Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Was It An Arranged Marriage?

Wedding ringsMy parents came from very similar backgrounds, Eastern European. My Mom’s family was from Rovna, Ukraine and immigrated here in 1900. Mom was born in New York City in 1908. My Dad’s family is from Snovsk, Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 1910, when Dad was six.

I’ve been thinking about my parents. Two weeks ago would have been their 86th wedding anniversary. Both of them are gone but certainly not forgotten. I always found the story of how they met and married a bit of a romantic comedy. Their families came from the same vicinity, near Kiev. But it wasn’t until they were young adults that my Mom, Jessie, and Dad, Aaron, meet.

Both my grandmothers were single parents. Their husbands were victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. My maternal grandmother, Ida, was a piece goods worker hemming pant cuffs and shortening sleeves. My paternal grandmother, Mary, had a small grocery store.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Catskills in upstate New York had bungalow colonies where families would go to get out of the city for a week’s vacation in the summer. This is where my parents met. While my mother denied it and my father stayed very quiet, Mom’s brother, Uncle Jay, swears their marriage was arranged.

Mom and Dad day after their wedding

Mom and Dad day after their wedding

Jessie was 21 and working as a secretary. Aaron was 25 and graduating dental school. According to Uncle Jay, (Jessie’s brother), she was dating a handsome medical student, Ben, from Texas and, while a doctor was a blessing, Ida feared her only daughter would move away. Aunt Rose, Dad’s sister, told me Mary wanted Aaron, the youngest of seven and the last one unmarried, to settle down. It was time for him to start his family with a sensible woman. Ida and Mary introduced Jessie and Aaron and found lots of reasons for them to be together. Neither Jessie nor Aaron were happy with their plans. Ida threw a party for Jessie and Aaron but was a bit miffed when Aaron brought another woman as his date and Jessie walked in on Ben’s arm.

Back in the City, Jessie and Aaron spent time together the rest of the summer. Aaron became part of Jessie’s group of friends. Jessie was a practical realistic woman and a bit of a quiet person especially compared to Aaron’s outgoing nature. He held whatever audience he had enthralled with his stories and jokes.

On September 25, Uncle Jay came home from classes at Fordham University and was told to get dressed in his best suit. Jessie was getting married in their Aunt’s apartment across the hall. He was excited. He liked Ben. He stopped short when he saw Jessie with Aaron.

Ben pleaded his case up to the end but Ida would not hear any of it. He graduated, returned to Texas and never married. Jessie and Aaron had a good life together. Mom never spoke of Ben, not even when my sister and I would pester. She would just smile and tell us she wouldn’t change anything for the world.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Marriage and Sex in the Middle Ages

The concept of marriage that existed in the Middle Ages was a different thing entirely from what we think of when we think marriage today.  Was it about love?  Was it about happily ever after?  Or was it a cold and heartless contract?

Well, actually, the truth is that it was something both between those two extremes and entirely different from them.

Marriage has always been the focal point of family life.  In the world of the upper class, marriage meant the successful continuance of the estate or the alliance of one family or estate with another.  It was an important political bargaining chip, used to make or break peace with neighboring people of power.  Did the bride and groom have any say in it?  Well, not really.  A little bit.  But there seems to be this mistaken concept that nobles were married off when they were still children and because of that their lives were loveless pieces on a chessboard of politics.  The truth is a little stickier.


Falling In and Out of Love in the Wild West: Courting, Marriage and Divorce

 Being we are close to Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d do a post on falling in love western style.

 Despite Victorian mores, marriage and courting in the Wild West was a good deal less formal than the overarching norms of the period. This had much to do with the scarcity of women in the West, at least in the early period before the Civil War. After the Civil War, the female population increased somewhat as more adventurous women rode west, mainly in search of men to marry since the War Between the States had decimated the population of young men in the East and Southeast.  Of course, women still made up a smaller part of the western population even in 1890 with the West reporting 41% of its population as female while in the total United States females made up 49% of the population.

 Surprisingly, the marriage age was later for women in the West, perhaps because they could be choosier about whom they married and had a few more career options that allowed for independence, such as teaching and running boarding houses and stores, than their eastern sisters. The 1890 census reported 35% of men and 36% of females as married in the total United States while the Western Region reported only 30% of the male population married and 39% of western females as married.


Old Rules for Marriage

How many of these rules do you think William and Katherine will be following?

Rules for Husbands and Wives
from A Primary Source 
written by
Matthew Carey
Having seen various sets of maxims for the conduct of married life, which have appeared to me to contain some very injudicious items, degrading to wives, sinking them below the rank they ought to occupy, and reducing them in some degree to the level of mere housekeepers, and believing them radically erroneous, I annex a set which appear more rational and just than most of those which I have seen:

1. A good husband will always regard his wife as his equal; treat her with kindness, respect and attention; and never address her with an air of authority, as if she were, as some husbands appear to regard their wives, a mere housekeeper.
2. He will never interfere in her domestic concerns, hiring servants, &c.
3. He will always keep her liberally supplied with money for furnishing his table in a style proportioned to his means, and for the purchase of dress suitable to her station in life.
4. He will cheerfully and promptly comply with all her reasonable requests, when it can be done, without loss, or great inconvenience.
5. He will never allow himself to lose his temper towards her, by indifferent cookery, or irregularity in the hours of meals, or any other mismanagement of her servants, knowing the difficulty of making them do their duty.
1. A good wife will always receive her husband with smiles,—leave nothing undone to render home agreeable—and gratefully reciprocate his kindness and attention.
2. She will study to discover means to gratify his inclinations, in regard to food and cookery; in the management of her family; in her dress, manners and deportment.
3. She will never attempt to rule, or appear to rule her husband. Such conduct degrades husbands.
4. She will, in every thing reasonable, comply with his wishes—and, as far as possible, anticipate them.
5. She will avoid all altercations or arguments leading to ill-humour—and more especially before company.

Posted by Barbara Scott, author of West of Heaven, sort of “lonesome soiled doves”

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