Pre-20th Century Courtships

Is it true that, back when mail was the only means of long-distance communication, men sometimes proposed to women by mail? I need to know this for a story. I want to have a character say this, but only if it’s true.

Of course it’s true. I am personally aware of two proposals of marriage made in letters from soldiers at the front in World War I to girlfriends at home, and of one similar case in World War II.

Actually there used to be personal ads back in the papers and magazienes in the pioneer/old west days

Except they were for marriage and not dating

In fact in some old west towns most women were married not long off the train

Its also why divorces in the western states were easier to get than in the east becuase one didnt really know who they were marrying usually

Rilchiam - are you talking about men proposing to women they have never met, or just about men who, after meeting women, propose to them by mail?

UDS: The second one.

Then I think it would have been quite common. When you’ve decided you want to marry somebody whose quite far away, and when travel is slow, difficult or expensive, you either (a) propose by post, (b) put off proposing for months or years or © don’t propose at all. A postal proposal is the obvious one to go for.

Even without the issue of distance or travel, postal proposals were probably not unknown. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set during the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Wentworth confesses his feelings for Anne Elliott in a letter (not, admittedly, one sent by post), even though they live in the same small town and meet frequently. Seemingly Austen does not expect her readers to find this odd. For the shy or the awkward this method of approaching the question would have had obvious attractions.

Very informative, UDS. Thank you.

I collect beauty and etiquette books (dating from c1800–1980), and some of them have various “form letters” for courtship, proposals and turning down or accepting proposals.

Richard Feynman, the Nobel-prize-winning physicist, proposed to his second wife, Mary Lou, by mail during the year he was in Brazil on a sabbatical. He said in his autobiography that it was a mistake, that while you’re apart, you remember only the good times, and not the fights.

But this would have been mid-1950s, at least.

  • Rick

My father proposed to my mother by mail (1948). She was in Germany studying, and he had moved to California and was lonely.

:::slight hijack:::
Eve has the neatest stuff!!