My first encounter with the whole concept of mail-order brides was when I saw Glenn Close and Christopher Walken in the movie Sarah, Plain and Tall. I didn’t know about this piece of Amercan history. I later picked up the book by Patricia MacLachlan to get an added perspective from the original writer.
Just think of the risks taken by both the man ordering the bride and the brave woman who traveled during the stagecoach days to meet a total stranger. In this piece, they both agreed to keep their vows and often life in the West was so challenging that they rarely had time to really get to know each other.
Remembering the gruffness of Christopher Walken, one would wonder if love was ever a part of the deal. Gwen Close was busy learning the harshness of the Western plains and raising his children. What a life! Yet when Close was almost lost in a storm, I believe he realized how much he valued and treasured her presence.
Recently, I visited my local library and picked up a book called Beneath the Prairie Moon by Kim Vogel Sawyer. I was drawn to its cover and did not realize that it was about mail-order brides until I started reading the book.
It is 1888 in Spiveyville, Kansas. Over sixteen men have paid a fee for a mail-order bride and are waiting for their arrival from Newton, Massachusetts. However, when they go to meet the stagecoach, only two women get out. They are the owner, Helena Bingham and her assistant, Abigail Grant.
The men are shocked and dismayed and even more so when they discover the plans of these Eastern women. The men must take a variety of classes in etiquette so that they will know how to treat a lady. Of course, they are outraged, but with the Sherriff’s protection of the women, the prairie men soon comply and go along.
Needless to say, there are a few bumps in the road and the women’s stay is unexpectedly lengthened. The women have to put their airs and hoity-toity ways on the back burner as they are forced to dig in and find ways to survive prairie life.
The men soften some too and the classes get underway, until the unthinkable happens. Helena Bingham, the owner of the matchmaking business, disappears. Everyone puts their aside their warring ways and aid in the search for her.
Will Helena Bingham be found alive? Will the men complete their classes on etiquette? And most importantly, will their brides that they have paid for arrive from the East? Get this book and watch the sparks fly up and see where they land!
Lynn M. July 21, 2018