The Women of Pendleton Petticoats by Shanna Hatfield
The Women of Pendleton Petticoats
by Shanna Hatfield
Imagine a mail-order bride from Chicago, who has never been anywhere else, taking the train out west to meet her husband and discovering a lively, colorful city that is nothing like the quiet, dull town she anticipated.
Her gaze travels over the milling crowd, taking in the sight of people from all walks of life as they mingle on the platform at the depot.
There’s a tall, handsome cowboy wearing a shiny deputy star. A Chinese man wearing a queue and wide-brimmed conical hat hurries on his way, keeping his head down and gaze averted. Two Indians with colorful wool blankets stand talking to a young woman with her black-haired baby strapped into cradleboard. Finely dressed gentlemen escort women attired in the latest fashions. Ranchers pick up supplies while farmers with huge wagons and lumbering teams unload burlap sacks filled with golden kernels of wheat.
This was Pendleton, Oregon, queen of a golden wheat empire, at the turn of the century.
My latest historic western romance series, Pendleton Petticoats, is set in this fascinating western town.
Although many thought it was a Wild West town (which it was), it was also a very progressive town with a theater, opera house, French restaurant, and tearoom. Pendleton opened a telephone office in 1902 and was the second city in the state to install paved streets in 1904.
As I began writing the first book in this series, I envisioned a mail-order bride stepping off the train, completely unprepared for what awaited her. She expected the town to be quiet, dusty, and backward. What she found was something so entirely different.
It is nearly impossible to fathom the bravery and strength of mail-order brides. They left behind everything they knew to travel somewhere they’d never been to pledge their life to a man they had yet to meet.
Although the women in the stories are different, they are all strong and brave in their own way.
Aundy, the main character (and namesake) of the first book in the series, knows she is physically strong and capable to work on her husband’s farm, but she has no idea of the depths of inner strength and fortitude she possesses until it is tested.
The second book in the series, Caterina, features a feisty Italian girl on the run from the mafia in New York City. Have you ever wondered how many women journeyed out west because they jumped on a train with nowhere else to go? Unlike Aundy who arrived in town as a mail-order bride, Caterina is free and unfettered – or as free as she can be, hunted by powerful men bent on vengeance.
Ilsa shines a light on one girl’s struggle to toss off the fetters of expectations placed upon her as she learns to believe in herself.
The latest book in the series, Marnie, gives us a glimpse into the life of a working girl as she works to overcome the fears of her past so she can embrace the future (and a handsome U.S. Marshal).
What do you think life would have been like as a mail order bride? If it was 1901 and you were desperate to change your life, could you respond to an advertisement for a bride and travel to the “wild west” to become a stranger’s wife? What do you think would be the hardest thing about life then? What do you think would be the most fun?
Shanna will return tomorrow to share excerpts from “Aundy”.
Until then, here’s another little snippiet to whet your appetite.
“I said I want us to get hitched.”