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Lonely Colonist Seeks Wife: Rediscovering the History of America’s First Mail-Order Brides by Marcia Zug

Duration: 
(01:02:27)

On March 2, Marcia Zug delivered a Banner Lecture entitled “Lonely Colonist Seeks Wife: Rediscovering the History of America’s First Mail-Order Brides.”

Today, mail-order brides are usually assumed to be desperate and exploited women. However, the history of the Jamestown mail-order brides casts doubt on this belief. Life in the early American colonies was difficult, but one of the biggest threats was actually the absence of marriageable women. As a result, marital immigration was seen as crucial to the Virginia colony’s success. Potential female immigrants were wooed with numerous financial and legal incentives and these benefits made mail-order marriage an attractive option for some seventeenth century women. Interestingly, modern mail-order marriages may not be so different. Four centuries later, many things have changed, but mail-order marriages continue to offer women the possibility of a better future.

Marcia Zug is an associate professor of law at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Marriage.