Here’s my original draft of my Wikipedia entry about my grandmother, Francena H. Arnold. To leave it sort of in the format of a Wikipedia entry, I have left the footnotes as footnotes rather than linking in context (except to other Wikipedia entries). I also have added individual sales figures for her books and translation information, which I actually received after doing the first draft and discuss in my post about the process of getting Grandma into Wikipedia.
My cousin, Jan Worgul Ackerson edited this before I submitted to Wikipedia. I have used some of her edits, but have not made most of the cuts she suggested because I decided to use Grandma’s full story here (as full as I could tell it anyway). Jan correctly suggested that it probably needed to be more dispassionate for Wikipedia. While I did that for Wikipedia, I have not tried to tone down any passion here (for what it’s worth, I thought I was being pretty dispassionate when I wrote it, but Jan’s pretty passionate about Grandma, so I accept her judgment. You may see some hints of affection or admiration). I also added photos, which I have not done in the Wikipedia entry (if you’d like to help me figure out how to upload photos to Wikipedia, please contact me.)
Francena H. Arnold was a 20th century novelist, author of the Christian fiction classic Not My Will and nine other books.1
Not My Will has sold more than 500,000 copies2 and has been translated into at least seven languages. Published by Moody Press, it remains in print and available as an electronic book 66 years after it was first published.
Francena Harriet Long was born Sept. 9, 1888, on a farm near Literberry, Ill., to James Harvey Long and Hannah Cox Long, the seventh of nine children.3
Books were always important in her family. A story in Moody Monthly a year after her death (written by her middle daughter, Harriet Arnold Buttry) recounted this childhood memory, quoting the novelist: “In my mind and heart is a picture I like to remember often. I see in memory a big, old-fashioned farm kitchen with a long table down one side. Around that table the chairs are drawn up just as they were for the evening meal a few hours before. Each member of the family is reading. The one big lamp in the center sheds light alike on Father’s newspaper, on Mother’s magazine or on the books of the seven children and the hired girl. Is it the wood fire crackling or the warmth of the family spirit that makes the room so cozy?”4
When she was 12 years old, the Moody article said, Arnold began writing for small farm publications. She later wrote articles for American Magazine and The Chicago Daily News.4
She initially attended one-room country schools, but the family moved to Jacksonville, Ill., so the children could attend high school in town. Her youngest daughter, Shirley Worgul, recalls that she attended “Normal College,”3 though she’s not sure exactly where that was. Illinois State University in Normal, Ill., formerly known as Illinois State Normal University, has no record of Francena Long as a student there, but teaching schools were routinely called “Normal” schools then. After college, she taught three years in a one-room schoolhouse before her marriage. 4
Marriage and Family
Francena married Frank Mitchell Arnold, whom she had met in high school, on August 29, 1912, in Jacksonville, Ill.3 They had four children: Helen, Frank Jr., Harriet and Shirley.
The family moved to the Chicago area in 1919 and she spent the rest of her life in or near Chicago, Downer’s Grove, Oak Park and Wilmington, Ill.5
Francena’s children and grandchildren remember volunteering to help her do the dishes because of the spellbinding stories she would tell as they worked.
Frank changed jobs often during the Depression and the family struggled but never went hungry. In the 1973 Moody Monthly story, Harriet told of a Sunday when Frank showed Francena a quarter and a half-dollar, all he had in his pocket, as the offering plate made its way through the pews. “Give the half, Frank. The Lord won’t let us down,” Francena said. The next day Frank found a job. 4
In the early 1940s, Frank Sr. became business manager at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. The family lived on the Northern campus until his retirement in 1957 5 and two of the Arnold children eventually earned divinity degrees there.
Frank Sr. also was a genealogist, certified by the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution.
During World War II, Frank Sr. worked through the Friends Service Commission to hire a Japanese-American man for the seminary’s maintenance staff. The Arnolds took the young man and his pregnant wife into their home and became lifelong friends, the 1973 Moody Monthly story recounted. 4
After Frank’s retirement, the Arnolds lived in Wilmington, Ill., until his death of a heart attack on Oct. 12, 1961. 5 Francena then returned to the Chicago area, living the rest of her life with her oldest daughter, Helen Hoel, and her husband, Joel. The Arnolds had 12 grandchildren and more than 30 great-grandchildren.
Francena Arnold was an evangelical Christian when that term had no political meaning (she believed in the secret ballot and would not reveal how she voted in elections). In her era, “evangelical” referred to born-again Christians who believed they were called to share the Gospel story and tell others about their relationship with Christ. All of her books had strong Christian themes and she regarded her writing as way to share her faith.
The Arnolds were charter members of Judson Baptist Church in Oak Park, Ill., when it formed in 19215 and were members and leaders there for much of their lives. They also belonged for a time to Foster Park Baptist Church.
Florence Arnold, Frank Jr.’s widow, recalls Francena singing hymns as she carried out household chores, undaunted by her inability to carry a tune.6 “I heard her praying aloud as she went about her household tasks,” daughter Harriet recounted in the 1973 Moody Monthly article. “Jesus Christ was real to her and she talked to him as naturally as to the members of her family.” 4
The Arnolds taught their faith to their children, expected them to memorize Bible verses and instilled in each a strong sense of Christian service.
The 1973 Moody Monthly article says Arnold’s first Christian writing came in letters to the editor of The Sunday School Times. Those letters developed into a series of articles signed “A Christian Mother.” 4
Not My Will
Florence Arnold, Frank Jr.’s widow, recalled in 2012 that in the 1940s her husband returned from a visit home with a manuscript, handwritten on ledger sheets. “She wanted me to read it and let her know if I thought it was any good, can you imagine,” Florence wrote. “If so, she wanted to ask me to type it for her, since she could not yet type. It took me one day to read it all, in between baby feedings and whatever. At the end of that day I called her to say I thought it was the best Christian novel I had ever seen, and would get right at typing it for her.” 6
Moody Press published the novel in 1946, when Arnold was 58, and has been translated into Arabic, Ethiopian, German, Japanese, Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian. By early 2013, the book had sold 576,366 copies in all editions.
Christianbook.com gives this synopsis: “Eleanor’s secret love for Chad could mean losing her inheritance and giving up a lifelong dream. Should she follow her own carefully laid plans to be a scientist – or marry the man she really loves? Originally published in 1946, this inspiring story continues to spark fresh discussion about choosing God’s will over our own.”12
Not My Will was included in the 1991 Moody Classic Fiction13 series and published a third time in 2002 with the subtitle How much will surrender cost?14 Not My Will is available in a Kindle edition15 40 years after Arnold’s death.
The Light in My Window, a sequel to Not My Will, won third prize in Zondervan’s International Christian Fiction Contest in 19494 and was published in 1950. 16 It also was rereleased in 1992 in the Moody Classic Fiction series17, which sold 17,379 copies (Zondervan no longer has sales figures for Arnold’s books).
The Christianbook.com synopsis says: “Hope is a quiet and reserved girl, and her co-workers and mentors at the Henderson Institute, where she works teaching home economics, are concerned that she grow into what they consider to be a more Christian state. Yet Hope has something in her past that weighs on her as she goes about her life; will she discover the healing Christ has for her?”18
Zondervan also accepted for publication another novel Arnold submitted to the contest, 4 Fruit for Tomorrow, published in 1949.19
Moody published her next six novels: Then Am I Strong (1951, 138,863 copies sold), 20 Three Shall Be One (1953, 144,501 copies sold), 21 The Road Winds On (1955, 126,997 copies sold), 22 Jack-O’-Lantern House (1955, 23 her only novel for children, 3,000 copies sold), A Brother Beloved (1957, 124,850 copies sold) 24 and Straight Down a Crooked Lane (1959, 156,155 copies sold). 25
Her final novel, The Deepening Stream, was published in 1963 by Zondervan.26
A 1973 obituary in the Moody Press Tips newsletter said: “In her own distinctive style, the author established a relationship with her readers through the conflicts, trials and complications of the characters. These are not just dramatic adventures, however, instead the accounts are realistic interpretations of the sufferings and joys of human nature and how Jesus Christ becomes the answer to loneliness and confusion.”27
Arnold wrote other manuscripts in longhand. Harriet Buttry also remembered typing manuscripts for her mother, but eventually Arnold learned to type. By the time she finished The Deepening Stream, she was having trouble typing or gripping a pen in her arthritic hands, though she had more story ideas. Her children offered to buy a Dictaphone for her, but she joked that she was too old a dog to learn new tricks, and she didn’t publish again. She died with one unpublished manuscript. 28
Advice on Writing
Shirley Worgul kept a copy of typed notes for an address Arnold made to a writing conference. Arnold advised writers to “have a strong spiritual theme … consistently developed but NOT TOO OBVIOUS.”29 As examples, she cited the themes for each of her novels:
Not My Will – The necessity for a surrendered will
Light in My Window – Only inner radiance can shine from a life
Fruit for Tomorrow – The surrendered life bears fruit for years ahead
Then Am I Strong – If one abides in Christ he need fear nothing for Christ is his strength
Three Shall Be One – No union of any sort is right unless Christ is in it
Jack–o’-Lantern House – There is no trial can lay its hand on me, no pain, no loss, but he has been through it and shares it with us
The Road Winds On – Any lesser purpose than God’s leading is not sufficient
A Brother Beloved – God knows, as we never can, what our real desires are, and leads us in ways we can’t understand
Straight Down a Crooked Lane – The hasty, ill-considered marriage cannot succeed unless put in God’s hands
The Deepening Stream – God can use any small stone to turn the course of a river, or a life29
Other writing advice Arnold delivered at the conference:
- Be natural. Don’t preach! If a witness to Christ is to be made, make it short, to the point, and in harmony with the character. 29
- If you want a touching scene, make it so, don’t just say it is. If you want a funny situation, make it so, etc., etc. 30
- Live with the characters until they come alive to you. Then you don’t have to worry about what will happen. It just comes as you live with them day by day. 31
- Have something worthwhile to say in writing. (Illus. The woman who wrote me saying, “I want to write a book but can’t think of anything to say.” My advice: “Don’t write!”) 29
Arnold’s hearing declined and her arthritis advanced as she aged. Arthritis deformed her hands so severely that she was unable to pick up Scrabble letters, but she would point out the ones for family members to play and tell them where to play them for her. Until her death, she regularly defeated her children and grandchildren at Scrabble.
Without her hearing aid, she was almost deaf, and family members could hear her praying for relatives and friends as pain kept her awake at night. “She felt frustration at her physical helplessness, but trusted that God had left her here for a purpose – to be an intercessor,” Harriet Buttry wrote in the 1973 Moody Monthly article. “Increasingly, she asked Him to take her home to Himself, a prayer He answered on October 26, 1972.” 4
Arnold died at West Suburban Hospital at the age of 84. 5 The Moody Monthly article said her books sold 75,000 copies in 1972, a decade after her last novel was published. 4 An obituary in the Moody Press Tips newsletter said Not My Will, which had sold 160,000 copies at the time, “will continue to be a best-seller, sending forth Mrs. Arnold’s Christian witness for many years to come.” 27
The statement turned out to be true. In a 2010 blog post, Jendi Pagano wrote about Not My Will and The Light in My Window: “I cried and laughed, frowned and smiled my way through both of the stories. … I was able to understand and enjoy it as a teenager. As a mother and adult I processed the stories differently but enjoyed them just as much. … Her encouraging and thought provoking stories have endured the test of time.” 32
- Francena H. Arnold author profile, MoodyPublishers.com.
- Not My Will listing, MoodyPublishers.com.
- Email from Francena Arnold’s daughter, Shirley Worgul, Oct. 20, 2012.
- The Mother Behind Those Popular Novels, page 2, Harriet Arnold Buttry, Moody Monthly, November 1973.
- Author Francena Arnold, 84, dies, Oak Leaves, 1972.
- Email from Florence Arnold about Francena Arnold, Oct. 15, 2012.
- Chaplain Frank Arnold’s World War II diary, Steve Buttry, The Buttry Diary, July 4, 2009.
- Dad and Ike: Military men who enjoyed painting, Steve Buttry, 2 Roads Diverged, June 2, 2012.
- Women Struggling for Acceptance as Pastors, Tina Burnside, Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1988.
- Robert Worgul genealogy.
- Joshua’s Place.
- Christianbook.com listing for Not My Will.
- Amazon listing for Not My Will.
- Library of Congress listing for 2002 edition of Not My Will.
- Amazon Kindle Store listing for Not My Will.
- Library of Congress listing for The Light in My Window.
- Library of Congress listing for 1992 edition of The Light in My Window.
- Christianbook.com listing for The Light in My Window.
- Library of Congress listing for Fruit for Tomorrow.
- Library of Congress listing for Then Am I Strong.
- Library of Congress listing for Three Shall Be one.
- Library of Congress listing for The Road Winds On.
- Amazon listing for Jack-o’-lantern House.
- Library of Congress listing for A Brother Beloved.
- Library of Congress listing for Straight Down a Crooked Lane.
- Library of Congress listing for The Deepening Stream.
- MEMORIAL SERVICE HELD FOR FRANCENA ARNOLD, Moody Press TIPS, February 1973.
- Louise Eddington email about Francena Arnold, Nov. 4, 2012.
- Francena Arnold’s notes for an address to a writing conference, page 1.
- Francena Arnold’s notes for an address to a writing conference, page 2.
- Francena Arnold’s notes for an address to a writing conference, page 3.
- Jendi’s Journal, Jendi Pagano, Aug. 10, 2010.
External link: Chapter One of Not My Will.