Nowhere else in the world can lay claim to the old west. Other countries had their wild, rowdy, or scandalous times, but only America had the land west of the Mississippi—that vast, unclaimed land that held promises of change, beauty, wonder, and riches—and gave birth to mail order brides.
Men set west in droves and succeeded in mining, ranching, farming, and building communities, but also discovered something was missing. Women. With nine men to every one woman in most western territories, men started writing ‘back east’. Some would ask family members to find a suitable partner and send them west. Others wrote to churches and/or put ads in newspapers and magazines.
Women were excited about the opportunity. Between the civil war and the westward movement, the ratio between men and women in the east was extremely disproportional with women outnumbering the men. There were very few career options for women, and poverty was on the rise. Even to those with financial support, becoming a mail order bride carried less social stigma than becoming a spinster.
There were newspapers and magazines dedicated to connecting men and women, and marriage brokers opened Mail Order Bride Agencies on both sides of the Mississippi, proclaiming what many already knew, that without women towns wouldn’t become ‘civilized’ or flourish.
The couples would usually share a few letters, possibly a photo if either had the means to provide one, and eventually would come to the ultimate decision to marry or not. Some ‘brokers’ actually performed proxy marriages between the couple to assure neither party changed their minds upon meeting. The divorce rates of mail ordered brides were very low, and many marriages proved loving and long lasting.
I’ve always loved mail order bride’s tales, and was excited when given the opportunity to create a series for Harlequin with another author. Kathryn Albright and I teamed up to write about a small (fictional) town in Kansas that created a ‘Betterment Committee’ to bring suitable women to town in order to marry some of the many bachelors. We had a wonderful time creating Oak Grove and writing about twin sisters Mary and Maggie McCary for Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove.
SURPRISE BRIDE FOR THE COWBOY by Lauri Robinson
Mary McCary never wanted to be a mail-order bride, but falling off the Oak Grove train into Steve Putnam's lap changes everything… Could he be the cowboy to tempt her down the aisle?
TAMING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE by Kathryn Albright
Running from trouble, Maggie McCary signs up to be a mail-order bride. She doesn't intend to actually marry…until she shares one sensational kiss with Jackson Miller!
The series will continue with Winning the Mail Order Bride coming out in August, A Bride and A Baby in September, and more stories in 2018.
So….What about you? If you’d lived back then, would you have left all you’d ever known and headed west on little more than a promise of marriage to a stranger?