Picture bride

The term picture bride refers to the practice in the early 20th Century of immigrant workers (chiefly Japanese and Korean) in Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States selecting brides from their native countries via a matchmaker, who paired bride and groom using only photographs and family recommendations of the possible candidates. This is an abbreviated form of the traditional matchmaking process, and is similar in a number of ways to the concept of the mail-order bride.

Korean Picture Brides: Historical Context

In 1903, the first Korean immigrants to United States territories arrived in Hawaii aboard the SS Gaelic. The SS Gaelic departed from Nagasaki, Japan, on December 29, 1902 and arrived in port at Honolulu on January 13, 1903. The SS Gaelic carried 102 Korean laborers. A letter by American passenger aboard the SS Gaelic David Deschler to the secretary of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association notes that there are "2 Interpreters... 54 Male Laborers... 21 Women (wives of above)... 12 Children (half fares)... 1 Child (quarter fare)... 12 Babies (free)... Total 102 persons." The U.S. Senate's Statistical Review of Immigration 1820-1910 reports an estimated 7,291 Koreans coming to the U.S., the overwhelming majority of whom were male, in their mid-30's or significantly younger, and thus were mostly single men of working age. Many of the jobs these laborers took were in agriculture-- working on plantations and the like, particularly with sugar cane.

By 1916, the reports were that about 5,000 Koreans remained in Hawaii, about 4/5 of whom were male. Only about 300 were professionals or students.

With a disproportionately single, male, and aging Korean immigrant community, demand rose sharply for Korean wives in Hawaii. A cursory examination of Hawaiian passports issued to Koreans from 1910-1924 immediately reveals that the newest immigrants were overwhelmingly in their mid-30's or younger and female. To qualify for a Hawaiian passport, hopefuls needed to list their relation to someone already living in Hawaii. The majority of applicants claimed their relationship as "wife" to a Hawaiian resident. Some 1,300 passports for Koreans wishing to travel to Hawaii during this time period were distributed, but only an estimated 859 arrived at the islands.

Many of these "wives" coming about a decade after the first Korean immigrants came to Hawaii were "Picture Brides." A great majority were also prostitutes who would be sexually abused and then dismissed. Immigrant workers sent their photographs to a matchmaker in Korea, who then matched his photo with a photo of a young woman. The woman's family and matchmaker would work together to select a suitable mate, and the bride-to-be would be sent to Hawaii with a legally binding contract to her new husband once she landed on Hawaiian soil. Because many of the immigrant workers hadn't had photos taken of themselves since their immigration to Hawaii, and photographs were quite expensive, many immigrant men sent Korean matchmakers "false" or out-of-date photos, thus making the grooms appear to be much younger than they actually were. The picture brides, upon arriving to Hawaii and discovering this deceit, had no way of backing out of their contracts.

Historians consider the immigration up until 1924 to be the "grace period" for Asian immigrants, as it was in this year that the U.S. government passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which essentially made U.S. citizenship and property ownership a difficult if not impossible goal for Asian immigrant-hopefuls. Thus, the picture bride phenomenon's relationship to the early years of Korean immigration may be said to end at roughly this time.

(Note that the above numbers and statistics, unless stated otherwise, apply specifically to Koreans and picture brides in Hawaii, and not necessarily the continental United States, where the picture bride practice also existed in immigrant communities of several different nations of origin.)

The Picture Bride Topic in Modern Media

In 1987, a novel titled Picture Bride was written by Yoshiko Uchida, and tells the story of a fictional Japanese woman named Hana Omiya, a picture bride sent to live with her new husband in San Francisco in 1917. The novel also focuses on her experiences in a Japanese internment camp in 1943.

In 1994, a movie called Picture Bride (film) (unrelated to Uchida's novel) was made by Hawaii-born director Kayo Hatta and starred Youki Kudoh in the title role. The film tells the story of Riyo, a Japanese woman whose photograph exchange with a plantation worker leads her to Hawaii.

A 2003 Korean language book entitled Sajin Sinbu (Korean for "Picture Bride"), compiled by Park Nam Soo, provides a thorough Korean/Korean-American cultural approach to the topic, providing a historical overview of the picture bride phenomenon in the Korean context, as well as related poetry, short stories, essays, and critical essays written by various Korean/Korean-American authors. The book was compiled for the Korean centennial, marking the one-hundred year anniversary of the first known arrival of Korean immigrants to U.S. territory in 1903 aboard the SS Gaelic.

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This article is based on "Picture bride" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Picture+bride&action=history