Category: Matchmakers

Taking a Chance–A Big Chance–On Love

Wanted a Wife

I am looking for a lady to make her my wife

as I am heartily tired of bachelor life.

I’ve always loved mail-order bride stories and am delighted to be currently writing one.  My heroine has a good reason for taking a a chance on love, but what about the thousands of other women who’d left family and friends to travel west and into the arms of strangers?

Shortage of Men—and Women

The original mail-order bride business grew out of necessity.  The lack of women in the west was partly responsible, but so was the Civil War.  The war not only created thousands of widows and grieving girlfriends, but a shortage of men, especially in the south.

As a result, marriage brokers and “Heart and Hand” catalogues popped up all around the country. Ads averaged five to fifteen cents and letters were exchanged along with photographs.

According to an article in the Toledo Blade lonely men even wrote to the Sears catalogue company asking for brides (the latest such letter received was from a lonely Marine during the Vietnam War).

Cultural Attitudes

Marriage was thought to be the only path to female respectability. Anyone not conforming to society’s expectations was often subjected to public scorn.  Also, many women needed marriage just for survival.  Single women had a hard time making it alone in the East. This was especially true of widows with young children to support.

Women who had reached the “age” of spinsterhood with no promising prospects were more likely to take a chance on answering a mail-order bride ad than younger women.

Not Always Love at First Sight

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Postal Museum

For some mail-order couples, it was love (or lust) at first sight. In 1886, one man and his mail order bride were so enamored with each other they scandalized fellow passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad during their honeymoon.

Not every bride was so lucky.  In her book Hearts West, Christ Enss tells the story of mail-order bride Eleanor Berry. En route to her wedding her stage was held up at gunpoint by four masked men.  Shortly after saying “I do,” and while signing the marriage license, she suddenly realized that her husband was one of the outlaws who had robbed her. The marriage lasted less than an hour.

The mail-order business was not without deception.  Lonely people sometimes found themselves victims of dishonest marriage brokers, who took their money and ran.

Some ads were exaggerated or misleading. Men had a tendency to overstate their financial means. Women, on the other hand, were more likely to embellish their looks. The Matrimonial News in the 1870s printed warnings by Judge Arbuckle that any man deceived by false hair, cosmetic paints, artificial bosoms, bolstered hips, or padded limbs could have his marriage nulled, if he so desired.   

Despite all the things that could and sometimes did go wrong, historians say that most matches were successful.

No one seems to know how many mail-order brides there were during the 1800s, but the most successful matchmaker of all appears to be Fred Harvey. He wasn’t in the mail-order bride business, but, by the turn of the century, five thousand Harvey Girls had found husbands while working in his restaurants.   

Under what circumstances might you have considered becoming a mail order bride in the Old West? 

Meet the Brides of Haywire, Texas!

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Updated: March 17, 2019 — 8:35 am

The Holiday Courtship Excerpt and A Giveaway

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Hello everyone.  Winnie Griggs here. I have a new book coming up next month that I’m really excited about. It’s the seventh book in my Texas Grooms series set in Turnabout Texas. This one features Janell Whitman, one of the town’s schoolteachers – she’s been in nearly every book since the first one. Her hero is Hank Chandler who owns the town’s sawmill.  There are also two very special little children who I hope you’ll fall in love with just the way I did as I was writing their story.

For today’s post I wanted to give you a taste of this story by sharing an excerpt. And I’m also planning to give away a copy of the book to one (or more?) of the folks who leave a comment today. Read on to find out how to enter.

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“I wonder if you’d mind giving me your opinion on some potential candidates,” Mr. Chandler asked.

“You want my opinion on who would make you a good wife?” Janell couldn’t believe she’d heard him correctly. Did he really see nothing incongruous about asking the woman he’d just proposed to help him pick a wife?

He frowned as if insulted. “Not a wife. A mother for the children. There’s a difference. What I need from you is an opinion on how the lady under consideration and the children would get on.”

“I see.” The man really didn’t have an ounce of romance in him.

He nodded, apparently warming to the idea. “With your insights, you can save me from wasting time talking to someone who’s obviously not the right fit.”

Janell resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Assuming you find the right woman, may I ask how you intend to approach her?”

His eyebrow shot up at that.

“If you’re wondering if I intend to go a’courtin—” his tone had a sarcastic bite to it “—the answer is a very definite no, at least not in the usual way. Like I said, I will make it clear right up front what my intentions are. I don’t want to deceive anyone into thinking this will be more than a marriage of convenience.”

“Your intentions are admirable, I suppose, but I would advise you not to just baldly lay out your intentions, and propose.”

“Well, I—”

She didn’t let him finish. “I understand why you wouldn’t want to go through a conventional courtship or mislead the lady as to your feelings. But don’t you think you and your prospective bride should get to know each other before you propose? I mean, you must take the time to decide if she’s the right one to share your home, and the right one to share the responsibility for the children.”

He drew himself up. “I consider myself a good judge of character. It won’t take me long to figure out if she’s a good candidate or not.”

She held his gaze, hoping to make her disapproval obvious.

Apparently, it worked. “I assume you’d handle it differently.”

“I would.”

“Care to elaborate?”

Was she really about to give him pointers on how to find a wife? Janell swallowed a sigh—It seemed she was. “I’d recruit a third party to act as a go-between.” She leaned forward, trying to emphasize her point. “It should be someone you can count on to have your and the children’s best interest in mind, someone whose judgment you trust.”

“And what would this go-between do, exactly?”

“Go to the candidate on your behalf, of course. He or she would let the lady in question know the situation in general terms without extending any offers or promises, and ascertain said lady’s interest in such a match.”

“So you agree that a businesslike approach is best, just that I should go about it from a distance.”

“It could save a great deal of awkwardness and misunderstanding if you did so.”

“Assuming I go along with this plan of yours to use a go-between, and they acted on my behalf, then what?”

“Well, if the lady appears interested, he could ask a few discreet questions that would allow him to form an opinion of how good a fit she would be for you and the children. Then he would report back to you, and the two of you could discuss whether to pursue her or move on to another candidate.”

“In other words, you think I need a matchmaker.”

“You could look at it that way, I suppose. But you do want to approach this in a very businesslike manner, don’t you?”

He nodded. “I have to admit, it sounds like a good approach.”

Happy that he’d seen the wisdom of her advice, she moved to the next logical step. “Is there someone you could trust to take on this job of go-between?”

He rubbed his jaw, deep in thought. Finally he looked up. “How about you?”

“Me?” She raised a hand to her chest, surprised. “Surely you have some close friend—”

“You’re already intimately acquainted with our situation. I have complete confidence that you’d be looking out for the children’s best interests. And this was your idea in the first place so I don’t have to do a lot of explaining . In other words, you’re the perfect candidate.”

“Still, I would think you’d want someone you know better—”

“It also occurred to me that this is a role that would benefit from a woman’s touch.”

He had a point there.  Why not? “Well then, if you’re sure you trust my judgment, I would be glad to assist you in finding a wife.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Janell wondered what she’d just gotten herself into. Was she really going to take on the role of matchmaker for Hank?

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He Wanted A Wife by Christmas… 

As Christmas approaches, Hank Chandler is determined to find a wife to mother his sister’s orphaned children. When schoolteacher Janell Whitman offers to help him with his niece and nephew, she seems to be the perfect match—but she won’t accept his proposal. Instead, she insists she’ll find him another bride before the holidays. 

Janell moved to Turnabout, Texas, to put her past behind her and focus on her future—one that doesn’t include marriage. But while she plays matchmaker and cares for Hank’s children, she loses her heart to the two youngsters…and their adoptive father. If Janell reveals her secrets to Hank, will he still want her to be his Christmas bride?

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Leave a comment about what it is you like (or don’t like) about Christmas books and I’ll throw your name in the hat for the giveaway!

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Updated: November 9, 2015 — 12:56 am