Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches
The notion of “ordering” a bride has been prevalent since ancient times. The methods of acquiring a bride have evolved as technology has progressed; however, virtually all cultures and as far back as written records allow, couples who have known each other for only a few days (or not at all) have been bonded through marriage. In pre-modern times the underlying reason for “exporting” brides was to provide “our men with respectable women…so they don’t fall victim to the seductive charms of those vile temptresses.” Essentially the rational was to maintain ethnic and religious homogeneity. Today the reasons are very different – hence the shift of contemporary views towards mail-order brides.
This book looks exclusively at mail-order brides in America. It focuses not only on the reasons why men would subscribe to the services of mail-order brides, but also why the women would want to take advantage of this service. Of course the service providers have powerful economic incentives for fulfilling their role. Relevant objective data on mail-order brides is difficult to obtain primarily because there has been little academic interest in studying this industry, its players, and its place in society. However an exploration of the scant data available provides a mixed picture (as seen by other studies on the same topic).
This book takes a more positive position on the practice of mail-order brides, and seems to advocate that we view the industry with less scorn. One may argue that selectively discounting certain portions of the available data, this conclusion can be reached. However the lack of data makes that judgement too harsh. The real advantage of this book is that it focuses on an area that most of us do not stop to explore in greater depth, and that exploration leads one to see the more nuanced faces of the issue – regardless of the differences in perspectives that readers may have.
Marcia A. Zug