Isabella Alden and her best friend Theodosia Toll Foster shared many things: a strong Christian faith; a belief in the values of honesty, kindness, and honor; and a true desire to make the world a better place for everyone. They also shared a talent for writing.
Under the pen-name “Faye Huntington,” Theodosia published over forty books, as well as pamphlets, short stories, histories, and other articles for magazines and newspapers.
But perhaps her most beloved short stories appeared in The Pansy magazine, which Isabella edited. For over a decade they collaborated on the magazine’s contents.
You can meet Theodosia’s Great-granddaughter!
Susan Snow Wadley, Theodosia’s great-granddaughter, will be giving an on-line Zoom lecture on Theodosia’s life and writings.
Hosted by the Erie Canal Museum of New York, the lecture is scheduled for:
Date: Thursday, March 24, 2022
Time: 12:00 noon (EST)
Cost: Free! (donations to the museum are welcome)
Click on the link below to register.
This is an excellent way to learn more about the times in which Isabella and Theodosia lived and the events that influenced their young lives.
Isabella’s writing career was launched when her best friend Theodosia Toll Foster entered one of Isabella’s stories in a contest, and it won! (Read more about it here).
Theodosia began her own writing career years later. When she was 34 years old her husband died, leaving her with a toddler son and a second baby on the way. Theodosia had to find a means of supporting her family, and writing provided the answer.
Under her pen name, Faye Huntington, Theodosia co-authored novels with Isabella, and regularly contributed to The Pansy and other Christian magazines.
She also wrote full-length novels, some of which can still be found today, but because the majority of her novels were published as pamphlets in the late 1800s, very few have survived over the years. However …
Two of her most popular books were about the Mackenzie family and you can read both books for free!
Book 1: Mr. Mackenzie’s Answer
When Miss Marvie Anderson first saw Mr. Mackenzie at a prayer meeting, she thought, “What a saintly man!” But after staying in Mr. Mackenzie’s home as the guest of his daughter Delia, Marvie doesn’t know what to think! How can a man who prays with such fervor and devotion be so inconsistent when it comes setting a Christian example in his daily life?
Raised by her minister father, Marvie thought she knew how to lead a Christian life; but as her visit continues, she finds herself succumbing to Mr. Mackenzie’s influence, and leaving her own Christian upbringing behind.
Click here to go to BookFunnel and read Mr. Mackenzie’s Answer. You can download it to your computer, phone, tablet, Kindle or other electronic device. Or choose “Read on My Computer” to print the story as a PDF to read and share with friends.
Book 2: Ripley Parsonage
At Ripley Parsonage, the Reverend Mr. Anderson works earnestly for his flock and for the town, even as he leads the local temperance cause with unfailing devotion. He has seen first-hand the wreck alcohol can make in the lives of his congregation and community; little wonder, then, that his most constant prayer is that the town elders will come to their senses and vote for prohibition.
But Mr. Anderson has other worries, too, especially for his daughter, Marvie. He’s not certain what the future may hold for her and her two best friends: Delia Mackenzie, the society girl who tries so hard to live a Christian life despite her own father’s disapproval; and Tina Stevens, the quiet infidel who was taught at an early age to disbelieve anything related to the Bible.
In this 1877 sequel to Mr. Mackenzie’s Answer, Mr. Anderson’s faith and devotion are brought to a head that will test one of the very foundations of his religion: the sacred communion service.
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.
This week’s free read is “Dr. Deane’s Way,” a short story written by “Faye Huntington.” That’s the pen name adopted by Isabella’s dear friend Theodosia Toll Foster.
Isabella first met Theodosia when they were teens at Oneida Seminary in New York. It was Theodosia who launched Isabella’s writing career by secretly submitting one of Isabella’s stories to a writing contest. Isabella didn’t discover what Theodosia had done until she received a letter informing her that her story won first prize in the contest!
In return, Isabella sparked Theodosia’s career as an author. In 1872, Theodosia was 34 years old and pregnant with her second child when her husband James died unexpectedly. With a farm to run, and a toddler and newborn baby to support, Theodosia needed a reliable income. Isabella asked her to collaborate on one of her books, and Theodosia’s career as an author was born.
Theodosia’s story “Dr. Deane’s Way” was written in 1875. Here’s the description:
When it comes to managing his family, Dr. Deane firmly believes his way is best. He methodically doles out chores to his children and rules the kitchen by ensuring his wife cooks only the blandest food for their diets. And when two of his children accept Christ as their Saviour, Dr. Deane believes he has the right to interfere with that, too.
But when Dr. Deane’s daughter Lois rebels against his rigid rules, Dr. Deane must seek help from an unexpected source if he is to cure Lois of her hoydenish ways.
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:
You can read more about Isabella’s friendship with Theodosia in these previous posts:
January’s free read is Gertrude’s Diary, a novella first published in 1885.
Isabella wrote the book in the “diary style” she often used. In the story, twelve-year-old Gertrude and her friends are given a set of Bible verses for each month of the year, along with journals in which the girls are to record their experiences as they try to live by the verses.
Isabella often incorporated her own life experiences into her stories (see last week’s post for an example) and Gertrude’s Diary is no exception. Isabella was very candid about the fact that she had a temper that often got her in trouble when she was young. It isn’t hard to imagine as you read Gertrude’s Diary that some of Gertrude’s temper-induced predicaments might be based on episodes in Isabella’s own life.
In the final chapter of the book Isabella gives a very real nod to one of her favorite places on earth when she reveals that Gertrude’s home town is called Locust Shade.
Locust Shade was a place Isabella knew well; in “real life” it was the name of the Toll family farm in Verona, New York. Isabella’s best friend Theodosia Toll Foster was raised at Locust Shade and Isabella spent many wonderful weekends and school vacations at Locust Shade with Theodosia and her family. You can read more about their friendship and Locust Shade here.
Gertrude’s Diary is available to read for free. Just click on the cover to begin reading.
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.
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.