More Love and Laughter
from N.Y. Times Bestselling Author
When a Lady Says “I Won’t!”
In 1861 fifty ladies of the first Church of Milford in New York formed a society of old maids. It cost five dollars to join the group and members had to vow never to marry. The interest earned from the money paid for the annual dinner, with the principal going to the woman who remained unmarried the longest.
According to an article in the New York Times thirty years later in 1891 all but fifteen of the original fifty had married. By then the prize money had risen to a thousand dollars. I’ve not been able to find the winner’s name—and being a romantic I sincerely hope there wasn’t one— but the best part of being a writer is where real life fails, inspiration takes over. That’s how the idea for my new series The Brides of Last Chance Ranch was born.
The first book Dawn Comes Early was out in March and the second book Waiting for Morning has just been released. The premise for the series involves a sixty-five year old female rancher who advertises for a “heiress” just in case—heaven forbid—something should happen to her. Any woman wishing to inherit the ranch must first first sign a legal document forbidding her to marry—ever!
Before I could write the books I had to know why a Victorian woman would choose not to marry. The word spinster originally meant a girl who spins wool. During Medieval times spinning was a noble occupation and allowed women to earn their own way without a man’s wages. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that the word spinster became derogatory, though many accomplished women, including Louisa May Alcott and Florence Nightingale, remained single.
Today, a woman has the luxury of staying single if she so desires, but such a decision would have been considered unnatural and even shameful in the 1800s.
I wasn’t able to track down any more information on the Milford church ladies, but I did find some answers to my question:
- When a woman married everything she owned became her husband’s. This included land, money and even patents. (Elias Howe credited his wife with inventing the sewing machine but of course the patent was in his name.)
- Some women simply wanted to keep what was rightfully theirs. Some professions such as teaching prevented a woman from marrying. In Britain telephone operators were not allowed to marry during the early 1900s.
- College educated women had a difficult time finding men with similar educations. In Dawn Comes Early Kate Tenney is a college educated woman and Luke a “simple blacksmith.” It makes for an interesting conflict as he doesn’t even know what she’s talking about half the time.
- Many women lost fiancés or beaus during the Civil War. 62,000 men died and the war created a generation of single southern women.
- Women entering the paid workforce in the 1860s became more independent. No longer did a woman have to marry for financial security (or put up with an abusive husband). There was little possibility of combining motherhood with a career and a woman who couldn’t be a mother was considered to be no woman at all.
- Family responsibilities sometimes prevented marriage. Some women (usually the oldest daughter) were so burdened with caring for parents or siblings there was no time for a private life.
- The Glorified Spinster: This movement was called a “new model for the Old Maid” and allowed women to pursue independence through voluntary singlehood.
Of course my heroines will have their own reasons for shying away from marriage and it will take some very determined men to get them to change their minds.
My single friends tell me the pressure to marry still exists today.
Agree or disagree?
Tell me what you think and you could win a copy of Waiting for Morning!
Thrills, mystery, suspense, romance: Margaret penned it all. Nothing wrong with this—except Margaret happened to be writing for the church newsletter. After making the church picnic read like a Grisham novel, her former pastor took her aside and said, "Maybe God's calling you to write fiction."
So that’s what Margaret did. She’s now a New York Times bestselling author and a Romance Writers of America RITA finalist with more than 25 novels to her credit. Her first non-fiction book Grieving God’s Way: the Lasting Path to Hope and Healing has won much critical acclaim. She is currently working on the third book in her Brides of Last Chance Ranch series “Dawn Comes Early” and “Waiting for Morning” are available now.
Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don’t ask her to diagram a sentence.