Male-Ordered Brides!

                    Charlene Sands                                 

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!

And our Contest is coming to a close soon. Check back often to see if you’re our Grand Prize Winner!


Click on the book cover to purchase.

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67 thoughts on “Male-Ordered Brides!”

  1. Great post! Mail order bride stories are my absolute favorites. They’re the very first books I buy. Seems I’ll never get my fill, no matter how many I read.

    And they’re what I’ve written. I’ve completed five manuscripts at this point, all of them mail order bride stories set in the heart of California’s Gold Country in the 1870s. Two of them were finalists in this year’s Golden Heart in the inspirational category, so I know I’m not the only one who enjoys them.

    So to all of you who write them and get them on the shelves for eager readers like me, thank you.

  2. I love male-ordered bride stories and wow…the information you found is amazing. I didn’t know women sued for breech of contract on such matters.

    In a way, I guess I might’ve been adventurous enough and willing to take a man up on an offer of hearth and home. In fact I kind of did. I was sort of a modern day mail-order.

    My husband and I met via an online dating service. He contacted me and we wrote back and forth for quite some time, learning about each other’s interests and lives, emailing and chatting on the phone and having only seen pictures of each other because I lived in north central KY and he lived in southern KY, about a 2-3 hour drive away.

    We decided to meet after about 3 months, so he came to my hometown to meet me and bring me down here to spend a week together. I went back home after that week and I was miserable because I missed him, but a couple of weeks later he told me he couldn’t imagine living without me with him any longer and wanted to know how I would feel if he rented a U-haul and moved me to be with him so we could get married.

    So I did. I moved here Sept 1, 2001 (but then it took him 9 months to marry me…Men! LOL) We’ve been together now 7 years, married 6.

  3. I probably would have traveled to the adventure of marrying a man I didn’t know all that well. For the adventure, if nothing else. Well, at least today I’m ready for an adventure, asked tomorrow, I’m not so sure. 🙂 Guess I’d better say it depends.

    Wow! Nice to know a breech of promise was worth something back then!

    I don’t think this type of situation will ever disappear. It’s just quicker and easier with phones and internet. And just as easy for some to hide who they really are! 😛

    Taryn, so glad your ’email’ ordered love worked out so well! I just love a HEA ending!

  4. I also enjoy reading the mail order bride stories! I would have loved to have seen the West when it was still so untouched by human developement and pollution. If I had been alone I hope I would have had the courage to venture west to discover a new life and a new relationship.

  5. Charlene – I love the information in this blog. And I love mail order brides stories.

    I can’t believe they paid that much money in those days for breech of contract – must of been serious.

    Personally, I thought I was adventurous, but when you pose the question – I don’t think I could travel across the country to marry a man and spend the rest of my life with him, without knowing him first. The prospect is just too terrifying. However, with what the previous posts have stated, it is a bit similar to on-line dating. The one big exception is in today’s world of the internet the speed of communication is much quicker, so you get a sense of the person you’re in communication with. I know five people who have found the loves of their lives on-line.

  6. Good morning, Charlene! I, too, love mail-order brides stories. I don’t know why I’ve never written one–I’ll have to one of these days!

    I agree that the Internet is along the same lines as mail-order brides. There’s a certain excitement and fantasy involved in a relationship with someone you’ve never met. Of course, everyone puts forth their best qualities, real or imagined, to make themselves look even better to the opposite sex. I’m sure many a poor young bride was very disappointed when she finally met her husband-to-be.

  7. I actually met a lady in Texas last December (while traveling) who was a mail order bride. She was from Russia. I was amazed. She and her husband seemed very happy and had been married quite a while, years, so it looked like it was going to be a success.
    She was beautiful and had a strong Russian accent but spoke English very well. Do they let people just leave Russia these days? Is Emigrating still a problem?
    One of the For The Roses books by Julie Garwood, was a mail order bride story. The hero agreed, wildly against his better judgement, to escort a mail order bride to her unknown, unmet fiance in a remote place.
    Of course the two fell in love on the trip. Then they met the intended husband and ended up running for their lives. Bad news.

  8. I like mail order bride stories. Two people with deeply personal reasons decide to take a huge gamble. I don’t know if I would have been that adventurous but it makes for great stories.

  9. I love mail order brides, and trying to remember, I think I’ve only written one, Badlands Bride – which is available now at eharlequin!

    Of course a favorite old western is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

    I always wonder about those poor brides who got a real dud…but then I guess it sure happened the other way around sometimes.

    Yesterday a darling woman who is in her late sixties and just retired from teaching in England to live here in Nebraska near her family, told me a great story. A friend arranged a meeting between her and a gentleman friend. In the email exchange, he said he was about 5’4″, bald, and–he hoped she didn’t mind–but he was quite overweight. Being quite a kidder, she replied that if he was breathing, she was happy to meet him.

    Well, it turned out when they met, he was six feet tall, with a full head of hair and quite fit and handsome! He was either pulling her leg or testing her!

    Loved your blog today, Charlene.

    btw, someone to whom I was offering a guest spot said yesterday that she was intimidated because P&P is such a professional and intelligent site!

  10. Hi Charlene, Congratulations on your daughter’s upcoming wedding-how exciting!

    I agree that mail order bride stories are fun and I think it would have taken a very strong woman to leave her familiar surroundings behind to meet up with a man she didn’t know.

    For me, I think I would have asked the gentleman to list his good qualities and what he perceived to be his not so good ones. Maybe there would be some honesty in that response. Hopefully you would get a response!! (Of course I would do the same.) Maybe that would minimize the surprises when you would meet your intended face to face.

    (For some reason, I think that people valued honesty more years ago than they do now.)

    Also, the last mail-order bride book I read was the Brides of the West anthology written by Michele Young, Billie Chai and Kimberly Ivey. All the stories were just great and I would recommend that to anyone interested in mail-order bride books.

    Have a great weekend!

  11. Hi Keli
    Congrats on your Golden Heart finals! And I guess I hit the nail on the head with you – you’ve written 5 Mail Ordered stories! I’m from CA too and I love writing and reading about the Gold Country. Good luck on your stories!!

  12. Hi Taryn – I really enjoyed hearing your marriage story. I guess in a way, you’d be considered a MALE ORDERED BRIDE, except with online dating, the woman gets to choose too. Congrats on you finding your man – I love to hear romantic stories like that!

  13. Hi Lizzie,
    I wonder if I’d be adventurous. I guess it would depend on how much I wanted to be married. In today’s world, I’d go for it. Of course, I say that easily, because I’ve been happily married to my high school sweetheart for too many years to name. 🙂

  14. I enjoye reading theee kinds of stories, especially the urban girl who goes West to meet her man. I’m adventerous and I think I would have gone West if I was in dire straights where I was.

  15. Hi Laurie – I agree, the west would have been something to see back then. Probably more lonely than I’d like. I’m a people person, but CA and so many other states are absolutely stunning. Another place I like to write about is Arizona. Have you been there and seen Sedona?

  16. Hi Maria,
    I think Online Dating today is a blessing if done right. I know, I wouldn’t be one to go bar-hopping to meet a man, so I would be alone alot. But now, so many have found their loves or companions that way, it’s turned out to be a great thing in most cases.

    You know, until all of you brought it up this morning, I hadn’t really made the connection between Mail-ordered brides and online dating! 🙂

  17. Hi Joye,
    I’d love to hear some of the adventurous things you’ve done! The urban girl in the west can be fun to write too, because she’s really going into unknown and wild territory.

  18. Good morning Pam – Seems to me you’ve just helped plot your next book … or mine! 🙂 I will write another mail-ordered bride book one day too. It was really fun. Can you imagine the horror when the woman finally reached her destination and found a horrid man waiting for her? Of course, it could be a vice-versa situation … what if the woman was horrid and the poor unsuspecting man was stuck to marry her! 🙂

  19. Hi Cher- Oh, do I love that story you told about the short, balding man! I bet he WAS testing her and she passed the test! I guess many of us have done only one mail-ordered bride story and maybe it’s time to do more, judging by their popularity!

    Would you believe I’ve never seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers? I’ve looked for it on TV, at rental places etc, and now, I’m going to buy it. I found it on an Online Movie site finally!

  20. Hi Mary – I guess modern day mail-ordered brides aren’t as uncommon as I thought. I’m not sure about Russia these days, but when doing research, I saw lots of ads for foriegn wives in the papers. Love the Julie Garwood plot!

  21. Hi Za – Yep, I agree. Listing qualities and what’s important to each of them would hopefully have flushed out the person’s character a little more. I think many women did have some coorepondence with the men before they took the trip, but other, more adventurous ladies left their homes without any assurances at all.

    Thanks for the congrats and for sharing Brides of the West with us!

  22. I love mail-order bride stories because they always have happy endings in the books I read. I wonder about those women in real life who were not so lucky in their marriage gambles. I don’t think I could have been brave enough to take that chance.

  23. But – there’s also a huge gamble in on-line dating. Isn’t there? (I’ve been married a looooong time so it’s been a while since I dated). Back to my point. A person can say anything they want on-line, create an entire persona and you wouldn’t know until you met them. And even then, they could be on their best behavior.

    Look at me, I’m still finding things out about my husband – fortunately I love him, and the things I discover interest me… but really… do you ever know what you’re getting into until you establish a relationship?

  24. HI Charlene!

    I’ve been so out of it and in my own world, that I didn’t realize that your daughter is getting married next month.

    My daughter is also getting married, but we thought it was next May — however, she just called me yesterday to tell me that she and her fiance are eloping to Vermont in October to marry there. They’re decided to elope because of the economy crunch happening and to save their friends money. However, I told her that since I now know that she’s eloping in advance, I plan to be at that wedding. : )

    It’s so cute! She’s eloping, but she’s telling her parents and friends so they can come if they want. : )

  25. Mail- ordered brides… I love reading about them… having the strength to go out into the unknown! Wanting security, love, or a chance to start over, those woman were marvels.

  26. Charlene,

    I love reading mail order bride stories. Something about putting all a woman’s faith in the unseen strikes my fancy. Mind you, I just like reading about it. I definitely wouldn’t be the type of woman who answered one of the ads. I’m not the adventurous type. I’d have to know the man I’m marrying and feel something for him. It’d take a lot of guts to marry a total stranger.

    Love the cover of Renegade Wife! That cowboy has a nice looking backside. 🙂

  27. Hi Cheryl C – I’m not a gambler when it comes to matters of the heart either!

    Hi Maria- You brought up an excellent point. We do still learn things about each other as time goes on. It’s true you do need to spend some time with another to find out if you are compatible. I think back then, when times were so different, women needed the security of food on the table and a roof over their head, and if they found love too, that was a bonus.

  28. Hi Karen- Congratulations on your daughter’s engagement. It IS sooo cute that they are eloping but telling everyone about it. I’m glad you’ll be there to witness their marriage. How lovely! Enjoy and tell us all about it. We’ll compare wedding notes!!

  29. Hey Karen – congratulations on your daughter’s wedding. I actually know your daughter. I was looking on your website and saw your fabulous wedding pics and when I saw your daughters in the picture, I said, “I think I know the one on the right!” So, next time I saw her I asked… and I we do know each other. Small world.

    Charlene – I think being a woman in the wild west had to be the hardest thing in the world. What didn’t they have to face or do. Who needed exercise, between chopping the wood and churning the butter your biceps were bound to look fab. I guess if you found love in the bargain you weren’t doing too bad.

  30. wow Charlene-that’s a real hard question to answer isnt it??

    I think I might have done it! I like to think of myself as a brave women!

    I just really cant imagine how upset my nerves would have been throught the journey to get to him though!!

    I LOVE mail order bride stories-there’s just something about them! I guess it’s because we get to watch 2 people that are already promised to each other-have to get to know each other! That’s just so backwards from our culture/society today, that it’s a captivating thing to read about!

  31. Hi Charlene–wishing you all the best for your daughter’s wedding. 🙂

    Your new book sounds like a lot of fun to read! The characters have an interesting backstory. I love mail-order bride stories, too. So far, I’ve only done one (The Surgeon).

    Great post!

  32. Hi Charlene,
    Oh, mail-order brides are among my favorites LOL. My next book Marrying Minda is just such a tale. I think it’s easier for me to write sex scenes if they’re married LOL. I also enjoy plots that get them married in non-traditional ways, like Renegade Wifed…and Kate’s Shotgun Vows that I just finished. I don’t think I’m adventurous enough to have been one though LOL.
    Sorry I’m late getting here today…and it’s such fun to hear all the details about your daughter’s wedding!

  33. No, I definitely do not have the adventurous spirit to marry a man sight unseen! I do, however, enjoy reading books about characters that do…b/c I know it will have a great ending! And the guy is always good looking..well, at least I always picture him that way 🙂

  34. Fabulous blog, Charlene. I love mail order bride stories. On of my older historicals, BRIDE ON THE RUN is about a mail order bride who’s on the run from a trumped-up murder charge. It’s still one of my favorites. One of my all time favorite books, very old and not a western, is THE SCENT OF CLOVES by Nora Lofts. The bride arrives in the East Indies to find out she’s been married, for the sake of appearances, to a young man who’s mentally handicapped. Then she falls in love with the overseer of her father-in-law’s plantation… great stuff!

  35. Congrats on your daughters upcoming wedding.

    I have never read a story about mail order brides. Sounds like a great story though. Thanks for the great post.

  36. I think being a mail order bride would have been exciting..IF the prospects weren’t good at home LOL!

    Interesting post, Cher.

    Thought I’d drop in a bit today while we still have power…HOPE to see you all tomorrow!

  37. Congratulations on the upcoming wedding, remember to walk with your handkerchief.

    I love mail order brides books, actually any thing in a western setting in my favourite.

  38. Hi Linda,
    I LIKE reading about them too and would like to write another one some day. And my hero’s backside, uh, made this book my bestselling western to date! I’m sure it was the cover. It’s a favorite of mine.

  39. Hi Melissa D
    Yes, I think it’s the backwards type of marriage first and love later, that appeals to romance readers.

    Hi Lizzie and Estella!

    Hi Dina – oh I hope I don’t need that hankie, but still I plan to wear waterproof makeup that day!

  40. Hi Kate,
    Oh, I wish I had another western coming out soon. Renegade Wife is a 2005 book, I think. It’s my one and only male order book to date!

    But I do have two more Desire out soon. Pardon the shameless plug!

  41. Hi Elizabeth,
    Nope not my son. He’s been with his girl for 7 years and is older. I think maybe next year for him, at least he’s been hinting. My daughter’s wedding is in October and then I’ll be back to normal … I promise no more wedding talk from me after that. But I do plan to send up pictures, so be prepared everyone!!

  42. Hi LJ, Tanya and Estella! I’m just getting back from the dentist and playing catch up! It’s great to see all the posts and ideas about those male ordered brides!!

    Thanks for all the congrats too, about the upcoming nuptials! Even the hygenist today was so sweet, telling me to come back before the wedding and she’d polish my teeth on her lunch break so they are pearly white!

  43. Hi Rebekah,
    Oh, you’ll love a mail-order story. Most have really great hooks that keep the reader involved!

    Hi Pamela T,
    Oh, I hope you don’t live in Houston area, do you? Keep us posted at to how you’re doing, okay?

    HI Avi J and Katleen – Yep, my guys are always good looking. The heroines are never disappointed in him, for that reason!!

  44. I can’t imagine marrying someone sight unseen unless I was so down and out I’d have to be a women of the night lol.

    My daughter got married 7/26 and although there were so glitches earlier, everything was wonderful. I wish you the same!

  45. Hi, Charlene! Congrats to your daughter and your family! I’m sure things are just humming along!

    As for male-ordered brides–I love reading those stories! I think it’s the idea of committing yourself to someone without having had the chance to meet first. I’m not sure I’d have the courage to do that myself–I’m a bit too cautious, but as I get older, I can see being more open to the possibility, assuming that you and the groom agree on some fundamental issues. Debbie Macomber wrote a modern-day male-order bride story I really enjoyed–Morning Comes Softly.

  46. Hi,

    Congrats on the upcoming wedding 🙂

    I have never read a mail-order bride book, it must be fun though, I will try to find one.

  47. Sight unseen/ I don’t believe I would be that adventurous; oh no. I have really gotten to liking a man or two over the phone and our conversations and have met with them but nothing came of it. Sometimes the voice is so sexy….

  48. Hi Nathalie, Fedora and Jeanne,
    Thanks for the well wishes! I’m excited for the day and having dreams every night, sorta like when I was pregnant!!

    Hi RobynL,
    Interesting that that voice doesn’t relay what the man is really like. My hunky hubby (imho) doesn’t have a deep voice, and I recall being a little surprised that his voice wasn’t deep and sexy cause he sure is!

  49. Charlene–sorry, I thought it was an upcoming book! And don’t worry, we love hearing about your Desires!

    My first response to your question of whether I’d be a mail order bride was yes! LOL. I don’t know where that came from. I’d have to know a lot about him, though, first. Job, prospects, etc. As Pam T said, an interesting proposition if the pickings at home were slim!

  50. Hi Kate,
    You are a true brave spirit! Aren’t you glad you don’t have to make that decision! Thanks for your support about the Desires! I’m writing Texas Cattleman’s Club continuity now set in Houston. I hope Houston will still be there after IKE, I’m so worried about all these hurricanes for our countrymen.

    Hi Minna
    Thanks for your thoughts about the stories!!

  51. I Love mail order bride stories. One of my very favorites is Badland Bride by Cheryl StJohn. One of my very favorite movies is kind of a mail order bride story: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
    I consider myself rather adventurous but I am afraid I would have been too chicken to travel a long way from home to marry someone I did not know but then again , it may depend on what I was leaving behind.
    With all of my relatives meeting and marrying someone they met on e-harmony, I think that they must all be quite adventuresome.

  52. mail order brides are my absolute favourite, I love how your stories are based on western themes. Cheryl St John is another of my favourite author.

  53. mail order brides are my absolute favourite, I love how your stories are based on western themes. Cheryl St John is another of my favourite author.

  54. I looooooooooooooove mail order bride books. I am not sure why but I will buy one every time. No I couldn’t give up everything I know to move across the country for a strange man. I am like Linda I have to have that feeling, I also agree with her on the cover. His backside is great.

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