culture Here's Everything You've Been Too Afraid To Ask About Mail Order Brides  

Cheryl Adams Richkoff
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The phrase "mail-order bride" conjures images of black-and-white photographs of stern couples marrying for convenience. The practice has its origins in the American Wild West, when male settlers, cowboys, and prospectors required not just female company, but loyal wives. Men would arrange for a woman to join him out West – sight unseen in many cases – where they would marry and start a family. Times have changed quite a bit since then, but do mail-order brides still exist?

The concept may seem archaic and sexist in modern culture, but real-life mail-order brides are absolutely still around, thanks in large part to Internet dating sites. There are many facts about mail-order brides that will surprise and shock, and since the practice continues to grow around the world, it's worth learning more about what it means to be a mail-order bride or marry one.

Despite all the problems that can happen with mail-order marriages, plenty of success stories offer hope to would-be mail-order brides and their prospective partners. Whether you're intrigued or repulsed by the notion of this type of marriage, it seems to be here to stay.

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The Term Is Problematic


Reputable marriage brokers and dating sites don't care for the term "mail-order bride"; it bears connotations of men picking women out of a catalog like they would a new microwave. Today, many prefer terms like "international matchmmaking," or "pen-pal relationship."

The expression "mail-order bride" dates back to the days of the American frontier, when men would often place ads in newspapers looking for romantic partners to make the journey out west. They would correspond with women who responded, and propose marriage via letter.

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Women Were Needed To Tame The Wild West


In the days of cowboys and the Wild West, the disparity between the male and female population was enormous. It didn't take long for men to realize that not only were women needed for their personal comfort, but also to help them tame the rough nature of the west. Without women to reproduce and add some semblance of civilization, there was little reason to build schools, churches, or many other buildings and institutions that would have been mainstays in the more developed areas of the United States. 

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Sometimes Their Letters Were Like Early Sexting


What with the distance between them and the future of their relationship weighing in the balance, the communication between a man out west and a woman back east could become pretty serious. Not only were the conversations liable to wander into distinctly blue territory, but pictures would often be included in with the letters, some of which could be far more provocative than others. 

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Asian Picture Brides Were Another Sort Of Mail Order Brides


Men heading west weren't the only ones in need of a bride - in fact, a large industry opened up around Asian immigrants looking for brides back home, who became known as "picture brides". These marriages were orchestrated by matchmakers who would use photos of the intended couple and family recommendations to create matches.