bonnet 07 Black and White Bonnet 08 Black and White Bonnet 10 Black and White Bonnet 11 Black and White Bonnet 12 Black and White Bonnet 13 Black and White Bonnet 14 Black and White Bonnet 15 Black and White Bonnet 16 Black and White Bonnet 17 Black and White Bonnet 18 Black and White Bonnet 19

Writer Jenny Berlin

Faith, romance, and a place to belong

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 and sweet, clean fiction. Bringing readers information on great stories and connecting authors with their readers.

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