Born this day in 1841: Isabella Macdonald Alden, a.k.a. Pansy (1841–1930), popular and prolific author of children’s books and religious novels
Alden published her first story in a local newspaper when she was only 10 years old. To protect her privacy, her parents had her use her nickname, Pansy, a penname that she would use for the remainder of her prolific career.
In 1865 she wrote a story explaining Christian salvation to children for a contest sponsored by the Christian Tract Society. She decided not to submit it, but a friend secretly entered it for her. The story, “Helen Lester,” won the competition, and earned Macdonald a cash prize and publication.
Alden went on to write or edit some 200 books. Most were pleasant moral tales, often with religious themes, written for children. She also wrote for several periodicals, including the Presbyterian Primary Quarterly and the Westminster Teacher, and for 30 years published an annual serial in the Herald and Presbyter. She edited her own children’s periodical, the Pansy, from 1874 to 1896. The Pansy was a Sunday school weekly which spawned the Pansy Society. As members, children pledged to improve their personal conduct.
Alden participated in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Sunday School movement, the Chautauqua movement , and the Young People's Society for Christian Endeavour. She served on the staff of the journal The Christian Endeavor World. She also served on the staff of Trained Motherhood, a journal for young wives and mothers.
Her most popular novels were the Ester Ried series, which she based on her own life experiences. Her most important works, however, were her religious novels about the life of Jesus: The Prince of Peace and Yesterday, Framed in To-Day, which retells the life of Jesus in a modern setting.
Alden’s books were enormously popular. They were translated into many languages and sold the world over. At the apex of her career Pansy was selling 100,000 books per year. You find a many of her books here.