Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When a Lady Says “I Won’t!” by @margaretbrownly

Margaret Brownley,
NYT Bestselling Author
More Love and Laughter
From Margaret Brownley
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 will be published in December.

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.

Some Reasons Why Some Nineteenth Century Women Said “I won’t” instead of “I do”:
  • 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).
  • 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?

Answer and you could win 
a copy of Margaret’s book, 

Read her article from Monday and comment on one or both (both gets you TWO chances to win!).  You'll find out all about her December release, Waiting for Morning.

Small print: Drawing will be held Oct. 6, 2012, at 9pm Pacific Time. You must leave your email address to be eligible to win (because otherwise we don't know where to send the book!). USA mailing only.


  1. I guess it depends on what kind of family you come from. My family always wanted to see me settle and married.. but I am so independent and do not like to give up my control to anyone. Mother nature took care at 40 of my child bearing abilaties and there are times I wish I had a child, but not so much the married part...

    I have a few nieces who are in their late 20's who have not married yet, but I hope that they find someone to share their life with. But I never pressure them to do so. I would say the pressure to marry does not really stand in todays world. Wowman are so much more independent today than even when I was young.

    1. Women really are more independent today and have more options. Who knows? Maybe one day we'll even see a woman president.

  2. Margaret, your series sounds as great as your other books. I have two daughters who are spinsters--one intentionally and one because her life just hasn't worked out as he had planned.

    1. I know someone who just married for the first time at age 56. That proves that it's never too late to find that special someone.

  3. Some of my young friends tell me that many twenty year olds can't afford to get married because of student loans. Now that's a fairly recent development.

  4. Interesting post. I agree the pressure still exists.



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