Friday, April 12, 2013

Mail-Order-Brides: Have Always Fascinated Me


By Rhonda Gibson

“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.”
 
   What kind of women answered ads from prospective husbands and then traveled west to meet them? And, what kind of man placed an advertisement for a bride? These questions were the first to start my research on mail-order-brides.

Mail-order brides from Library of Congress
   As I dug through history books, it soon became clear that in the western territories, men outnumbered women dramatically, sometimes by as many as nine to one. The men were lonely and decided that the obvious answer was to place letters in church circulars and ads in newspapers for single women from the east, willing to start new lives as mail-order-brides.
   Many mail-order-brides and their frontiersman husbands found one another on their own; other couples used "The Matrimonial News," a paper published in San Francisco specifically to run personal ads for men and women seeking marriage. Still others ran advertisements in large cities.
   That answered my questions about the men, but what about the women? Here’s what I learned about them. There were few careers open to women, and women who did not marry early faced not only the loneliness and social stigma of spinsterhood, but the prospect of poverty. Women who moved west as mail-order-brides seized the opportunity to avoid poverty and loneliness. Most of the women were single but others were widows, divorcees or runaways. Thus, the opportunity to move west, make a life and have a family was one some women were willing to sacrifice for.
   So what did the world think at the time about these methods of finding a wife? There was always some resistance to the idea of mail-order brides. There were also occasional horror stories of tragedy or scams. But many mail-order-bride stories in the old west ended in long and seemingly happy marriages.  
    As women arrived and men started homesteads and families, the west began to evolve from a place of saloons, brothels, and mining camps, into a landscape of towns, with homes, churches and schools. Families were born and love took root in the heart of the west.   
   I wonder… Would you have answered the advertisement above? I’m curious, why or why not? 

My Bio: Rhonda Gibson lives in New Mexico with her husband James. She has two children and three beautiful grandchildren. Reading is something she has enjoyed her whole life and writing stemmed from that love.  When she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys gardening, beading and playing with her dog, Sheba. She speaks at conferences and local writing groups. You can visit her at www.rhondagibson.net where she enjoys chatting with readers and friends online. Rhonda hopes her writing will entertain, encourage and bring others closer to God. 



BLURB: for Groom by Arrangement
Eliza Kelly thought her humiliation was complete when she identified the wrong train passenger as her mail-order groom. She was only trying to tell Jackson Hart that the madcap scheme was not her idea. But now that the stormy-eyed blacksmith has decided to stay, rumors are flying. And Jackson does the gallant thing—he offers the lovely widow a marriage of convenience.

Though he came to New Mexico to find his father, Jackson wonders if Eliza's mistake was his good fortune. Between caring for an orphaned youngster and protecting Eliza, Jackson feels whole again. If only he can persuade Eliza to marry him, her reputation will be saved…and so will their long-buried dreams of forging a real family.


32 comments:

  1. I love mail-order bride stories. You have to admire those women who traveled across the country to marry a man they've never seen, all in hopes of a better life. It would be interesting to know how many of those turned out well.

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    1. That would be fun to find out, but I have no idea how we could find out... do you?

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  2. It seems such a scary prospect! I think that the only way I would have answered such an ad - because it totally goes against the grain - would be if the circumstances were such that it seemed to be an answer to them, and after much, much prayer and the wise counsel of others.

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    1. Bethany I understand what you mean but I can see me impulsively doing it. You know... find myself not liking where I am and just going for it!

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  3. Hi Rhonda, I love mail-order bride stories too! Sarah Plain and Tall was one of my favorite books that we read to our children and then enjoyed as a movie. Then I was part of the Christmas Mail-Order Brides novella collection. Your new book, Groom by Arrangment, sounds great! Love the cover too! What a handsome hero. He looks like he deserves a bride. : )

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    1. I loved Sarah Plain and Tall, too Carrie! Thanks, I have to admit I fell in love with Jackson as I wrote his story.

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  4. Enjoyed your blog - answered my questions about mail-order brides. As with Bethany - don't think I would have been bold enough to have been a mail-order bride unless I felt it to be an answer to prayer, too many uncertainties & unknowns & too much ruthlessness to marry someone that wasn't in love with me.

    bonnieroof60@yahoo.com

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    2. Thanks Bonnie, I think for some women that was part of the thrill. Some were looking for adventure and others were simply looking for a home. They were brave women for sure.

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  5. That is a hard question to answer, being a product of our current culture. It is difficult to put myself in the position of a women considering that option. I think it would have to be a path prompted by the Holy Spirit. That would be the only way I would have had the courage to become a mail-order bride. If the Lord was with me, I would have to follow His leading.
    may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

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    1. I agree KayM in todays culture it would take a divine intervention for me to take that step and then I might bulk, just a little. But, I think about if I lived back then and I might of just taken that leap of faith.

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  6. they were brave women, that's for sure. Not for me. ha! I would want Google maps and extensive, detailed background checks, things decidedly not available then. :)

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    1. Laughing, today I would too Kathleen :)

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  7. I know - I love the story of mail- order brides and I think given the right circumstances to make me have to choose that I would've =) great name for a main character too!

    truckredford ATgmailDOT com

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  8. Hi Rhonda, I love to read these and can just imagine a woman not knowing where to turn and having little to go on answering such an ad, I think I might. I don't think I have read a story where it turned out bad but then they are just stories...with happy endings.
    Women of that era were supposed to marry and have children, they were homemakers..they didn't have the opportunity like todays women to work outside the home..
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

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  9. Great post. Not sure if I would have answered one of those ads or not. I guess it would have depended on my living situation, desperate times call for desperate measures.

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    1. Thank you Chaplaindebbie, Yeah, I think I would but when push came to shove, it would defiantly depend on the times and situation.

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  10. I too am fascinated by mail-order brides. I have read many books with this as the back drop. Thank you for sharing the post.

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  11. I have always enjoyed stories about mail-order brides. I really don't know if I would have answered an ad, but like Chaplaindebbie wrote - desperate times call for desperate measures. I'm guessing if my time was that desperate, I would have responded to an ad!
    bettimace(at)gmail(dot)com

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  12. Your Groom for Arrangement really sounds good, Rhonda! Also could it have been an orphan train? I love those stories and thankful one has been rescued from being a farmhand or a replacement. Mail-Order Bride stories are interesting to me. I like their forthrightness in 1) traveling alone, and 2) moving to an entirely different landscape ~ besides who might be waiting for the arrival. What if someone else walked up to her, or you were a day late? Hmmm... would I answer an ad. I like adventure but would have to have a clue from the Lord! Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House
    lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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    1. by Arrangement ~ he is already, rather than "for" meaning he is could be ~*~ Groom by Arrangement

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    2. The orphan train has always fascinated me too Kathleen. Allie Pleiter, Christine Johnson and Linda Ford have a series about the Orphan Train. They are books by Love Inspired Historical, too. Here's the link on Amazon for anyone else who might enjoy these books :)

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Love%20Inspired%20Orphan%20train%20

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  13. I love mail order bride stories toooooo!

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  14. Thank you EVERYONE! for stopping by and Than you, Vickie for inviting me to guest blog here. It has been a lot of fun!

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  15. Hi Rhonda. I have been facinated also with mail-order brides. I knew some took this chance for many different reasons. Maybe even being forced to marry someone they couldn't stand chosen by their father. Also like you said, alone for different reasons, like losing parents, etc. It would have been really scary tho, not really knowing this man. Not sure how hard it must have been, even going to a strange. But guess many had good marriages, but I feel sure many weren't. And no divorces. I like that this one is about a Bridegroom tho instead of Bride. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

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  16. Look forward to reading this! If the Lord gave me the go ahead, I would cautiously accept. :) Great job on the cover!

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  17. Good evening, Ms. Gibson,

    Actually, women are still answering adverts for Mail Order Brides, as that is what I believe Alaska Men (magazine) would be considered today!? A calling for women to relocate to a place that has a surplus of men, but lacks women!? I get caught up in the stories of the men and women who meet through Alaska Men, as they are sometimes featured on daytime talk shows!? :) I think if the right advert spoke to me in a way that I knew I was stumbling across someone who was meant to be in my life, then, yes, who wouldn't take a chance and respond back by post!? Sometimes you have to help yourself a bit in arriving at where you want to be on your path.

    I am drawn into books that incorporate mail-order brides into their storylines, because they're usually emotionally rich in a backstory that warms the heart and encourages the soul. I love reading about how people can come together in an unexpected way, and find true happiness. Another example of this, by which I love, is the Love Comes Softly Saga on Hallmark!? :) :)

    It was nice to see you here, as a guest! :)
    Thanks for talking about a subject that has such an lovely addition to the novels I like to read! :) And, on that note, I think you have a winning premise in Groom By Arrangement! :)

    Happily,
    Jorie

    inkand-blogaways(at)usa.net

    PS: If your curious about orphan trains, there is a new book coming out entitled: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline! I am most enthused to see it's release! :) Especially considering how much in-person research the author was able to undergo! Wow. Talk about being blessed! :)

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