Isabella Macdonald was the sixth of seven children born to well-to-do and well-educated parents. She was home-schooled by her father, who gave her the nickname "Pansy," and she began writing at a young age. She attended and later worked as a teacher at the Oneida Seminary in New York. There she met Theodosia Toll (Faye Huntington), the woman with whom she later co-authored several works, and who helped Isabella start her writing career with the publication of her first book, Helen Lester, in 1865. In 1866, Isabella married the Rev. Gustavus Rossenberg Alden, with whom she had a son. His work took the couple to various parts of the country, including Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. By 1900, the family was prosperous enough to own three residences, in Philadelphia, Chautauqua, New York, and Winter Park, Florida. Isabella was a prolific writer: from 1865 to 1929, under the pseudonym Pansy, she wrote approximately 100 books, co-authored 10 more, and edited or co-edited others. Much of her work was serialized in Christian periodicals such as the Herald and Presbyter. She also edited her own periodical, The Pansy Magazine. Her books were hugely popular during the late 19th-century, selling around 100,000 copies annually at her peak. Some titles were translated into other languages, including French and Japanese. Of course, her books were a staple in many Sunday School libraries. Isabella Alden's personal recollections, entitled Memories of Yesterday (1931), were published posthumously.