Isabella Macdonald Alden

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Isabella Macdonald Alden
Isabella Macdonald Alden, aka Pansy, aka Mrs. G. R. Alden, c. 1886.jpg
Isabella Macdonald Alden
Born November 3, 1841
Rochester, New York
Died August 5, 1930
Palo Alto, California
Spouse Reverend Gustavus Rossenberg Alden
Children Raymond

Isabella Macdonald Alden (November 3, 1841 – August 5, 1930) was an American author who wrote under the pseudonym of Pansy.


Alden was born in Rochester, New York to well-educated parents Myra Spafford Macdonald and Isaac Alden.[1] The sixth of seven children, she was initially home-schooled by her father, who also gave her the nickname Pansy. She developed her writing skills early: as a child, she kept a daily journal which her father critiqued. Her first story, "Our Old Clock", was published in the village paper when she was 10.


She 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.

Literary works[edit]

The Pansy (June 1894)

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 to 1894; editing the Primary Quarterly and producing the primary-grade Sunday School lessons for the Westminster Teacher for 20 years; and working on the editorial staff of Trained Motherhood and The Christian Endeavor.

From 1865 to 1929, Alden authored about 100 books. 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 series' last book, Four Mothers at Chatauqua.

Alden's books were enormously popular during the late 19th century; in 1900, sales were estimated at around 100,000 copies annually. Some titles like Ester Ried, were translated into several languages, including French, German, Russian, and Japanese.

Later years[edit]

After the deaths of her husband and son in 1924, Alden moved to Palo Alto, California to live with her daughter-in-law. She continued writing until shortly before her death on August 5, 1930; the unfinished autobiography she left, Memories of Yesterday, was completed and edited by her niece, Grace Livingston Hill.

In the 1990s, edited and abridged editions of some Alden's works appeared in two series issued by Christian publishers, The Pansy Collection, published by Creation Books, and the Grace Livingston Hill Library, published by Living Books.

Selected work[edit]

Ester Ried series:

  • Ester Ried: Asleep and Awake (1870)
  • Julia Ried: Listening and Led (1872)
  • The King's Daughter (1873)
  • Wise and Otherwise (1873)
  • Ester Ried Yet Speaking (1883)
  • Ester Ried's Namesake (1906)

Chautauqua Girls series:

  • Four Girls at Chautauqua (1876)
  • The Chautauqua Girls at Home (1877)
  • Ruth Erskine's Crosses (1879)
  • Judge Burnham's Daughters (1888)
  • Workers Together, or, An Endless Chain
  • Ruth Erskine's Son (1907)
  • Four Mothers at Chautauqua (1913)

paired books:

  • Chrissy's Endeavor
  • Her Associate Members
  • Household Puzzles
  • The Randolphs
  • Aunt Hannah and Martha and John
  • John Remington, Martyr


  • Mag & Margaret
  • Little Fishers and Their Nets
  • Interrupted (Out in the World)
  • Divers Women
  • Tip Lewis and His Lamp
  • Three People (1871)
  • Eighty-Seven (1887)
  • The Hall in the Grove (1882)
  • Links in Rebecca's Life (1878)
  • From Different Standpoints (1878)
  • Memories of Yesterday


  1. ^ Leonard, John William; Marquis, Albert Nelson, eds. (1908), Who's Who in America, 5, Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, Incorporated, p. 19. 

External links[edit]

Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.