Marcia A. Zug’s 2016 publication, Buying a Bride (New York University Press) is a timely narrative of the history of mail-order brides, from colonial days in the Americas (French and English) through the growth and westward migration of the United States, and into contemporary times. The nonfiction work is an easy read, informative, amusing, enlightening, and draws heavily from original sources. Ever wondered about the TRUTH behind mail-order brides–whether in today’s news, as a setting for favorite Old West Romances, or even pre-Revolutionary War? This five-star nonfiction book is for you!
Judge John H. Arbuckle promised divorces to unsuspecting men duped by mail-order brides from the East who padded their limbs, hips, bosoms or employed false hair or used cosmetic paints. Such elements of beauty were common in the Victorian American Era, at least among the wealthy. It must have been common enough among disillusioned bridegrooms for the Judge to rule (April 3, 1873) that “marriages into which a man is seduced by the use of (his list of offenses like makeup and padded breasts) without the man’s knowledge, shall stand null and void if he so desires”. Victorian ladies were guilty of nothing today’s generation hasn’t done. But just what padding devices and cosmetics were readily available in the early 1870’s?