Last week’s free read, The Little Red Shop, first appeared in The Pansy magazine and told the story of the Brimmer children—Jack, Cornelius and Rosalie. They started their own business to help support their mother and baby sister, and made a great success of it!
But author Margaret Sidney knew that with great success comes great responsibility—a lesson she illustrated in this week’s free read, The Old Brimmer Place.
The Brimmer family’s adventures continue as their little red shop prospers and thrives. But when Jack discovers a neighbor’s shameful secret, he, Corny, and Rosy can’t agree about what to do about it. Should they help their neighbor? Or should they ignore friends in need and simply concentrate on their business?
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Isabella was 26 years old in 1867, when a new women’s magazine called Harper’s Bazar was launched in America.
Harper’s Bazar was different from other women’s magazines—like Godey’s Lady’s Book—because it was published weekly, rather than monthly. Its content was exclusively directed toward women. Each issue featured stories, decorating advice, recipes, instruction on home economics, needlework patterns, and, of course, fashion plates.
The fashion plates detailed the latest clothing trends from Paris and New York. By the late 1890s, most issues of the magazine featured hand-colored engravings of gowns, coats, bonnets, shoes, and just about every other article of clothing a lady could imagine.
The magazine had a great influence over women in all walks of life. Isabella wrote about that influence in her novel Divers Women, when she described Kitty, who worked as a clerk in a dry-goods store and devoted almost all of her salary to recreating the fashions she saw in magazines:
Miss Kitty Brown was a tall slender girl with a very small waist, and a pale, rather pretty face. She was gotten up in the style of the last fashion plate. She wore trails and high heels, and bows, and frizzes, and puffs, and jewelry, and a stylish little hat with a long plume. She had a sky-blue silk dress with ruffles, and pleatings, and ribbons innumerable, and a white Swiss muslin and a pink muslin that floated about her like soft clouds.
In creating Kitty Brown, and other female characters, Isabella often conveyed the message that ladies who dressed as Kitty did were uneducated, lacking in taste, and prone to take fashion to extremes.
Isabella objected to seeing women dressed in an “accumulation of silk, and lace, and flounce, and ruffle, and fold, and double plaits, and single plaits, and box plaits, and double box plaits, and fringe, and gimp, and ribbons, and bows.” That’s how she described the trends that were fashionable when she wrote her novel, The King’s Daughter.
Later in the same book, she sympathized with the many layers of fabric and trim the fashion magazines required “one poor little suffering body to carry around with her.”
She even wrote a brief article for The Pansy magazine about women’s slavery to fashion—an article she flavored it with just a touch of shade:
Our Fashion Plate
Fashion, you know, is a queer thing. It keeps changing and changing without regard to taste, or even to sense, one would think; and as we are fond of getting fashions from abroad, I present you with the picture of two ladies in full court dress. They are from Bombay, which is certainly a large and important enough place for us to give attention to their style of dress.
You will notice that they have taken special pains with their embroidery and jewelry. I doubt whether we could match the bracelets in this country, in size, at least. But what about the feet! How should you like a fashion that would banish all the pretty kid boots, and scarlet, and navy-blue, and brilliant plaid stockings, and oblige us to dress just in our “skin and toes” as a certain little miss put it? Oh, well, there is really no telling what we may come to. I have so much faith in our dear American people that I believe they would follow like martyrs in the bare-footed line, if the next orders from Paris should direct it. Yes, and the little girls would lay aside their kid boots and lovely stockings with a sigh indeed, but they would do it.
As to the bracelets, judging from the size which some ladies and even a few little misses wear now, I am not sure but we could put these large ones on without a sigh; that is, if they cost enough money. Meantime, however, I am rather glad that we don’t live in Bombay. Aren’t you?
What do you think of Isabella’s opinions about fashion?
Do you think that women (and men) pay too much attention to fashion styles and trends?
You can read more about Isabella’s novels mentioned in this post by clicking on the covers below:
Isabella loved her niece Grace Livingston, and she was very proud of Grace’s talent for writing.
When Grace was only twelve years old she wrote her first book, The Esselstynes. It was a story about the life changes a brother and sister experience when they are adopted by a Christian couple. Isabella was so impressed by the story, she had it printed and bound as a book, and she encouraged Grace to write more.
Grace obliged and wrote poems, as well as stories. She wrote the poem below, which Isabella published in an issue The Pansy magazine in April 1881—just in time for Grace’s 16th birthday!
Here’s how the poem appeared in the magazine:
And here’s a transcript of the poem:
THE EVENING STAR
You beautiful star,
Above the depths of sin,
Unbar the door
Of the heavenly floor,
And give me one glimpse in.
Into the bright
And golden light,
In the presence of the King,
Where the angels play
Night and day,
And the choirs forever sing.
The streets of gold,
The glories untold,
Oh, how I long to see!
Star, if you could,
Bright star! if you would
Show those glories to me!
What do you think of Grace’s poem?
When you were young, did you have a relative, teacher or friend in your life who encouraged you to develop a talent?
Isabella’s brother-in-law Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained Bible verses that might seem confusing at first. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:
Bear ye one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Every one shall bear his own burden. (Galatians 6:5)
Cast thy burden upon the Lord. (Psalms 4:22)
How do we reconcile these verses that conflict one with another? Think in this way:
One day Martha went over the way to the pump with a four-quart pail for some water, and soon returned to her mother with it.
An hour later she went with an eight-quart pail and, filling it, tried to carry it back, but could not. Her neighbor, Mark, happened to be there with his three-quart pail. He offered to carry hers and let her carry his, and so they did and got on nicely.
Some time after they were both at the pump again, each with an extra pail. They were soon filled, but when they tried to lift them all and go forward they could not. Just then their good friend Moses came along and, seeing their trouble and their pleading looks, came to them, and with his two strong arms took up the extra heavy pails of water and easily and cheerfully carried them to their homes, while they followed with their other pails.
Maybe this will aid you to see that those three texts are not so hard, after all; that they do not go against each other, but go rather hand in hand.
What do you think of Rev. Livingston’s explanation?
Isabella was deeply involved in the Christian Endeavor movement. Each month the Society of Christian Endeavor published meeting guides and lesson plans for local chapters to use in their meetings. When the May 1894 meeting guide focused on Peter’s actions in the book of Luke, Isabella wrote a special “open letter” to the youngest C.E. members to help them understand the context of the lesson. Here’s what she wrote:
Dear Young People:
Some of you are studying this month about Peter. You are dreadfully shocked over him as you read his story in the twenty-second chapter of Luke. I do not wonder. How terrible it must have been to Jesus to have heard Peter say, “I know him not!”
And in another place it tells how Peter even swore that he did not know him! Poor, wretched Peter!
If we had not heard anything more about him, we should have despised him all our lives. And as it is, we are quite sure that we would never have done such a thing as that, if we had been on earth when Jesus was. I heard a boy say so, once.
“No, ma’am!” he said, his cheeks growing red at the thought. “I tell you, I am very sure I never should have denied him. The idea!”
Yet only the next day that boy was playing croquet with some other boys, and two began to swear.
“Hush!” said one of them, after a minute. “We mustn’t swear before Tommy; he’s a goody-goody boy and has promised never to use any naughty words. Run away, Tommy, before we hurt you.”
What did Tommy say? Remember, he was the boy who knew he would not have denied Jesus. He laughed, and blushed, and said:
“I’m not afraid of your words; say what you like.”
Why did he say that? Why, because he was ashamed to own before those boys that he belonged to Jesus Christ, and had promised to try to please him. Don’t you think he denied him quite as much as Peter did?
Oh, there are many ways of doing it. I am reminded of a girl I used to know, whose mother did not approve of little girls taking walks on Sunday.
On the way home from Sunday-school, her classmates said to her:
“Come on, let’s go down to the river for a walk;” and she answered:
“Oh, I can’t today; I have a little headache.”
She said this, not because of her headache, which was not enough to keep her from going anywhere she pleased, but because she did not like to own that she had been taught it was not the right way to spend Sabbath time, and she was trying to do right. Do you think there was a little bit of denial of Jesus in her heart just then?
Isabella was an avid reader, and often read aloud to her family. She enjoyed biographies, histories, and fiction; but she particularly enjoyed reading poetry. In fact, her husband Ross and her son Raymond were both published poets.
Isabella often shared poems she enjoyed with readers of The Pansy magazine. In an 1893 issue she printed this lovely poem:
Isabella’s brother-in-law the Reverend Charles M. Livingston wrote several articles for The Pansy magazine in which he explained some of the Bible’s most challenging verses in terms young people could understand. Here’s one he wrote in 1888:
A Hard Text
Matthew 10:34: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
In Luke 2:14 the angels sing of Jesus when He was born, “On earth peace.” At first sight these verses in Matthew and Luke seem to contradict each other. They do not. The blessed Book never does that. Remember:
When one thing in one part of the Bible seems to conflict with another part, or say something which seems to be wrong, you are to conclude that a little better understanding will set it all to rights in your mind.
“I come not to send peace” to a sinner if he stay in his sins. “There is no peace to the wicked.” There ought not to be. But as soon as a sinner asks Jesus for forgiveness, he gets peace. That’s the way peace comes on earth; it is the peace of God in the heart; peace and joy in believing.
Now, when one gets this peace, it seems so good that he wants some other one to get it, too. So he speaks to his other one and urges him to confess his sins and seek Jesus; and in most cases this other one gets angry and talks against Jesus or Christians. That often happens in a family where one is a true Christian and the others are not. You see how trouble will come. There will be war in that family. It may not be a war of swords, but it will be a war of words. Jesus does not want the war, and there wouldn’t be any if the sinner would give up. But he does not usually surrender till after a hard battle with Jesus. So Jesus is said to send a sword or war. It simply means, “I am come to fight against the wrong; and people who are on the wrong side and stay there, will fight against me and my soldiers.”
My dear, dear children, I wish you may never be found with a sword in your hand, or mouth, or heart, fighting against the Lord. Let Him put His sweet peace into your heart, and when you draw the sword, draw it against sin.
Did you know? … Reverend Livingston’s daughter was beloved Christian novelist Grace Livingston Hill.
Click on the links below to read more “A Hard Text” columns:
Isabella Alden’s son Raymond was fifteen years old when he wrote this sweet poem. It was published in The Pansy magazine in 1888.
(Written in answer to a child who asked what lovewas.)
Love is—well, what can anyone say? Love is—Why, darling, think all day Of all the words that we can say; And think, and think, and tell me What love is. Ah! I knew you could not.
Well, love is Jesus; and He is love. Love is a message, so sweet, from above. God is love, so the good Book says, And true love is great and high, always.
What is the best definition given? Love is a message, a breath from Heaven. God’s message to lost ones—our Light, our Life. Love makes all peace where once was strife. Oh! Let me show you what love can do.
For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son to save— Whom do you think? Why, sinners, whom Justice for justice’s sake would doom!
But then, you look very wise, and say, Why, God is love, you know, anyway! Aye, my darling, that is true. Now let me ask you—What cannot love do?
It’s the time of year when families begin planning their summer vacations. If you’ve ever taken a driving trip with children, you know the first rule is to keep children occupied.
Isabella most certainly had experience in taking children on long trips, by automobile and by train. Her son Raymond and daughter Frances frequently accompanied her when she traveled to speaking engagements all over the country.
In 1883 Isabella published a brief article in The Pansy magazine about a new game for traveling with children.
Does this game sound familiar to you?
When you take driving trips, do you play a similar game?