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

February 26, 2017

Please join the Lillian Goldman Law Library and Yale Law Women for a discussion with Marcia A. Zug ’04 about her new book, Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches. Commentary will be provided by Ian Ayres ’86. The event is on Monday, February 27, 2017, 6:10 - 7:00 pm, SLB 122.

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 1620, mail-order marriage has enabled women to improve their marital prospects as well as their legal, political, and social freedoms. Buying A Bride uncovers this history and shows us how mail-order marriage empowers women. It should, Zug concludes, be protected and even encouraged.

Marcia A. Zug ’04 is a Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina where she teaches Family Law and Federal Indian Law.

Ian Ayres ’86 is the William K. Townsend Professor of Law at Yale Law School; he is also a Professor in Yale’s School of Management.

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