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  1. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Mail Order Bride ads...... but in reverse?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by J.T. Woody, Sep 5, 2020.

    Was there such a thing where a woman's family would advertise in the local paper for an eligible bachelor to marry their daughter?
    If it's a thing, whats it called? (I know my [facebook] ads are going to be all kinds of crazy with the search terms i've been using!)

    I'm familiar with debutante balls and cotillions, which are formal "coming out [as women of marrying age]" parties. But what if a family could not afford to attend one of these balls?

    details: I do not have a specific year in mind, just that the setting is between 1920-1930. South (but I gave them French names, so possibly Louisiana).
    Its for a short story so I haven't gone as in-depth with world building as I have in others.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    The Providence Phoenix back in the day had all sorts of whacko sex and bondage personal ads. You know, the whole "no reciprocation needed" thing. This was before the Internet took that to the nth degree. Not sure about marriage solicitation.

    What's the setting?
     
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  3. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    According to Wikipedia, "Men who list themselves in such publications are referred to as 'mail-order husbands', although this is much less common."
     
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  4. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Noooo, not anything like that, lol!

    Setting is a small town somewhere in the south along the Mississippi River. Between 1920-1930.
    Three sisters lost their parents. The two older sister (spinsters) take over the role as "parents" and try to marry off the younger sister (18) so that they will all be better of financially.

    So i assume they'd put something in the local paper like "eligible bachelorette seeing eligible bachelor" type of thing?
     
  5. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    "Men who list themselves"....meaning they put an ad in about themselves seeking a wife? Would this be basically a mail order bride?

    (I've read a western romance where a widower was seeking a wife to raise his small daughter. So he put an ad in the paper listing himself and occupation and his needs.... In this case, a mother for his daughter. She called herself a mail order bride. Im pretty sure this is also the plot to Sarah Plain and Tall too...)
     
  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber Contributor Contributor

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    Presumably not based on the context of the article.
    That's what a mail order bride is though, basically; with a slight shift of agency from the bride herself to her family. Maybe the catch is that your character isn't intending to move? But of course she would go live in her husband's house in this case.
    It seems like kind of a dick move...I assume they're doing it without the girl's consent?
     
  7. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Funky like your grandpa's drawers.... Staff Contributor

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    Well, if there was a nubile girl in a small Mississippi town, I don't think the men would need a newspaper article to know about her. Pickings are kind of slim down there... the young girls need no advertisement.
     
  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    My 2p...

    I'm sure examples of anything are to be found if one looks hard enough, but for it to have been a thing - as in, common enough to have a convention or system grow up underneath it, as is the case with mail-order brides - one has to step back and look to see if the culture both creates a need for it, and then also permits/supports/promotes it within the confines of the cultural envelope.

    There have always been examples of women who were successful and thriving without need of a husband. Always. Along any slice of the timeline, one will find them. But that's not remotely the same as saying the cultures they lived in supported or promoted their success, and anywhere the Western Abrahamic umbrella casts its shadow, the further back you go, the less opportunity there is for women to be successful on their own. Were there brighter moments and better areas? Of course. But in general and for the majority, no. Women have regularly been banned from owning property, handling bank accounts, owning land, owning cattle, etc. etc. etc. Our culture has made a habit of raising socioeconomic walls to women that turn into mazes that lead to husbands or nothing else.

    Thus, mail-order brides.

    Men are not typically made to run those mazes in our culture or its past iterations. And because women were always busy dealing with those mazes, a wife has rarely been the answer to a Western Civ man trying to get out from under the boulder of socioeconomic oppression. Thus, mail-order bride is a term the meaning of which we all know instantly, but mail-order husband is bound to raise an eyebrow or the corner of a smile because it sounds odd. We understand it, obviously, but why would it happen? Yes, yes, there a million reasons, but when we ask that particular why, what we really mean is: What man would do that given how tightly he's hemmed in by the realities of the culture we live in?

    You can certainly write a narrative where it happens (I can think of a few interesting scenarios myself), but you asked if it was ever a thing in the past. I'm absolutely sure it has happened, but I don't think our culture would make regular room for a column in the old-timie newspaper where "Harold, short and stout" could have his add run next to "Sarah, Plain and Tall" (Patricia MacLachlan, 1985).
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2020
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  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    I have to be crude and ask the question - what does she have going for her apart from her body?

    From the description, I assume she's not wealthy, and I'm guessing she's not from a higher social circle, as otherwise she'd have suitors to spare. Why would a financially well-off man (which, I think is what the sisters are aiming for) want her for a wife, rather than a mistress?
     
  10. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Shes average looking. Her body isnt whats advertised.
    Because of the way their parents died, people stay away from them and the house. Because each sister deals with the death differently (the oldest sister, who had been away at junior college when the deaths happened, believes that she is at fault for leaving the family and decides not to leave again; the middle sister blew off an engagement because she felt like her sisters needed her to stay, the youngest sister relies on the older ones to tell her what to do), they rarely leave the house. They are nicknamed "the ghosts of Ellis House". Basically, they are the weirdos down the street.
    They HAD money and their parents were well know in society....but after 10 years, the money isnt enough anymore, and the older sisters turned so many suitors away (their own suitors, not the younger one).
    Her "finer qualities" are those you would expect of a woman at that time... Knows how to cook, clean, take care of a house. Garden. Has high society etiquette teachings. Shes not pretty like the middle sister, and not as educated as the oldest sister. I guess what would attract potential suitors would be the family name and how the 2 older sisters were (pretty and educated).
     
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  11. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Yeah, her sisters are dicks:p

    Silver lining is, the younger one finally stands up for herself in the end.
     
  12. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Would the family want to "interview" or entertain the suitor to make a judgement of whether or not he's suitable?
     
  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Okay, I spent bits of the afternoon looking for this because I'm sure I've heard of it before, but to no avail.

    I'm keeping an eye on this for when you find the answer.

    Trying to work through the socioeconomics of it I think that you need a situation where the eligible women outnumber the eligible men, thus forcing them (the women) to put their charms, physical, educational, or otherwise on display in "the marketplace" to win one of the few men on offer. Historically that's tended to end up with polygamy, but spin things however you want.
     
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  14. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    Here we go:

    https://www.mimimatthews.com/2016/01/04/alternative-courtship-matrimonial-advertisements-in-the-19th-century/

    The article includes a picture of an actual advertisement from 1811.

    "MATRIMONY - A lady of the greatest respectability is solicitous to meet with an agreeable respectable PARTNER for life. She does not wish for fortune, as she has an easy independency of her own. The lady flatters herself she has many accomplishments, and is calculated to make any man happy, should she be fortunate enough to meet with one who wishes for domestic happiness."
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2020
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  15. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Smooth like butter Contributor

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    Thanks! This was a super helpful example of what i was looking for. I had no idea that they were called "matrimony" ads.

    I was abled to finish my story :)
     
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  16. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    It just hit me... That's a lonely person seeking a spouse from over two hundred years ago... And we've got the text and can understand every word of it.

    [​IMG]

    Sorry, momentarily overwhelmed.
     
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  17. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unusual deployment of solicitous in that ad. Not a word one hears used with any frequency today. When I first read it and saw the word PARTNER in all caps, I have to admit to humoring a well-trod cliché with respect to old-timie Louisiana (in the OP) and the American South’s unsubtle reversion to the dynamics of landed gentry, in effect if not in actuality. Because I'm a one-trick pony, I envisaged an antique system of highly coded advertisements where the surface appearance of a mail-order husband or bride is indeed in play, but the ad makes it codedly clear that there are no expectations of "marital duties", so to speak; thus queer gentry could cosplay str8ness unnoticed beneath the sprawl of live oaks and Spanish moss lined paths.
     
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  18. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 10/190 Status: Confused Contributor

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    I hope it worked out for her!
     

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