I’m delighted to be back at P & P with another one of my mail-order bride stories. Usually when I visit we talk about something related to these brides of the Old West (my favorite historical setting and I’m guessing it’s yours, too).
Today I am going to ask a question that has bedeviled women throughout history – from servant girls in the 1800’s to today’s ultra-modern internet dater. Regardless of the time in history, scores of women are always asking — ‘What does a man want in a wife anyway?’
I’ll wager that nowhere have women asked that question with more desperation than the mail-order brides in the late 1800’s. In the western territories, men outnumbered women by as much as nine to one. In the east, thousands of women wanted to get married and were unable to find mates. Today a single life is a good life, but in those days it wouldn’t have been fun to be ‘on the shelf’ as they said. A spinster had no status and, often, limited social options. For her livelihood, she usually either depended on relatives (sometimes being an unpaid servant to them) or lived a life of hard work and poverty.
It was no wonder that publications like the “The Matrimonial News,” a San Francisco paper, were flooded with personal ads from women as well as men seeking marriage.
For my brides, I’ve created a fictitious publication, Mrs. Murphy’s Matrimonial Catalogue, that will mirror these newspapers.
In my upcoming novella, “Mail-Order Sunshine Bride,” my widowed heroine, Nellie O’Reilly, tries to figure out what it is that men want in a wife before she sends an ad to Mrs. Murphy for publication. Nellie’s late husband, not a particularly kind man, always said she had little enough beauty, but she did have a non-demanding personality and that was what men wanted anyway. So Nellie advertises that she has a ‘sunshine personality.’
Unbeknownst to Nellie, the night before she and her young son arrive in the Montana territory, the storekeeper who had pledged to marry her reads her letter aloud to a dozen men at a poker game. He gathered so much interest in his “Sunshine Bride” that he was offered a wager by another man for the right to marry her. The storekeeper lost the bet.
When Nellie steps off the train the next morning, the question of who she is to marry is so problematic that the sheriff takes her into protective custody until it can be resolved. Thus begins a rousing tale.
There are many things a man or a woman could find attractive in a mate. But if you were going to answer the question right now, what would you say you would most look for in a marriage partner?
My ‘Mail-Order Sunshine Bride’ will be part of an indie anthology published in late June. When it is available, I will give a free e-copy of that anthology to someone who comments on this post.
For updates on this and other historical mail-order bride stories I will be writing in the future (I’m planning another Christmas one, ‘Mail-Order Santa Bride’), please like me on my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Janet-Tronstad-Dry-Creek-author/183817431655670