I needed to do some research for my next novel. My female main character is going to be a mail-order bride. The problem was I didn’t know anything about them other than what I’ve read in fiction. There’s always some truth in fiction, but I needed something from the gut. I needed hard facts. I got them in this book.
The book is a fascinating account of women traveling West by ship or stagecoach and the men who asked them to come. But it was much more than that. Some women came on their own in search of a husband. They had to pay their own passages and make their own accommodations. Other women were instrumental in the process, which made this even more interesting.
There aren’t any horrific stories told, but there are instances of great sadness, especially when these women had to bury their children. The people of this time kept records and journals of almost everything and these stories are in this book.
There are reprints of ads placed in the personal columns of matrimonial newspapers from San Francisco and Kansas City, Missouri. People were brutally honest back then with what they wanted and what they had to offer. People wanted to marry for money and for assets. Fortunately, a lot of these relationships worked out and many couples got their happily-ever-afters. Some didn’t.
I got the information I needed in this great little book. It didn’t take long to get through it. I enjoyed reading the personal ads and the playbills that were included (Hellooo online dating 150 years later) and reading the abbreviated stories of these strong, fearless women that made their way to a wild country they knew nothing about in an effort to do their part in attempting to tame it, seek companionship, and if they were lucky, they would find love.
Fantastic, interesting read.
Oh, one more thing. It was risky business doing something like this back then–it is now–but I want to quote this part of the book: Often, when a pair met, the groom-to-be signed an agreement, witnessed by three upstanding members of the territory, not to abuse or mistreat the bride-to-be. The prospective bride then signed a paper (also witnessed) not to nag or try to change the intended.