I think Cheryl St. John called what I have “Wedding Brain” and she’s absolutely right! As some of you know my daughter is getting married next month and I’ve been in wedding mode for months now. It’s hard to focus on much of anything else, so when it came time to blog, I figured what better topic than marriage and mail-ordered or picture brides of the West!
I’ve always wanted to write a mail-order bride story, but I knew I wanted it to be more than the usual. In RENEGADE WIFE, I conceived a plot where both bride and groom didn’t want the marriage. It had been the brainchild of the Kane Jackson’s grandfather wanting to see his long lost grandson, who’d been raised by the Cheyenne , settle down and marry. My heroine, Molly needed passage out west to search for her younger brother who had run away. I have to say it was a fun story to write, and I learned quite a bit about picture brides and mail-ordered brides from that research.
One way for men to meet women was from subscriptions to heart and hand clubs. Newspapers and periodicals would post information about women, sometimes with photos or tintype images and the men would write to these women, often time convincing them to move out west. If the woman agreed, the man was responsible to send railroad passage and they would meet and marry before they really got any chance to know one another.
A risky proposition for a female, I would think.
Some men found their wives from pictures of their friends’ relatives. For instance, if a man saw a picture of his friend’s cousin or sister, he might offer her marriage. Culture played a part in which men considered marrying these Picture Brides. Asian and Greek men who wanted to marry within their culture often married this way. Others might just find an appealing picture of a women, regardless of their background and offer her marriage.
In 1849 Eliza W. Farnham developed the California Association of American Women, to encourage women to travel to California to meet and marry men. Unfortunately, her endeavors didn’t meet with much success. Only two women accompanied her to the west coast.
I guess the west held little appeal for women at the time. More than 3/5 of the adult Caucasian population of California were male. Four out of every five of those men were bachelors.
Asa Mercer organized two successful trips to Washington that brought more than one hundred women to the region and he married one of those women himself.
The pledge a man made to a woman through letters and wires were held in high regard. If a man failed to follow through on his intentions, often they paid the consequences. Here’s a few examples from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper:
Broken love pledges are rising in value, and if juries continue to look upon the matter in the light they do at present, faithless lovers will cease to exist. Miss Francis Hobson of Cincinnati, recently received $3,300.00 from Asa H. Cone for breech of promise.
The daughter of a well-known commission merchant of Chicago has initiated a suite against a prominent physician for breech of promise of marriage – damages $25,000. Another young lady in Chardon, Wisconsin has just received a healing plaster for her broken heart in the shape of a verdict of $10,000 damages against the gay deceiver.
And I love this one, so I’m including it because its fodder for a great romance ending!
In Texas men in love are justified in stealing horses. A jury in Texas lately acquitted a man on the charge of horse stealing, although the crime was clearly proven against him, simply because he stole the horse to elope with his sweetheart, who was present in the court during the trial and waiting to marry him if acquitted.
Do you like to read Male-Ordered Bride stories? And do you think you’d have taken a man up on his offer of home and hearth? Do you have that adventurous spirit, marrying a man sight unseen? Post a comment to be entered for a random drawing to win a copy of my out of print, hard to find, Renegade Wife!
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