Isabella (Pansy) Alden collection, 1942
Collection Scope and Content
The collection contains two letters from Isabella Alden’s niece to Anna Hooper of Portland, Maine.
Isabella Macdonald Alden was born in 1841 in Rochester, New York to well-educated parents. She was the sixth of seven children and was initially home-schooled by her father. She developed her writing skills early: as a child, she kept a daily journal, which her father critiqued, and had her first story, “Our Old Clock,” published in the village paper when she was only ten. Alden authored around 100 books between 1865 and 1929 under the psuedonym Pansy, a nickname bestowed upon her by her father.
Alden met her husband, Reverend Gustavus Rossenberg Alden, while teaching at Oneida Seminary in New York. His work took the couple to various parts of the country, including Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. After her marriage, Alden divided her time among writing, participating in church activities, teaching at several of the Chautauqua sessions, and raising her son Raymond, who was born in 1873. By 1900, the family had three residences: a home in Philadelphia, a summer residence in Chautauqua, New York, and a winter home in Winter Park, Florida.
Throughout her life, Isabella Alden combined her writing and her religion. She did much work with Christian periodicals, writing serialized stories for The Herald and Presbyter from about 1870 until 1900; editing The Pansy, a Sunday juvenile, from 1874-1894; editing The Primary Quarterly and producing the primary grade Sunday school lessons for The Westminster Teacher for twenty years; and working on the editorial staff of Trained Motherhood and The Christian Endeavor. Most of her works are didactic fiction, heavily salted with religious principles, which concentrate on translating Biblical precepts into acceptable Christian behavior in a modern world. Several of her books, such as her most popular work Ester Ried, were based on personal experiences; others, such as the Chautauqua girls series, were motivated by her interest in the Chautauqua movement. She and her niece, Grace Livingston Hill, even make a brief appearance in the final chapter of the last book in the series, Four Mothers at Chautauqua. Alden’s books were enormously popular during the late nineteenth century; in 1900, sales were estimated at around 100,000 copies annually. Some titles were translated into several languages, including French, German, Russian and Japanese.
After the deaths of her husband and son in 1924, Alden moved to Palo Alto, California, where she made her home with her daughter-in-law. She continued writing until shortly before her death on August 5, 1930, leaving an unfinished autobiography, Memories of Yesterday, which was completed and edited by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.