ringsHistory of Mail-Order Brides
The practice of meeting one's spouse by long-distance means is not new to North America, it having
played an instrumental role in the
 settlement of the United States and Canada. For instance, the
Gentleman's Agreement of 1907-1908 was an agreement between the United States and Japan intended
to stop further immigration by Korean and Japanese laborers, but provided that wives and children could
join their Korean and Japanese husbands already domiciled in the United States.

As a result of anti-interracial marriage laws, Korean and Japanese men had no alternative but to seek
marriage through a "picture bride" system. The "picture bride" system refers to the practice of exchanging
photographs between prospective spouses prior to their meeting.

Picture bride marriages in Japan were traditionally arranged through village matchmakers upon approval by the groom's family. At the turn of the twentieth century, Korean and Japanese picture brides arrived in the United States to join their husbands. The picture bride system helped these immigrant communities to grow. For example, in 1910, there were only approximately 4,500 American-born children of Japanese ancestry; by 1920, the number had jumped to 30,000, and, by 1930, the number stood at 68,000.

Men seeking women through today’s mail-order bride system, however, do not face the same challenges of population extinction as did men from early immigrant groups. The means by which a prospective groom can find a foreign bride today have changed dramatically since the era of the picture bride.

ringsThe Mail-Order Bride Transaction Today

Once a woman decides to seek marriage to a foreigner, she must provide international matchmaking agencies or dating websites with photos, physical measurements, personal information, and a description of what she seeks in a husband. The companies then publish web pages filled with information on hundreds, or even thousands, of women.

Some companies sell their catalogs of potential brides for subscription fees. Others, particularly those based on the Internet, charge customers based on the number of women they wish to contact, often offering bulk rate discounts for customers who select numerous women. Average prices range from five to ten dollars per woman for an address. The customers are free to correspond with the women whose addresses they have purchased as they choose. Some agencies offer sample letters and letter writing tips to help their consumers win the hearts of the women they have chosen.  These businesses can be very lucrative.  Bob Burrows, president of Cherry Blossoms, reports that his agency serves over 1,000 men per month who pay up to $200 each.

However, communication and information flow between individuals in different nations who have yet to meet presents those seeking an international relationship with a problem. This is where the mail-order bride companies enter the picture. These companies step in to provide parties with information so that they can find a person to marry. Thus, men in the United States can meet (either in person if he travels abroad or by mail) women in other countries.

The sale of potential brides’ contact information is the front line of the industry, but the big money makers for companies are “bridal tours” to the native countries of these women. Companies that do not have the capability to offer these tours often have a relationship with a travel agency that will bring the men to these countries.  The men can meet the women with whom they have developed pen-pal relationships, as well as be introduced to hundreds of other women. 

Examples of Mail-Order Bride Services

a.  International Match-Making Organizations


        When it was founded in 1974, it was the only international match-making organization.



b.  Internet Dating Websites



c.  Social Networking Sites

        i.  Facebook

        ii. MySpace

d.  E-mail "Pen-Pal" Clubs



- Cherry Blossoms, (“Call today to speak to one of our visa service professionals. We are eager to answer your immigration questions.”).
- Donna M. Hughes, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women,
Pimps and Predators on the Internet: Globalizing the Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children 6, 47-39, 43-44 (1999).
- Donna M. Hughes, The Internet and Sex Industries: Partners in Global Sexual Exploitation, at
- Immigration and Naturalization Service,
U.S. Dept. of Justice, International Matchmaking Organizations: A Report to Congress [hereinafter INS Report] (explaining that mail-order marriage is “an inseparable part of North American history and the settlement of the United States. As immigrants moved to this country and established permanent homes, relatives in their country of birth arranged marriages with local women--often performing proxy marriages.”)).
- Suzanne H. Jackson, To Honor and Obey: Trafficking in “Mail-Order Brides", 70 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 475, 493 (2002).
- Linda Kelly, Marriage for Sale: The Mail-Order Bride Industry and the Changing Value of Marriage, 5 J. Gender Race & Just. 175, 177-78 (2001).
- Ryiah Lilith, Buying a Wife But Saving a Child: A Deconstruction of Popular Rhetoric and Legal Analysis of Mail-Order Brides and Intercountry Adoptions, 9 Buff. Women’s L. J. 225, 226-27 (2001) (“In the 1990s, Americans spent over $84 million to marry approximately 13,500 Filipina mail-order brides” and “Mail-order bride costs have risen from an estimated $4,000 to $6,000 in 1995 to $10,000 in 1999”).
- Kathryn A. Lloyd,
Wives for Sale: The Modern International Mail-Order Bride Industry, 20 Nw. J. Int’l L. & Bus. 341, 347-49 (2000).
- Tifany E. Markee, A Call for Cultural Understanding in the Creation, Interpretation and Application of Law: Is the United States Meeting the Needs of Russian Immigrant “Mail-Order Brides?”, 31 Cal. W. Int’l L.J. 277, 278-280 (2001).
- Robert J. Scholes,
The “Mail-Order Bride” Industry and Its Impact on U.S. Immigration, Appendix A, 1-2 (stating that men who wish to obtain the mailing addresses of any of the women they would like to contact are charged a fee from $2 to $5 each of the mailing addresses).
- Vanessa B.M. Vergara, Abusive Mail-Order Bride Marriage and the Thirteenth Amendment, 94 Nw.. U. L. Rev. 1547, 1550-1 (2000).

- Mail-Order Brides Costume, Image Source.

- Japanese Picture Bride, Image Source.

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