Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail‐Order Matches. By Marcia A. Zug. New York: New York University Press, 2016.

Published date01 September 2017
Date01 September 2017
Hirschl, Ran (2010) Constitutional Theocracy.Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.
Schonthal, Benjamin & Matthew J. Walton (2016) “The (New) Buddhist Nationalisms?
Symmetries and Specificities in Sri Lanka and Myanmar,”17 Contemporary Buddhism
Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches.By
Marcia A. Zug. New York: New York University Press, 2016.
Reviewed by Ronald C. Den Otter, Department of Political Science,
California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo
A book title with the phrase “buying a bride” implies that men still
purchase women, as if the latter were commodities. Buying a Bride
challenges this conventional wisdom by explaining why marriage,
for immigration purposes, has always been contingent upon multi-
ple factors far beyond the control of the participants. In doing so,
this book articulates the logic of such marriage, particularly from
the standpoint of a female marital immigrant, who believes that she
has more to gain than lose from entering such a legal relationship.
Buying a Bride is about why popular attitudes toward the prac-
tice, ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative, and
our laws and policies towards it, have changed over time. Marcia
Zug organizes her narrative to reflect the fact that initially, mail
order brides were not looked down upon the way that they too
often are today. From the very beginning, such women were not
passive. Rather, they used such marriage to improve their lives,
despite the uncertainty of moving to a new land and the risks of
marrying a stranger. In describing different cases in considerable
detail, the author focuses on something that has been neglected:
the benefits of being a female marital immigrant. In the Jamestown
Colony, such brides could escape the tyranny of coverture in
England (p. 23). Around the same time, in other colonies, they had
more wealth and power than women in England (p. 28). For others,
marital immigration enabled them to leave an unhappy marriage
when divorce was not an option (p. 39). In a marriage market char-
acterized by a low supply and high demand for female marital
immigrants, women had considerably more bargaining power and
used it to their advantage. Some of the women who left France for
Quebec to marry decided to remain single after their arrival (p. 42).
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