Before Match.com and Tinder, there were mail-order brides. A mail-order bride is a woman who lists herself in catalogs and is selected by a man for marriage. In nineteenth-century America, mail-order brides came from well-developed areas on the Eastern seaboard to marry men in Western frontier lands.

In the twentieth century, the trend was towards women living in developing countries seeking men in more developed nations. In the twenty-first century, the trend is now based primarily on internet-based meeting places which do not per se qualify as mail-order bride services.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union large numbers of eastern European women have advertised themselves in such a way, primarily from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. Men who list themselves in such publications are referred to as "mail-order husbands," although this is much less common.

Many mail-order brides come from developing countries in Asia. The countries the women come from are faced with unemployment, malnutrition and inflation. Those who marry foreign men tend to be better-educated than most women from their country or their husbands. However, economic factors are not the only driving factor for women in Asia to enter the mail-order industry. Filipina women often entered the mail-order industry in the hope of marrying abroad, and then sponsoring their family for immigration. In some cases women were recruited based on their physical appearance, with an emphasis placed on youth and virginity. This is found among boutique agencies, most of which cater to wealthy men from other Asian nations.

 

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