Buying a Bride: The Complicated History of Mail-Order Brides and Grooms in California History

Thursday, February 9, 2017 6:00PM

<em>Buying a Bride</em>: The Complicated History of Mail-Order Brides and Grooms in California History
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Join us for this engaging presentation and book talk

Marcia Zug’s Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches is the first book-length treatment of the history of mail-order marriage, and it makes a powerful case for the reexamination of a practice that remains poorly understood. Mail-order brides have been part of American life since the founding of the first English colony in Jamestown, Virginia. Nevertheless, how they have been perceived has changed drastically over time. There were “Tobacco Wives,” in colonial Virginia, mail-order brides during the California gold rush, Japanese picture brides during the early twentieth century, and even same-sex mail-order grooms today.

Examining centuries of mail-order marriages, Buying A Bride explores the advantages and disadvantages of these relationships and investigates why this form of courtship has proven so enduring. More specifically, the book asks why the practice of mail-order marriage changed from a respected institution into a threatening one and whether this widespread perception is justified. In particular, this talk contrasts the treatment of the gold rush mail-order brides, who were welcomed and encouraged, with that of the Japanese picture brides, whose arrival on the West Coasthalf a century later was greeted with anger and hostility.

Today, it is a common misperception that women turn to marital immigration only as a desperate last resort. However, the reality is that most mail order brides are enticed rather than coerced. Buying A Bride uncovers this history and makes a compelling argument that mail-order marriage empowers women and that it should be protected and possibly even encouraged.

Marcia Zug is an Associate Professor of law at the University of South Carolina. She specializes in family law, immigration law and Federal Indian Law. She is the author of Buying A Bride: An Engaging History of mail-Order Matches

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Learn more about the book at:

The Atlantic


The New Yorker