I write contemporary western romances but I have a fondness for historical westerns with Mail Order Bride plots. A contemporary Mail Order bride story that stuck with me long after reading it was Annie in the Morning by Curtiss Ann Matlock. (SSE) There's something very romantic about a man and a woman agreeing to take a leap of faith and marrying each other after exchanging only a handful of letters.
I love strong heroines and Mail Order Brides are among the strongest fictional heroines out there. It takes a very brave (or desperate) woman to travel West alone, straight into the arms of a strange man. Mail Order Brides were a sturdy breed, courageous and possessed a sense of adventure. What drove women to marry a practical stranger—a chance to escape poverty or the servant job they were stuck in or the fear of dying a spinster. If not for women, the West would never have become civilized. Women, not men, saw the need for schools, churches and libraries.
Often the humor in the Mail Order Bride plots is derived from the hero, heroine or both attempting to dupe the other. The hero implying in his advertisement that he is five-feet-ten inches tall and solid muscle, wealthy and owns a large parcel of fertile land. The heroine answering the hero's advertisement with a glowing description of her beauty (and a photo of a women other than herself) and her impressive homemaking skills. Many of the brides arrived only to discover their new husband had one change of clothing, lived in a shanty and owned nothing but the tin plate he used to pan for gold. In turn, the man discovered his new wife was taller, broader and uglier than himself and couldn't bake a decent loaf of bread if her life depended on it.
I highly recommend reading Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier by Chriss Enss (2005) This is a terrific book!
Hearts West includes more than a dozen stories of courageous mail order brides and their exploits. Accompanying the text are actual advertisements placed by both women seeking husbands and men seeking brides.
Following are actual advertisements Enss included in her book:
Wanted: A girl who will love, honest, true not sour; a nice little cooing dove and willing to work in flour:"
"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."
"An intelligent young fellow of 22 years, 6 feet height, weight 170 pounds Would like to correspond with a lady from 18 to 22. Will exchange photos: object, fun and amusement, and perhaps when acquainted, if suitable, matrimony."
"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 ladyof honor who would like a good home, kind husband and plenty."
"A lady, 23, tall, fair and good looking, without means, would like to hear from a gentleman of position wanting a wife. She is well educated, accomplished, amiable, and affectionate."
If you have any "Mail-Order Bride" stories in your family tree, I'd love to hear about them!
Roughneck Cowboy *Men of the West* Feb 2011
The Bull Rider's Surrender E-HQ March 2011
Rodeo Daddy *Rodeo Rebels* April 2011
The Bull Rider's Secret *Rodeo Rebels* July 2011
Riley's Story (w.t.) *Rodeo Rebels* Dec 2011