Tag Archives: What They Couldn’t

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.

A Nice Oyster Supper

25 Apr

There’s a recurring theme in many of Isabella’s books you may have noticed:

Whenever a group of characters needed to raise money for their church or favorite cause, their first inclination was to earn the money through a social event.

Ad from a 1918 North Carolina newspaper.

Isabella’s characters held fairs and festivals, old folk’s suppers and young folk’s concerts, character parties and tableaux, strawberry soirees and ice cream socials—all in the name of raising money for their church or charity.

Announcement in Fort Mill Times (South Carolina), November 17, 1910.

Carrie Spafford in The Pocket Measure didn’t see the sense of it. She asked:

“Why do you suppose we always think of devices of this kind whenever we talk about money for the cause of Christ?”

Carrie asked a good question. Whenever there was money to be earned, Isabella’s characters—much like the people in churches Isabella observed first hand—spent long hours and lots of money to stage events by which they hoped to receive donations for their cause.

The Camden (Tennessee) Chronicle, February 9, 1912.

The most popular method Isabella’s characters turned to for raising money was the oyster supper.

That’s what happened in Isabella’s short story, “Circulating Decimals.” As soon as the ladies of the Penn Avenue Church realized the church library was in need of new books, they decided to take action.

Up rose the women, the respectable, middle-aged, matronly women. The library must be replenished, the money must be raised. They—the matrons—would do this thing speedily and quietly. They would have an oyster supper on a large scale, make preparation for a great many guests, furnish oysters in every possible style, and with them such coffee as only they could make, to say nothing of the inevitable cake and cream, and side dishes for those who did not relish oysters. So they went to work quietly, skillfully, expeditiously. Baking, broiling, frying, stewing!

A portion of a comic appearing in the Washington DC Evening Star, January 1, 1911.

Oysters were also the go-to choice when Isabella’s characters entertained guests in their home.

Preparing an oyster supper; and 1873 print.

Flossie Roberts served oysters with jellies and sauces to the rough boys in her Sunday-school class in Ester Ried Yet Speaking.

Oysters with Lemon, a painting by Otto Scholderer, 1891.

And when the impoverished Cameron family in What They Couldn’t struggled to find a way to entertain their society friends with little money, they decided to invite their discerning friends to a simple lunch:

Their ideas of simplicity would have bewildered some people. A lunch without salads was not to be thought of, of course; and chicken salads were the best. No matter if chicken was very expensive just now, it did not take a great deal for a salad. Then oysters were just getting nice, and, after the long summer, seemed so new; raw oysters were the very thing with which to begin a lunch. Served on the half-shell and properly garnished, there was no simple dish which looked more inviting.

A plate of oyster patties from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Cookery, 1907.

In these stories, and many others, Isabella was sharing a very real circumstance of life in late 19th and early 20th century America:

America loved oysters and ate them in abundance.

Business card for an oyster dealer, 1880.

Fresh oysters were prized, but thanks to advancements in canning methods, oysters could be shipped inland to Midwest cities that previously had no means for buying and consuming seafood.

And new techniques for harvesting oysters made them so abundantly available, their cost was half as much as beef, per pound. They were inexpensive and popular, and Americans couldn’t get enough of them.

A plate of grilled oysters, from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Cookery, 1907.

Cook books of the time had recipes for stewed oysters, fried oysters, broiled oysters, and pickled oysters.

A 1915 cookbook published by the Oyster Growers and Dealers Association of North America. You can click on the cover to see the entire cookbook.

Americans served oyster patties, oyster pies, and soups. They added oysters to their meats, stuffed them in turkeys, and scrambled them with eggs.

For those who didn’t want to prepare oysters themselves, they could find oysters on the menu of most restaurants and public houses.

The Union Oyster House in Boston, Massachusetts was founded in 1826 and is still in business today.

Most major towns in America could boast an oyster parlor or oyster saloon.

A 1903 newspaper ad for a Louisiana oyster saloon offering a ladies’ private parlor.

Many such establishments had private dining rooms for ladies, where they could eat oysters in an environment that did not offend their delicate sensibilities.

An 1881 ad for an oyster saloon in Astoria, Oregon.

Americans’ love for oysters spawned an entirely new industry of serving plates and utensils designed specifically for oysters.

An oyster plate from the late 1800s. With six oyster wells, it is decorated in the Chinoiserie style popular at the time.

It’s no wonder, then, that when Isabella’s characters planned a dinner or a party, they naturally thought to put oysters on the menu. They were inexpensive, easy to prepare, and almost everyone liked them.

A silver oyster fork from Tiffany & Company, dated 1872

But cooking and selling oysters didn’t guarantee that a fund-raising event would be successful. Though festivals and dinners and other fund-raisers were very stylish, Isabella believed that more money and effort were spent on putting the events together than the organizers ever made from donations.

When talk turned to having a fund-raising festival of some kind in The Pocket Measure, Callie Spafford stated Isabella’s opinion plainly:

“Haven’t you often seen gentlemen eat fifty cents worth of oysters and cake and cream and fruit and celery, and I don’t know what else, and pay twenty-five cents for it all, and think they were being benevolent?”

Despite the questionable economics, oyster suppers remained a favorite form of charity fundraisers in America . . . and in Isabella’s novels.

 

Quotable

12 Mar

McCall_s 1906-09 (1)She weighed the possibilities now, much as she might have weighed the question whether she should or should not go to the lecture that evening. Should she take a new stand; begin to pray, to read her Bible, to go to church regularly, and to prayer-meeting, and honestly try to follow Christ? She had never given it careful consideration before, but why should she not? She was tired of all her surroundings; nothing in or about her home or her life was quite as she wished it. Why not have it utterly different? In short, why not try Christianity for all it was worth? She did not settle the question; but as she applied the latch-key to their own door, she almost thought she would.

—from What They Couldn’t

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Chrissy’s Endeavor Pin

17 Feb

.  Logo Young Peoples Society of Christian Endeavor

When Chrissy Hollister arrived to spend the summer with her friend Grace, she was shown to a guest room that was decorated in blue and white and was “just as sweet and cool and charming as it can be.”

Presently her eyes rested on the blue satin pincushion, covered with white lace. Across it lay a ribbon—a badge of some sort. Chrissy laughed as she noticed that even the ribbon, which had evidently been dropped there by accident and forgotten, partook of the general character of the room, being of white satin, and bearing on its surface, painted in delicate tints of blue, five mystic letters: “Y. P. S. C. E.”

Victorian pin cushion smallChrissy studied them curiously, admiring the graceful curves of the rustic work, but wondering much what those letters could represent.

As Chrissy would later discover in a rather embarrassing way, those initials stood for Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavor. She would also discover just how important that distinctive pin was.

The design of the official Christian Endeavor emblem is attributed to Reverend Howard Benjamin Grose, a Baptist minister and editor of The Home Mission Monthly magazine. As a Christian Endeavor trustee, he felt strongly that the Society needed to adopt an official emblem, but the designs he’d seen were either too elaborate or expensive to produce. He wanted a simple design and felt, given the long name of the organization, the letters C and E should be made prominent.

Reverend H. B. Grose

Reverend H. B. Grose

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Reverend Grose began to doodle, putting the C and E together in different ways:

Pin sketches

He proposed sketch No. 9 to the trustees, and the monogram pin was unanimously adopted in 1887.

The C embraces the E. The Endeavor is all within the Christ.

Christian Endeavor_PinMany emblems are more showy, more glittering, more ornamental, perhaps; but I see none that satisfies me so well, or that awakens so many feelings of affection, gratitude, consecration, and hope,  as the strong, simple, speaking monogram in which the E that means Endeavor is made sublimely significant by the encompassing C that marks it all as Christian.

—Rev. Francis Bell, Founder, the Society of Christian Endeavor

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Once adopted, the Christian Endeavor emblem remained unchanged for generations. The distinctive design was enhanced only slightly for pins produced for the children’s society and Christian Endeavor organizations in other countries, such as this pin from Scotland:

Christian Endeavor_Pin Junior    Christian Endeavor_Pin Scotland

The ribbon badge Chrissy saw in the guest room at Grace’s house may have been a local Christian Endeavor badge. Many state and local societies adopted their own unique Christian Endeavor colors, which they wore as ribbons on their lapels. The ribbons were usually printed or embroidered with the state name, as well as the initials Y.P.S.C.E. and the words Christian Endeavor.

Ribbon badges were also created to commemorate Christian Endeavor annual conferences. Below is an example of the badge worn by attendees at the 1892 annual conference in New York:

Christian Endeavor Badge 1892 New York

And this badge is from the 1909 national convention in Minnesota:

Christian Endeavor Badge 1909 Convention

After Chrissy became a Christian and organized a Christian Endeavor Society in her own town, she learned the power of the little pin while riding the streetcar one day:

A plainly-dressed girl of about her own age, with a good earnest face, sat opposite her, watching her with an intentness that was only excusable because of the absorbed and almost tender light in the girl’s eyes, which lifted her act far above the commonplace stare. At last, seeming to have gathered courage for a resolve, she arose and took a vacant seat beside Chrissy.

“I beg your pardon,” she said in low, well-bred tones, “may I speak to you? I am a stranger, but I see that we are kindred.” Touching as she spoke, the tiny silver badge she wore, bearing the magic letters “C. E.,” and glancing significantly at the corresponding one of gold, which fastened Chrissy’s linen collar.

There was an instant clasping of hands, and an exchange of cordial smiles.

The plainly-dressed girl explained that a friend of hers had attended a Christian Endeavor meeting—the very Christian Endeavor Chrissy organized in her town.

‘And she liked it all so much, that she came home and told about it, and did not rest until she had started a society out of our class in Sunday school. I joined as an associate member, because I was ready to do whatever the others did, but I got acquainted in that society with Jesus Christ. I signed the pledge, and gave myself to Him forever; and I’ve had a good winter.”

Chrissy was surprised and humbled to know that her efforts resulted in a soul being won for Christ. “Unfaithful, unreliable in every way, yet He had used her in the harvest field!” wrote Isabella Alden.

Posing in the shape of the CE monogram ca 1898

Members of two Christian Endeavor Societies pose on the steps of Antioch College in the shape of the CE monogram, circa 1895.

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Isabella and her husband, Reverend Alden were tireless workers for Christian Endeavor. Isabella featured the society in her books Chrissy’s Endeavor, Her Associate Members, Pauline, and What They Couldn’t. She also wrote several short stories about Christian Endeavor: One Day’s Endeavoring and A Christian Endeavor Revenge were published in the Christian Endeavor magazine, The Golden Rule. And her book Grace Holbrook was a compilation of several short stories that illustrated the principles of Christian Endeavor for children.


You can learn more about today’s Christian Endeavor by clicking here to visit their site.

Click on the book covers below to find out more about the books mentioned in this post.

Cover_Chrissys Endeavor v3    Cover_Her Associate Members v2 resized

Cover_Pauline    Cover_What They Couldnt 02 resized

 

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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