COHFA | Writing Your Obsessions: Poetry and Research

Title

"Wives Wanted": The Progression of the Mail Order Bride Industry

Presenter Information

Hallie BeardFollow

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

Creative Writing

Minor

None

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Dr. Carrie Jerrell

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

In the early days of the Wild West, when camps of frontiersmen struggled to make homes from the ground up, the dutiful wife was as high in demand as the gold for which men mined and searched. Lonely settlers might advertise their needs—perhaps a “nice little cooing dove [who is] willing to work in flour”—in the hopes of finding a fertile bride with an affinity for domestic work. Bachelorettes, in turn, often advertised themselves in “matrimonial news” outlets, describing their qualities as product dimensions: size, weight, color, abilities, and price.

The American mail order bride industry dates back to 1619, in Jamestown, VA—then, the service was a necessary means for reproduction. Today, however, we no longer face the imbalance of sexes our colonial ancestors did, and no American feels governmental pressure to populate new land. Yet, a simple Google search proves the mail order bride is still in high demand, though she is no longer respected by the general population as an upper-class necessity.

In my presentation—which will cover history of the American bride and current “International shipping” in America while incorporating original poems—I’ll explore how the lines between service and slavery, between prestige and shame, blur in the industry. Many contemporary mail order brides from Latin America and East Asia use marriage as a method of escaping impoverished or war-torn areas, but do we view these refugees with sympathy or disdain? Is it possible the industry can coexist with progressive ideals of gender equality, or is the service only a form of trafficking, of human ownership? In dissecting human desire and loneliness, I’m interested in the points where policy and intimacy collide.

Affiliations

OTHER Affiliation

Other Affiliations

ENG 416/561

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 

"Wives Wanted": The Progression of the Mail Order Bride Industry

In the early days of the Wild West, when camps of frontiersmen struggled to make homes from the ground up, the dutiful wife was as high in demand as the gold for which men mined and searched. Lonely settlers might advertise their needs—perhaps a “nice little cooing dove [who is] willing to work in flour”—in the hopes of finding a fertile bride with an affinity for domestic work. Bachelorettes, in turn, often advertised themselves in “matrimonial news” outlets, describing their qualities as product dimensions: size, weight, color, abilities, and price.

The American mail order bride industry dates back to 1619, in Jamestown, VA—then, the service was a necessary means for reproduction. Today, however, we no longer face the imbalance of sexes our colonial ancestors did, and no American feels governmental pressure to populate new land. Yet, a simple Google search proves the mail order bride is still in high demand, though she is no longer respected by the general population as an upper-class necessity.

In my presentation—which will cover history of the American bride and current “International shipping” in America while incorporating original poems—I’ll explore how the lines between service and slavery, between prestige and shame, blur in the industry. Many contemporary mail order brides from Latin America and East Asia use marriage as a method of escaping impoverished or war-torn areas, but do we view these refugees with sympathy or disdain? Is it possible the industry can coexist with progressive ideals of gender equality, or is the service only a form of trafficking, of human ownership? In dissecting human desire and loneliness, I’m interested in the points where policy and intimacy collide.