“I am 33 years of age, and as regards looks can average with most men. I am looking for a lady to make her my wife, as I am heartily tired of bachelor life. I desire a lady not over 28 or 30 years of age, not ugly, well educated and musical. Nationality makes no difference, only I prefer not to have a lady of Irish birth. She must have at least $20,000.” (Yeah, good luck with that, Mister)
Mail order brides have been a part of American history since 1619, when the first white women arrived in Jamestown. The Virginia Company of London sent several shipments of mail-order brides to America, in exchange for tobacco, so it’s no surprise these ladies became known as tobacco brides.
With the westward expansion of the U.S. frontier, the popularity of mail-order brides exploded. Men traveled west for adventure, to get free land, and to find gold, but once they settled and the lust for adventure wore off, they realized something vital was missing—decent women—the kind a man wanted to raise his children.
At the same time war, disease, and the lack of quality medicine, left many woman widowed, fatherless, or spinsters. With little means of support and few jobs available for women, these desperate gals often became mail-order brides. Marrying a stranger and having a home and children to tend seemed a far better alternative to working twelve hours a day in a sweat shop, or even worse, being forced to become a kept woman or a prostitute.
Even though readers love mail-order bride stories, which usually have a happy ending, in truth, many of these marriages failed. But it wasn’t always the woman who was disappointed, sometimes the man was the unhappy one. Here’s an eye-opening advertisement warning men to be cautious and women to be truthful:
NOTICE: Due to the influx of Eastern “mail-order brides” into our community & the hasty marriages that follow, several complaints have been lodged by no longer happy grooms.
Let it be known that any marriage into which a man is seduced by the use of:
Artificial bosoms (they actually had those back then?)
Bolstered hips (and why would you want these?)
Padded limbs (uh…no thanks)
without the man’s knowledge, shall stand null & void if he so desires.
-Judge John H. Arbuckle
Dated April 3, 1873
DO NOT BE DECEIVED
(Note: This warning first appeared in several issues of Matrimonial News. It was reprinted in Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-order Brides by Chris Enss, as were the two advertisements at the beginning of this article)
Hmm…I’m guessing that men must have liked fuller women back then. Can’t you imagine the surprise of some farmer as his new wife undressed on their wedding night and removed her big dress, false hair, fake bosoms, and hip and limb pads. She went from stout to scrawny. J
Needless to say, we still have mail-order brides today, but you hear about few happy endings. For a romance though, a happy ending is crucial. This was my year of writing mail-order brides stories, and I guaranteed you a HEA.
Second Chance Brides is book two in my Texas Boardinghouse Brides series. Here’s a short blurb: Shannon O’Neil and Leah Bennett, are stranded in Lookout, Texas, without husbands or future plans. Thankfully, the marshal has ordered the rascally Corbett brothers to pay for the women’s lodging at the boardinghouse, but will the brothers’ idea of hosting Saturday socials really bring these women the kind of loves they long for? Will Shannon choose to marry just for security? Will Leah reject love when the challenges mount?
Ride the transcontinental railroad as marriage arrives by mail-order—and just in time for Christmas. Annika arrives in Wyoming to discover her intended is missing. Jolie’s journey to Nevada is derailed by disaster. Elizabeth carries a load of secrets to Nebraska. And Amelia travels to California to wrap up her final attempts at matchmaking. Will the holiday season be the ticket to spark love in unexpected ways?
So, do you have a favorite mail-order bride book that you’ve read—or do you have an interesting mail-order bride story in your family heritage? Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a copy of Christmas Mail Order Brides.
Thanks for inviting me to be a guest again on Petticoats & Pistols. I love this website and always enjoy my time here.
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