So there I was on the plane, presumably a macho gun guy, reading what was obviously a romance novel.

Fortunately, no one cared.

If someone had commented, I would have answered, “Excuse me? I’m reading historical fiction, thank you very much!”

The book was “16 Brides” by Stephanie Grace Whitson. She is married to my friend Dan Higgins, with whom I had just spent five days at Nebraska Shooters teaching a MAG-40 class on judicious use of defensive deadly force and “combat handgun” shooting.  Dan has an extensive background teaching hand-to-hand as well as armed force in the law enforcement/corrections sector, and “historical fiction” is how he described his wife’s twenty-some novels.  I think he got it right.

Stephanie Grace Whitson lives in Nebraska, where “16 Brides” is set, but travels all over doing intensive historical archive research for background.  This particular book details the actual phenomenon of post-Civil War widows traveling to the Midwest to meet single male immigrants who had come to the United States to take advantage of free homestead land.  While there was indeed a “mail order bride” sort of thing going on, the land give-away also attracted a number of lone women ready to make their way by themselves in what was definitely a “man’s world” at the time.

The characterizations and construction of relationships are well done, and are not in the “bodice-ripper” genre.  The plotline finds multiple cases of women using guns as equalizers against aggressive males, and true to her reputation for painstaking research Ms. Whitson gets the gun stuff right.

There’s certainly some romance in there, but “16 Brides” is really about women’s empowerment in a profoundly male-dominated era in American history.  Good reading, and recommended.


  1. “God made men and women equal, and Smith and Wesson ensures the fact” is one of my wife’s favorite sayings…. I have never understood why many (most?) so-called ‘feminists’ who are all about ’empowering women’ take a pro-gun control stance…

    • twisted values, and swallowing far too many “politically correct” lies.
      I will never fofget watching the video intreview of a young woman who had been raped in a multi-story car oark innear Reno. Her lawfully possessed handgun was, per law at the time, locked inside of her car, VERY “helpful” for her defence. The perp KNEW she could not have been armed, and procedded with his attack. Her testimony in I think it ws the Nevada legislature okeadung fir the open RIGHT ti keep and bear arms in public was very powerful.

      • Yep, NV legislature. The law here allows the University System to nullify concealed carry permits. Still does. Her testimony was futile. She did had an impact in CO for a while. Bill to let Universities ban guns went down when a leftist state senator insulted her during her testimony. Blame the victim stuff. Bill lost, senator was run out of town. Now, of course, all that has been undone by the new regime and not only universities but local governments including special districts can do their own bans. CO essentially repealed preemption.

    • Tom in NC,

      I can’t prove this, but it may be that feminism was never about empowering women. It may be it was about weakening the building block of society, which is the family. Who would want to weaken American society? Communists. If you want to take over a country, first weaken it, by pitting black against white, female against male, rich against poor, young against old, Right against Left, immigrants against native-born, white collar against blue collar, city slickers against country folks. Maybe the leading feminists were not really feminists, but Communists. Or, maybe they were both.

      When I read about Gloria Steinem’s childhood, I understand why she became a feminist. Her father deserted the family.

      Look at the world. If women are going to rebel against their roles in life, where would this occur? Would it occur in the West, where women can dress the way they want, initiate a divorce, work outside the home, vote and drive cars? Or, would it occur in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia, where women dress modestly, can’t vote, can’t work outside the home, can’t initiate a divorce, and only recently got driving privileges? It makes no sense that the women who already have everything rebelled, and the truly oppressed women remained obedient. It makes no sense unless Communists convinced the un-oppressed that they were really the oppressed.

      Today in America women have more rights than men. They have 100% control over whether their pre-born children live or die. The fathers have 0% control over that. In a divorce, the legal system awards women more than men are awarded. Women can falsely accuse men of sexual harassment and, if the women are believed, the men will lose their jobs, and maybe their freedom. Can a man get a company to fire a woman by accusing her of sexual harassment?

      In Afghanistan, men rule. In America, women rule, even if it is often behind-the-scenes.

      I am not anti-women but I am anti-Communist. I am against anything which weakens the American family. The family is the building block of the nation. Freedom is great if we use it to make wise choices. Freedom is destructive if we use it to make bad choices.

      • @ Roger Willco – “I can’t prove this, but it may be that feminism was never about empowering women.”

        You make some good points in your comments above. However, it may be going a bit too far to imply that modern feminism is nothing more than a Communist plot.

        Rather, you need to keep in mind the worldview (or belief) that underpins all left-wing thought. It underpins all varieties (socialism, communism, modern feminism, reverse racism, firearms-prohibition, globalism, etc.) of such thinking. It is the basic, but totally flawed, idea that all human are inherently GOOD. That all humans are born as good “clean slates” and that it is our flawed world and social environment that warps people into becoming bad.

        What shapes such flawed and erroneous worldviews? It is an area that deserves serious study but is one in which the left-wing “Universities” of “Higher Learning” will NEVER invest. Being left-wing in general thinking themselves, they cannot even see that there is a problem here worthy of study. Of course, if one is incapable of even seeing or acknowledging a problem then one has “no chance” of ever studying it or fixing it.

        My own view is that genetics and one’s early childhood experiences tend to shape one’s ultimate worldviews. These congeal, in early adulthood, into one’s ultimate political worldview. If one leads a “sheltered childhood” then one can easily come to believe, at a subconscious level, that all humans are inherently GOOD. Once that first paving stone is laid, then one’s feet start to tread the road to the hell of left-wing ideology.

        Have you noticed that females tend toward “left-wing” thinking? That the woman’s vote often tends to favor left-wing candidates? It may be possible that girls, who tend to be sheltered more than boys in childhood, grow up with a statistical bias toward flawed left-wing thinking.

        You say that Gloria Steinem’s father deserted the family when she was young. That experience, combined with an otherwise sheltered childhood as a girl, could well set the foundation for a left-wing worldview. A worldview that was pointed in the direction of the left-wing ideological variant of modern feminism due to her father’s behavior.

        The Good Book says:

        Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

        We tend to view this verse in terms of “active” or “deliberate” training. However, it may be that the general environment provided to the child also acts as a form of “passive” training. To overly shelter a child from the realities of the world and of human nature, as is often done for female children and which the “Baby Boomers” did to the the entire set of their offspring, may have disastrous consequences. It may pre-program an entire generation to be fertile fodder for left-wing ideologues to indoctrinate and exploit.

        American is now reaping the bitter fruit from the seeds which the baby boomer generation sowed decades ago.

      • TN_MAN,

        You mentioned a “sheltered life.” All of America is one, big bubble. There is no hunger here. “Poor” people have air conditioning, a used car and basic cable. We push buttons for everything.

        Liberalism would wilt if America ever experienced really tough times. This pandemic is bad, but not that bad. It is not as bad as a famine, a war on our own home turf, or the plagues of the past. Who would care about Leftist causes if they did not have access to food and clean drinking water? Liberalism can only exist as a parasite on wealth.

  2. I am very comfortable with my femininity. Loved having a husband do all the gentlemanly things for me. I also loved out shooting him at the range!

  3. Maybe one day, Follywood or some Italian producer will make a (spaghetti?) western about a “woman with no name” who wears a black hat and brown serape, and smokes a stubby cigar while blowing away bad guys/gals with her trusty 20 shot Peacemaker.

      • Also there is the 1971 western “Hannie Caulder” starring the ultra-lovely Raquel Welch. Raquel’s movie predates Sharon Stone’s (1995) film by more than 20 years. Furthermore, while Sharon Stone is also gorgeous, she does not (IMHO) outshine Raquel Welch (in her prime) either for acting nor for beauty! 🙂

    • TomDCVI,

      Believe it or not, there were at least five female pirates in history; Cheng I Sao, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Grace O’Malley and Rachel Wall.

    • Thanks for the comments guys. I have watched both Hannie Caulder (I have the DVD) and The Quick and The Dead. I also have the older 1987 The Quick and The Dead starring Sam Elliott and the beautiful Kate Capshaw (Mrs. Spielberg). Raquel Welch was gorgeous in her prime and another good western she starred in was Bandolero, although she didn’t do any shooting in that 1968 movie. I can’t decide if Raquel or Kate had the better booty, so I’ll take both 🙂

      • Hannie Caulder is an interesting movie. Quentin Tarantino has said that it influenced “Kill Bill” and one can see the plot parallels.

        For example, Hannie’s motivation is revenge. It is the same motivation for “The Bride” in “Kill Bill”. Hannie finds an expert who mentors her and teaches her gunfighting skills. “The Bride” also finds an expert, a Chinese Master, who teaches her martial arts. A skilled gunsmith forges and makes a personal revolver for Hannie to use in seeking her revenge. “The Bride” finds a master swordsmith who forges a Katana for her revenge. In the end, both Hannie and “The Bride” obtain their revenge but at a cost.

        While Hannie Caulder is not a “Spaghetti Western”, it is still not an American film. It is actually a British production (A “Tea and Crumpet” Western? 🙂 ) and was filmed in Spain.

        This may explain the use of some “British” revolvers in this movie. Hannie’s custom revolver is actually a “Tranter Self-Cocking” revolver. Tranter was, of course, a British gunmaker. One of the handguns carried by her mentor, Tom Price (played by Robert Culp) is a British Adams revolver.

        Anyway, Hannie Caulder “broke new ground” in several different ways. It was not your typical “Follywood” western.

      • I watched Hannie Caulder mainly because of Raquel Welch who was my most lusted for actress since I first saw her in One Million Years B.C. at the Sanders Theater in Brooklyn, NYC. R.W. remained #1 with me until I saw one of the Mitzi Gaynor annual TV specials in the 1970’s. Raquel who I consider several times hotter than Marilyn Monroe is still #2 with me.

        The Robert Culp character in Hannie Caulder was smart to carry two revolvers on him as his primary piece may be hard to draw when sitting down. Another watchable R.W. western is 100 Rifles which isn’t one of her better films, but it’s OK. My favorite R.W. movies are Fathom and Flare Up.

  4. Mas,

    It’s OK to read romance novels once in a while. When I was younger, to try to understand how women think, I watched soap operas, read women’s magazines and even one romance novel. I noticed the magazines always have articles about the following topics; diet, fashion, relationships, celebrities and romance. There may be some financial articles, too. Probably, men and women want the same thing, which is MORE! ; )

  5. Think about it.

    All of the dope-smoking, have sex in the mud at Woodstock, not bathing because bathing is for squares hippies are now running the country. The Bill and Hillary Clintons. The Bill Ayers. They’re all sixties rejects, and they hold positions of power.

    No wonder we’re in a mess.

    • Mark Sams,

      Of course you are right. I heard a saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” I think that means parenting is important. Another thing that is important is voting intelligently.

      Curtis Sliwa is running for mayor of NYC. In my view, Curtis is a demigod, just as our Founding Fathers were. Watch the idiots of NYC not vote for him. Didn’t Dave Duffy write a book, “Can America be Saved from Stupid People?” Apparently not. Apparently we are bound to commit suicide like Abraham Lincoln predicted. Oh well. What goes up, must come down.

  6. Mark Sams,

    Of course you are right. I heard a saying, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” I think that means parenting is important. Another thing that is important is voting intelligently.

    Curtis Sliwa is running for mayor of NYC. In my view, Curtis is a demigod, just as our Founding Fathers were. Watch the idiots of NYC not vote for him. Didn’t Dave Duffy write a book, “Can America be Saved from Stupid People?” Apparently not. Apparently we are bound to commit suicide like Abraham Lincoln predicted. Oh well. What goes up, must come down.

  7. This tough-guy just ordered a copy. My maternal ancestors were abolishinists and farmers and the women got things done when the men were away or died. I can’t find myself attracted to a woman who cant handle herself. I don’t understand it when i see a young couple that goes unarmed. Now my paternal family were all fascists that fled here when their governments went nuts in ww2 yet still vote and behave the same way & raised dysfunctional families. I was fortunate to have my maternal family for their example, although the opioid epidemic wiped them out and dispersed them. We can learn much from these pioneers, especially about austerity. But the main lesson i learned from both my polar opposite families was that you will be abused and victimized if you go unarmed and dependent on others. Historical fiction, or maybe factual? Thanks for sharing the book, perhaps it’ll remind me of my ancestors that came from that time and give us all a bit of inspiration in these uncertain times.

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