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Image of two gold wedding bands  ARCHIVED - I Do: Love and Marriage in 19th Century Canada

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Love of a Stranger

Illustration with no title, CANADIAN ILLUSTRATED NEWS. September 6, 1879. Vol. 20, No. 10, p. 160. Record 3527

Untitled, Canadian Illustrated News. September 6, 1879. Vol. 20, No. 10, p. 160. Record 3527

Most young people married those within their own social circle, or at least people connected to it. A young woman might get to know the brother of her school friend. A female cousin, visiting for a few weeks, might catch a young man's eye.

An intelligent and cultivated Englishwoman, Mary Gapper, was already 30 when she and her widowed mother came to Canada to visit her two brothers. Retired British army officers on half pay, they had settled north of Toronto. Mary had given up on marriage. She planned instead to settle down with her sister and brother-in-law and help to raise their children (Ward, 82-83).

Mary was by no means husband-hunting, but she caught the attention of Edward O'Brien, another retired officer and a friend of one of her brothers. He proposed; she dithered, troubled by her promise to help her sister. In the end, her sister released her from her promise and Mary married Edward (Ward, 128).

More Love Messages

Letter from Patrick Ferguson to Miss [Mary] Burke, Castleblakeney, Ireland. Nov. 28, 1852. Page one

Letter from Patrick Ferguson to Miss [Mary] Burke, Castleblakeney, Ireland. Nov. 28, 1852. Page 2


Letter from Patrick Ferguson to Miss [Mary] Burke, Castleblakeney, Ireland. Nov. 28, 1852. Two pages

"It costs me something," she wrote to her sister, "to give up my independence, my power of motion, my hermitage, my philosophizing life…" But "I am more and more contented to make these sacrifices from the certainty that I should receive in return the possession of a heart capable of entering into all my views & feelings & attached to me with an affection so exactly suited to my own humour that I sometimes almost fancy that I must myself have dictated it…" She had found the sense of unity, common goals and genuine intimacy of which she had given up all hope (Ward, 158).