Saturday, January 31, 2009

"American girl; farmer's daughter; raised on the farm, own 40 acres of land; father owns 100. Would consider marriage if I can find some good honest man, no objections to widower with one or wo children. My age is 22; weight, 160; height 5 feet 6 inches; black hair and eyes. Write and learn more."

Due to western expansion, the gold rush, and other calls to riches, by the 1850s there were more eligible bachelors in the West than the East. In Washington Territory, men outnumbered women by nine to one! It didn't take long for some enterprising women, in differing parts of the West, to plan ways of bringing eligible females to settle the land and make good marriages. "Matchmaking" newspapers sprouted up in California, and circulated all over the country, hoping to bring "rosy-cheeked down east Yankee girls."

In our world today, it seems unlikely any of us would consider marriage out of economic necessity, but our sisters from a century or two ago found it a very viable option. No one knows the true numbers of mail order brides who did venture West, or those who came out on their own and found love (or, at least, matrimony) with a stranger at a mining camp.

And it wasn't only women posting for a potential mate. This ad appeared in the January 8, 1887 edition of the Matrimonial News:

"A gentleman of 25 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."

Perhaps love and romance could be found with a stranger, after all!


Loretta said...

Anna, this is an interesting article, and amusing. I wonder how many men and women were truthful when describing themselves and their wealth? Wonder how many couples were totally shocked once they met?

P.S. the reason I deleted my first comment was that after I posted it, I spotted several typos. Yikes!

E.Ayers said...

Things haven't changed much. Instead of a newspaper ad people now use the internet.

I think if I lived back then I would have left the comfort of my family's home and gone West. Such an exciting time in our history. Filled with all sorts of problems, but also a time of hope and inspiration.

Celia Yeary said...

Anna--my favorite type of western romance is one that revolves around a mail-order bride.
There's a very old Robert Taylor movie titled "Westward the Women" and to this day, if it's shown on TCM or AMC I will drop everything and watch that thing once more. He takes a wagon train full of women West to a town that wants a lot of women--they have none. It is fantastic--old style movie, yes, but oh, those superb women who forged ahead to the wild west. Each woman has written and sent a photo, and a man selects one. Very good plot, and your post reminded me of it. thanks--Celia

Jen Childers said...

Great post!
Some of the history tidbits are so fun.
When I took a course in feminism I remember the teacher saying the Europeans credit the west with the assertivness of American women. We seem to have a reputation for being daring, strong, and sexy.

well, let's not dissappoint anyone!

Paty Jager said...

Great post Anna! It would be interesting to see how many of the mail order spouses worked out and lived in a loving environment.

And yes, the woman were strong and ready for adventure back then.

Gwyn Ramsey said...

Enjoyed reading your mail-order bride article, Anna. It seems strange to think ladies and gentlemen did place ads in newspapers like this. Good job.

Tanya Hanson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauri said...

Wonderful post, Anna.

Mail order bride/groom stories are my favorites.

I knew a woman in Kansas and she and her sister were both mail order brides, during the 1940's! Both claimed to have very happy marriages and outlived their husbands who happened to be cousins.