As the 19th century progressed, pioneers headed into the mid-West and West in search of gold, natural resources, open land, and a fresh start.
Some were coming from the eastern portion of the United States, but others came from foreign countries.
Whereas marriages in the past had been practical and strategic tools to advance the good of a larger kin group, mail-order marriages seem to have been practical and strategic tools to advance the good of the individual.
She was born in West Baldwin, Maine, in 1811 and had taken classes at Maine Wesleyan Seminary.
Despite her glowing letters of recommendation, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Ministries (ABCFM) ultimately denied her application because she was a single woman.
This is rather a delicate question to ask, but as I view it of much importance, it will plead its own apology.” The Secretary responded, “You ought by all means to have a good, healthy, patient, well-informed, devotedly pious wife.
There is a Miss Mary Richardson of Baldwin, Maine, who has offered herself to the Board but we can not [sic] send her single.
In the same month (March 1837) that Mary learned of her rejection from the ABCFM, Elkanah Walker, a seminary student at Bangor Theological Seminary, was preparing to become a missionary in Africa.
He wrote to the Secretary of the ABCFM, asking “Is it advisable for me to go without a companion [i.e., a wife]?
Many pioneers were disappointed to discover that all of the easily-accessible gold had already been panned.
After investing extensive time and money to travel by ship, wagon, or railway, however, they were not about to head back home.
Indigenous women were, of course, present in the American West, and some pioneers formed relationships with them.
Statehood advocates feared that inter-racial marriages would not count as “civilized behavior” and therefore threaten the possibility of transitioning from territory to statehood.
Was such a proposition risky when men and women did it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries? But as a whole, these men and women seemed to have a more pragmatic approach to marriage.