Given her penname, "Pansy", by her loving father, she was born Isabella Macdonald in 1841. Her influence on a generation of young people was great, and began with her first book,"Helen Lester" just 24 years later in 1865. Her final tale—that of her own life— was finished by her beloved niece, Grace Livingston Hill, in 1931 after she went to live forever with her King, Jesus Christ.
“Probably no writer of stories for young people has been so popular or had so wide an audience as Mrs. G. R. Alden, whose pen-name, "Pansy," is known wherever English books are read.” —Rev. Francis E. Clark in World Wide Endeavor, 1895
In our great-great grandmothers’ day, “Pansy” was a world-wide writing phenomenon. She never set out to be an author—her first book was actually published without her knowledge—but by the time her family moved south to Winter Park in 1885 seeking health for their only son, she had been doing just that for two decades and would continue for nearly five decades more.
Isabella Macdonald Alden wanted to teach children. After attending several young ladies’ academies, she graduated from Oneida Seminary in New York and began work in its Primary Department that same year. When a tossed-aside writing contest entry was sent in secretly by her best friend, the success of that prize-winning Sunday-school book turned into something unexpected—it became a calling. As she penned book after book it became clear that she was going to be a teacher, but on a much grander scale.
Grace Livingston Hill, described her aunt’s distinctive writing ability in the foreword of “An Interrupted Night.”
“With marvelous skill she searched hearts, especially of the easy-going Christian, whether minister or layman, young and old, and brought them awake and alive to their inconsistencies. She wove her stories around their common, everyday life, till all her characters became alive and real to those who read.”