Isabella Macdonald Alden (Pansy)

Isabella Macdonald Alden's life was a literary one, shaped first by her father and then by her religion. The daughter of well-educated parents, she was born November 3, 1841, in Rochester, New York. She was the sixth of seven children, and was initially home-schooled by her father, who also gave her her nickname. 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. Later, she attended school in New York, at the Oneida Seminary, the Seneca Collegiate Institute, and the Young Ladies Institute.

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 Westmister Teacher for twenty years; and working on the editorial staff of Trained Motherhood and The Christian Endeavor.

From 1865 to 1929, Alden also authored approximately 100 books, coauthored 10 more, and edited or coedited several others. 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 Ester Ried (her most popular work), were based on personal experiences; others, such as the Chautauqua Girls series, appear to have been motivated by her interest in the Chautauqua movement.

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