Facebook for Farmers
Updated: Aug 29
Ever wonder how your parents met? Your great-grandparents?
I've succumbed to a daily dosing of Facebook to catch up on friends, my kids, my grandkids, the status of our pending 40-year high school reunion, and to get the skinny on who's-dating-whom. Technology has made it possible for that information to be available real-time on my mobile phone, on my desktop computer, or as a picture-in-picture snapshot on my HDTV. Rather than a paper-based subscription to our local newspaper with my morning tea and banana, I subscribe to an online feed through iGoogle. This morning's eye catcher focused on social networking.
"1 in 6 Marriages Met Online" I found the headline interesting and unnerving at the same time and so I read on. Match.com recently conducted a survey of 11,000+ of their members who'd met and married within the past three years to determine the number who had met through an online dating service. Admittedly, the article was a sales pitch and the metrics, a reach:
Through Work/School 36%
Through Friend/Family Member 26%
Via Online Dating Site 17%
Through Bars/Clubs/Other Social Events 11%
Through Church/Place of Worship 4%
“The world has changed,” said Greg Blatt, CEO of Match.com. “We get married older, we work longer hours, we move around more, we’re generally busier. These changes have put pressure on the way we traditionally have met our significant others. Luckily, with these changes has come an increasing openness to doing new things. Online dating has grown so much in part as a response to these societal changes, having become the third most important way we meet our significant others, even though it didn’t even exist 15 years ago.”
He's so wrong. Although technology has expedited the transaction, the underlying vehicle, correspondence, hasn't changed in thousands of years. The median age for first marriages in the United States in 2007 was 27 for men and 25 for women (my great-grandparents were 27 and 20, respectively in 1892). The typical workday in 1890 was 10 hours 6 days a week; for farmers, the 7th day was only shortened by the amount of time it took to drive the surrey to church. And as for an increased openness to doing new things, there were newspaper ads.
As Chris Enss explains in Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier: "The vast acres and the trees and the gold were all there, and the men set about carving their place in the wilderness. By the early 1850s, western adventurers lifted their heads and realized one vital element was missing from the bountiful western territories: women." The Matrimonial News, a San Francisco-based newspaper was dedicated to "promoting honorable matrimonial engagements and true conjugal facilities" for both men and women through advertisements. Published weekly in San Francisco and Kansas City, Mo, gentlemen's ads under forty words were published for twenty-five cents in stamps or postage; ladies' ads under forty words were published free. Anything over forty words cost either sex a cent a word.
Ads were fairly progressive conversation for the time. The letters ranged from fun a flirty to down to business: "I am fat, fair and 48. 5 feet high. I'm a No. 1 lady, well-fixed with no encumbrance; I am in business in the city but want a partner who lives in the West. Want an energetic man that has some means, not under 40 years of age, and weight not less than 180. Of good habits. A Christian man preferred."
The point that Mr. Blatt failed to mention, but that his survey clearly pointed out, is that 77% of us still meet and establish relationships through personal introductions, though work or church. The scarcity of women in the West in the 1800s and rapidly-changing times challenged traditional-thinking men and women to find new ways to secure a mate. Sometimes the relationships failed. Most of the time they endured.
I don't know how Thurman and Julia met, but they worked together to build a home, a farm and a life together. It's not the way you meet your partner that ensures longevity. Respect. Common interests, common goals, joy and the affirmation that you're both taking the journey together seems to be the key.
A newspaper article in the local newspaper written by Ms. George Scott around 1930 reads:
"The quaint little city of Orrick and community has many places and people of interest...if you were to travel west of town for four miles you would find one place of great interest. There a west road loses itself behind a screen of maple trees, flowers, paw paw bushes, honeysuckles and sumac. There a wife, modest and unassuming, and farmer with his hospitality dwell. Their home is know as the Riverside Home... Upon approaching the home one is attracted by the inscription on the cement walk: If you can't smile don't come in.
As one enters the house, a moto upon the wall bears these words: "I'm satisified, My little home is poor and plain, No tapestries are there. No marble statues grace it and no clock is on the stair. But I've a little plot of ground, we labor in each day. So thankful for the growth and yield, we often stop to pray. A tree nearby gives gracious shade and God is there to guide; My little home is plain and poor, but we are satisfied."