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Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of…

Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches

by Marcia A. Zug

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Well researched and succinct. I truly enjoyed reading the history provided by the author from the Jameston brides, the filles de roi versus the filles de joie, the contrast between the early Canadian immigration versus the Louisiana immigration, etc... I liked the author's ability to highlight memorable bits of history, from early marriage ad jokes to the serial murderer who poisoned his last wife with arsenic, and pointing out a marriage tax as an incentive to have unofficial or "fleet" marriages. I also liked how the author paints the economic and political background of the period in which the waves of the brides come - extremely critical in understanding the mixed reactions over history and current general suspicion of them. Gender and racial biases clearly impact this history as well. I also like how the author points out that the American notion of romantic marriage is a very recent concept, when viewed over several centuries. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in these issues. ( )
  Dom123 | Oct 2, 2016 |
Zug traces mail-order marriages made by Europeans in North America, first as part of the colonial project/to prevent European men from marrying and becoming loyal to Native American women, and then later to allow American men who feel excluded from the marriage market because of American women’s demands to find women who appreciate what they have to give. She argues that most such marriages are successful, and that, because many of the women who come are well-educated and ambitious, and perceive the most “traditional” of American men as incredibly progressive compared to Russian or Korean etc. men, prejudices against mail-order marriage are bad. Though the participants in today’s versions say they’re not feminists, Zug thinks that’s really code for “not feeling like winners in today’s economy,” as if those are mutually exclusive things.

It is indeed an engaging history, but also frustrating. Questions that, if grappled with, could have made this project better: Does the fact that individual women have really good reasons to do a thing make that thing feminist? If foreign brides are a good way to deal with “unmarriageable” American men, what happens to the now-more-disproportionately-male society they have left? Does the racist history of mail-order bride programs, in which women were imported in order to preserve racial purity so that European men wouldn’t intermarry with Native Americans, have any analog in today’s attempts by mail-order brides and bride-seekers to preserve gender distinctions? Did the successes of those mail-order European brides come at the expense of native women (in some specific cases where native wives and children were cast off, the answer is clearly yes), and would something else have changed in those societies had mail-order brides not relieved some of the pressure? ( )
  rivkat | Apr 4, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814771815, Hardcover)

There have always been mail-order brides in America—but we haven’t always thought about them in the same ways. In Buying a Bride, Marcia A. Zug starts with the so-called “Tobacco Wives” of the Jamestown colony and moves all the way forward to today’s modern same-sex mail-order grooms to explore the advantages and disadvantages of mail-order marriage. It’s a history of deception, physical abuse, and failed unions. It’s also the story of how mail-order marriage can offer women surprising and empowering opportunities.
Drawing on a forgotten trove of colorful mail-order marriage court cases, Zug explores the many troubling legal issues that arise in mail-order marriage: domestic abuse and murder, breach of contract, fraud (especially relating to immigration), and human trafficking and prostitution. She tells the story of how mail-order marriage lost the benign reputation it enjoyed in the Civil War era to become more and more reviled over time, and she argues compellingly that it does not entirely deserve its current reputation. While it is a common misperception that women turn to mail-order marriage as a desperate last resort, most mail-order brides are enticed rather than coerced. Since the first mail-order brides arrived on American shores in 1619, mail-order marriage has enabled women to improve both their marital prospects and their legal, political, and social freedoms. Buying A Bride uncovers this history and shows us how mail-order marriage empowers women and should be protected and even encouraged.  

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 07 Apr 2016 00:56:33 -0400)

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