The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 458
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
examines the history of courtship in America.2 The common phenome-
non of remarriage and the subsequent creation of stepfamilies, how-
ever, has remained a neglected topic of historical enquiry. The Fain-
Bledsoe letters suggest that courtships for second marriages may have
been significantly different from those for first marriages. The blunt,
pragmatic letters exchanged between Jessie Bledsoe and David Fain
differ from the introspective, articulate courtship letters discussed in
Ellen Rothman's study of courtships leading to first marriages among
predominantly young, middle-class couples in the Northeast from the
eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Perhaps the differ-
ences are due to the fact that Jessie and David's marriage was not a first
marriage, perhaps to the fact that they were older than most of the
couples Rothman studied, perhaps to differences in social class and
education, perhaps to regional differences, or perhaps simply to varia-
tions in individual temperament. Further study of courtship letters
from rural and working-class Americans, from different regions of the
country, and from people of various ages could help determine the ex-
tent to which these factors bore an impact on the nature of courtship.
While the Fain-Bledsoe letters are insufficient evidence on which to
base general assumptions about the extent or nature of remarriage in
nineteenth-century America, they provide material for a case study
that suggests some insights into the attitudes with which one couple
approached their second and third marriages. Since few, if any, such
letters have survived and come to the attention of scholars, this corre-
spondence is a particularly valuable source for historical analysis.
Etiquette books of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
indicated that a proposal of marriage often followed soon after a couple
2 Ellen K. Rothman, Hands and Hearts A History of Courtship in America (Cambridge, Mass :
Harvard University Press, 1987). Collections of articles covering a wide range of approaches to
the history of the family are found in the various editions of Michael Gordon (ed ), The Amerin-
can Family in Soczal-Historcal Perspective (New York: St Martin's Press) The third edition
was pubhshed m 1983. Collections of articles incorporating a demographic approach include
Tamara K. Hareven (ed.), Family and Kin in Urban Communiztzes, 1700-I930 (New York- New
Viewpoints, 1977); Tamara K Hareven (ed.), Transztions The Family and The Life Course in Hzs-
torical Perspectzve (New York: Academic Press, 1978); and John Demos and Sarane Spence
Boocock (eds.), Turning Poznts: Historical and Sociological Essays on the Family (Chicago: Univer-
sity of Chicago Press, 1978). Case studies that examine a limited number of families in a specific
location but draw conclusions of broad relevance include Mary P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle
Class. The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865 (London: Cambridge University Press,
1981); Marilyn Ferris Motz, True Sisterhood Michigan Women and Their Kin, 1820-1920 (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1983); Tamara K Hareven, Family Time and Industrial Tame-
The Relationship Between the Family and Work in a New England Industrial Community (London:
Cambridge University Press, 1982), and Robert Griswold, Family and Divorce in California,
1850-1890o Vzctorian Illusions and Everyday Realhtzes (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1982). For a survey of the history of women's family roles, see Carl N Degler, At Odds-
Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present (New York: Oxford University
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/528/: accessed October 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.