Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Emotional Journey of a Mail Order Bride

Have you ever gone on a first date? Of course you have! Remember the anxiety and stress? And the excitement and hopeful anticipation?

What about a blind date? Don't you think all the emotions are amplified? I remember a few blind dates I had that were almost ruined when I was almost too nervous to talk!  Then there was that blind date when I was in high school with a guy who wouldn't share popcorn in the movie. He actually pulled the bucket away from me when I reached to get a little bite. But, I digress. That's likely a story for another time.

I can only imagine what the women who moved west to start their new lives as a mail order bride must have been going through, emotionally. Oh sure, they had written some letters to each other - maybe even many letters. But meeting the man who would soon be your husband face to face for the first time must have been frightening for some women.

The stories we read often have the woman in some sort of jam to make her decide to become a mail order bride. That was probably not so far from the truth in many cases. But possibly, there were some adventure seekers out there who answered the call to be a mail order bride. Some women were bored with their lives and read about the romanticized, action packed wild west and decided to see what it was all about.

But leaving a big city was a big step. There was much to leave behind.

Even the adventure seeker must have been nervous when she met her intended for the first time. Considering this man would be with you for the rest of your life, or the rest of his, there were probably a fair list of concerns. Even traditional marriage doesn't come with guarantees and you can bet your bottom dollar arranged marriages like this had none, either.

While I’m sure fear and apprehension would have been some of the underlying emotions the mail order bride felt as she traveled westward, I believe hope and excitement were there, too. Those emotions, combined with daydreams about what her new married life was going to be like would have kept her pushing west even when the going got rough.

The journey itself was difficult, especially if she made the trip on a wagon train or a stage coach. Worry about all the potential problems and dangers that she would encounter along the way must have been near paralyzing to some. Yet, they managed to do it. Likely because of the hope for a better life.

Her emotions upon arriving at her final destination would depend on both her expectations and what she found when she arrived. Expecting a western town to be like the eastern town she left behind was a recipe for disappointment and maybe even trouble. Expecting to be delighted by the man and his home could also make for serious awkwardness, to say the least.

Consider his expectations of her. Most of the time, these women weren't expected to simply keep a tidy house, cook hearty meals, and raise a houseful of kids. They also were there to work the fields, manage the animals, and do whatever else her husband needed. The reality of what all this actually meant must have been a shock to most of these women who found themselves in that position.

If the man had been honest, then possibly trust would take root. Maybe even respect would be the basis of their relationship. Is it possible that love could bloom? Of course!
Wouldn't it be wonderful to find that every mail order bride felt an overwhelming sense of delight when she finally met her intended bridegroom for the first time? We all know that's not how it went - not even in sweet romance!

So, it's probably clear that a mail order bride didn't walk into a fairy tale life when she stepped into her new town. In fact, her emotions may become even more intense when the reality of what she's done hits her. Imagine the shock and horror that your life in the west is going to be so grueling that you'll be bone weary every single night. Whatever you left behind might look good compared to your new reality.

As an author, I admit to romanticizing the process. I admit to making it seem far easier than it was. My stories may seem unrealistic when you get right down to it. As a reader, I want the emotional roller coaster with a healthy dose of hope, love, and above all a happy ending. Even if a true mail order bride didn't always end up with a happy ending, I want my heroine to always have one.

If you had lived in this intriguing era, would you be up to the challenge of becoming a mail order bride? I can tell you without a doubt, I don't see myself being able to pull it off. I don't believe I'd have been savvy enough or tough enough to do it. My emotions would get the best of me, for sure.

Writing about strong, heroic women gives me the opportunity to make them savvy and tough even if their emotions make it difficult for them at times. I'm thankful for those trail blazers for their inspiration and bravery to face the scary unknown and live to tell about it.


 Annie Boone writes sweet western historical romance with a happy ending guaranteed in every single story. Her latest release is Book 17 in the beloved Cutter's Creek series - Perfect Timing.

To connect with Annie, find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I wouldn't have survived being a mail-order bride. When I write my books, I always have a happy ending, but my characters go through a lot to get there. I'd be the wimp that ran home or broke down in tears. Brave men and gutsy women helped settle the west and we should be grateful. Thanks, Annie, for a great article.

  2. I know I wouldn't have been a 'bride'. I would have set out on my own, but that's me. If I found love, all the better, but I wouldn't have expected it. That may be why I haven't been able to write a 'MOB' book. Ah, a challenge. *Smile*.

    Great post with lots to think about. Doris

  3. Well said! I totally agree with you, I don't think could deal with all the hardship, isolation, and just plain drudgery.
    I'm sure there is some women that couldn't afford to make it on their own..........

  4. I have always had a fascination with mail-order brides. How these women were actually pioneers and helped pave the west. To agree to travel away from your family, friends, everything you have known, cross the country to meet and marry a complete stranger and start a new life.

    Living conditions were rough, life was hard, and only the strongest would survive. I have read a book that is actual, real life mail-order bride accounts, and they are not as glamorous as we want to believe. Nonetheless, it is still my all time favorite genre.