Friday, March 21, 2014

Mail Order Brides in the West...

Mail order brides have always fascinated me. In the 1800's women married for a sense of security, and financial stability. They were widows seeking help to raise their children, lost souls searching for independence.

In the 1800’s mail order brides became very popular. Men migrated west to farm land, build towns and cities, and mine for gold. Most being successful, soon found themselves financially stable. But one thing was missing...women. There were very few women in the early days of the west and if a few popped up, they were always married. Soon men began sending letters to churches and newspapers back east looking for brides.

The women took on the status of mail order bride for many reasons, but one looms above all the Times were tough back then and a woman needed to know she was taken care of. This wasn’t a marriage founded on love, but instead on knowing you had a roof over your head, food in your stomach, and money in your purse. Those things held precedence to love. This doesn’t mean some didn’t find love. I think that was possible, but it wasn’t the reason they were together.

In the early stages of writing Chasing Clovers, I started to research the mail order bride. I put those
fears into my protagonist, Livy Green. Why would she marry a man she’s never met? Was she running from something, or possibly someone? Was she destitute with no where to live? Was she lonely? Was she married with children and now a widow?

I soon realized she was desperate and from my perspective you’d have to be. She didn’t necessarily want to be a bride, but she needed to escape the life she was living and there was only one way to do so...answer an ad for a mail order bride. She’d marry a man she’s never met and be a step mother to his two young children. I described her fears of first meeting John Taylor. Her shaking hands, rigid back, tight lipped. She didn’t know him. Was he a drinker, a gambler, a forceful person? Her anxiety was real. I’d like to think every mail order bride back then and now had the same thoughts running through their heads before they met their groom.

In Chasing Clovers, Livy and John’s story is an adventure filled with laughter, sorrow, and forgiveness. It is an emotional tale woven solely for you, the reader, to enjoy and fall in love with.

Below are actual ads from the book  HeartsWest: True Stories of Mail Order Brides on the Frontier by Chris Enss. I used this book for research and loved it.

"A lively widower of 40, looking much younger, 5 feet 7 inches high, weighing 145 pounds would like to correspond with some maiden or widow lady of honor who would like a good home, kind husband and plenty."

"A gentleman of 26 years old, 5 feet 3 inches, doing a good business in the city, desires the acquaintance of a young intelligent and refined lady possessed of some means, of a loving disposition from 18 to 23, and one who could make home a paradise."

"Wanted: A girl who will love, honest, true not sour; a nice little cooing dove and willing to work in flour:"



Alison E. Bruce said...

The ads remind me of Hello Dolly...

It takes a woman all powdered and pink
To joyously clean out the drain in the sink
And it takes an angel with long golden lashes
And soft dresden fingers
For dumping the ashes

Yes it takes a woman
A dainty woman
A sweetheart, a mistress, a wife
O yes it takes a woman
A fragile woman
To bring you the sweet things in life


Ginger Jones Simpson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ginger Jones Simpson said...

Great post. I've always wanted to write about a mail order bride, but haven't. I'm fascinated by the women who took such chances and married men they knew practically nothing about...and we think on-line dating is risky. :) Your book sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading it.

Also, excuse the deleted computer must have hiccuped and posted twice.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I love mail order bride stories. I have Chris Enss' book and have read some of her stories. At that time, an unmarried woman had no home. She could be a school teacher or a governess, but she would not have her own home. After the Civil War, so few men of marriageable age were left, and many of those who were went west. That left women east of the Mississippi with few prospects. I might have answered an ad, I just don't know. It would be a hard decision, wouldn't it?