Sunday, April 26, 2020


By Caroline Clemmons

I have heard authors of other genres make jokes about mail-order bride books. They may seem fanciful, but throughout history there really were a large number of women who risked everything to achieve a husband and family. The alternative for a woman sounds lonely.

Unlike the single woman of today, there were not many choices. A woman was judged by the success of her husband and children. If she had neither, she simply did not fit into society of the time. The jobs available to a woman who was above servant class were that of a governess or a companion (read fancy term for maid) to a woman who was likely wealthy but infirm in some way.

If she was willing to risk becoming a mail-order bride, she might still be no more than a servant, but it would be in her own home and she would have her own children. Worth the risk? I would think so.

Chris Enss’ book Hearts West discusses actual mail-order brides. Some are happy stories, some are frightening. Each is interesting. There are other books about western women, some of whom were mail-order brides. Another is Buying A Bride, by Macia A. Zug, who details brides through history. Of course, I'm more interested in those of the American West.

A terrible result of the Civil War was that fighting took the lives of so many young men. Numbers given are that between 620,000 and 750,000 men died in the Civil War, by far the greatest toll of any war in American history. When most of the surviving single men moved west, this left no one for Eastern women to marry. If a woman wanted a husband and children, what was she to do? If a man wanted a wife and family, what was he to do?

This is why there are so many mail-order bride and proxy bride romances. Although mail-order and proxy brides existed before and after this era, they flourished in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. In fact, proxy marriages are still valid today. Now they are mainly used for those in military service.

In my ancestry and that of my husband, several women became little more than a live-in, unpaid maid. Would you have wanted to spend the rest of your life as “Aunt” whoever to someone else’s family? Or, would you have dared become a mail-order bride?

In the west the ratio was sometimes 1 woman (who might be married) to 14 men. In mining areas, the ratio of men per woman would be far more. If you wanted a wife and children, what would you do? Imagine being a single man who longs for a wife and family and sends for a bride. What if she’s a shrew or slovenly and can’t cook or keep house? What if she’s a con artist who plans to remain only long enough to gain access to your savings? Would you send for a bride sight-unseen?

Matrimonial agencies supposedly verified the character and intentions of the man and woman before the marriage was arranged. Also available were newspaper-like periodicals filled with ads placed by men who wanted a wife (no verification). If you’ve read some of these, you know they varied from so egotistical they’re comical to so brief no information is supplied.

Imagine yourself a woman traveling by train or—more likely—by stagecoach to meet a prospective groom. You could be single or widowed. More than likely you’d be nearly destitute. If the man you’re going to meet doesn’t suit, you have no funds to repay him for your travel fare and return home. Perhaps you have no home to which you can return. What if he’s a drunk or beats women or is a crook?

Would you have dared enter a mail-order marriage?

In my recent release, MAIL-ORDER VICTORIA, Widows, Brides, and Secret Babies Series book 7, the heroine becomes a mail-order bride to protect her daughter. The groom desperately needs a wife to care for his children. Neither has been forthcoming about their children, which accounts for the “secret” baby in the series. I hope readers will read and enjoy this book. I enjoyed writing it. I threw in rustlers and a tornado to create more obstacles. Here’s the summary:

She has to protect her baby . . .
He is desperate for help . . .
Trouble preys on their livelihood . . .

Widow Victoria Bailey is desperate to prevent her in-laws from gaining custody of her eighteen-month-old daughter. If becoming a mail-order bride is her only option, she’ll take the risk. At least on a Texas ranch she’ll have quiet and peace. She doesn’t have time to let the groom know she’s bringing her daughter. Surely no man can object to one perfect little girl.

Widower Greg Hardy is desperate to get help with his home and his children. He needs to be pursuing whoever is rustling his cattle. A mail-order bride seems to be exactly what he needs but should he keep his children a secret? To insure he doesn’t scare off a prospective wife, he omits the fact that he has five children aged from eight months to twelve years old. 

Their marriage starts with misunderstanding. They decide to work together to fight against a common foe. Will the fight take a toll on their fragile happiness?

The Universal Amazon Link is for ebook, print, and KU.

1 comment:

Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West! We are very sad to require comment moderation now due to the actions of a few spam comments. Thank you for your patience.