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Picture Brides in Hawaii


In the early 1900s many immigrant men were recruited to work on the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii on temporary visas. Rather than intermarry, a match making organization sent pictures of these men home to recruit willing women to be their wives, and to help on the plantations. These were known as the picture brides .

Between the years of 1907 and 1924, more than 20,000 young Korean, Japanese and Okinawan women made the journey to Hawaii to be married in joint wedding ceremonies.


Photography had modernized the arranged-marriage tradition that began with matchmakers or with families who arranged face-to-face meetings to join their youth in matrimony. Now they could introduce prospective couples who lived miles apart or even across the ocean.

However, often pictures of younger and more handsome men were sent in order to make the girls more willing to travel the long distance. When they found they were "tricked into it", the girls often had no way out, since there was no money to pay their long way back home.

Most of the girls came from very poor families and were promised a better life. They were told that in Hawaii they would have freedoms denied them in their home countries. Historically, they were bound to traditions of filial piety (support and care of parents), carrying out sacrifices to ancestors, ensuring male heirs, and other burdens and expectations.

Often they had mass wedding ceremonies held at the dock or in a hotel shortly after the ship's arrival. On average, the men were 15 years older than the brides. Many of the men had put on suits or posed with a car and a nice house to attract the women, but when the women faced reality, they were very disappointed at the crude plantation quarters and sad living conditions.

Most of them did not want their families to know of their misfortunes, so they raised families and taught them traditions instilled in them from their homelands. Many of the picture brides ended up working long hours on the sugar cane plantations. Even though the women did similar jobs to the men on the plantations, they were paid considerably less. Some even strapped their babies on their backs and worked alongside their husbands. Some women left the fields and took in laundry or cooking for bachelors or wealthy families.They did all this to avoid bringing shame on their families back home.

For those picture brides who were abused, disillusioned or could not adjust to their new lifestyle, the Women's Home Mission Society provided temporary shelter as they waited and worked to go back home. Some husbands offered rewards for those that could find and return their pictures brides. Because of many of the problems caused through these practices, the picture bride process took on a negative reputation. It is interesting that it still continues from many countries today.

Woman's Typical Work Day on the Plantation (1910)

4:00 am Women wake to prepare breakfast & lunch 5:00 am Whistle! Wake-up 6:00 am Gather at train or walk to field 11:00 am Whistle! Lunch (kaukau) 11:30am Whistle! Kaukau finished (pau) go back to work 4:30 pm Whistle! Pau Hana Go to furo/bath Fix dinner Garden, sew & other family care 8:00 pm Whistle! Lights Out Continue family care activities as necessary


Celeste Wilson on April 17, 2013:

Incredibly interesting and well written. It really makes me value my independence and my creature comforts. I will try to remember this the next time I complain about the little things in life.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 12, 2011:

Thanks LianaK. Yes, it is a very good movie and on netflix. I'm sure you would enjoy it.

LianaK on August 12, 2011:

Fascinating topic! Want to watch the movie that you posted. Great hub!

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 11, 2011:

So true carol3san. Guess we still have a long ways to go, but it has gotten better overall recently. Who would have thought about a lady for president back then? Now we have a few in the running. Time have and continue to change, but not always for the better. Aloha and thanks for your comments.

Carolyn Sands from Hollywood Florida on August 11, 2011:

Good info. It seems like the history of women all over the world is practically the same. They are almost always taken advantage of before our modern day time. And still to this day that is true in many places.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 09, 2011:

Glad you enjoyed it Patty. Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much in Hawaiian).

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 09, 2011:

Very interesting and reated Up!

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 09, 2011:

So true Cheeky Girl. I guess women have come quite a ways (in some areas), but you can still find them being abused and taken for granted in some homes and industries. I appreciate your contribution. Aloha!

Cassandra Mantis from UK and Nerujenia on August 09, 2011:

I saw Epigramman's posting of this in Facebook. What a great and unusual hub! Women were obviously taken advantage of, this is very sad. Very informative and revealing.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 09, 2011:

I appreciate that epigramman. Glad you found my hub interesting.

epigramman on August 08, 2011:

..what an endlessly fascinating subject you have written about here - in fact one of the best hubs I`ve read in some time - and I will post this to my FACEBOOK page with a direct link back here so more people can read and enjoy this forgotten link in the history of culture, customs and society.

lake erie time 1:12am

and thank you for connecting with me - coming from such a prolific and illustrious hubber like you that`s quite a compliment.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 03, 2011:

Glad you stopped by Hello, hello, I appreciate your comments.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on August 03, 2011:

Thank you for this interesting hub.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on August 02, 2011:

Yes, I agree. It must have been major culture shock, especially when they thought they were getting a better life in America. Thanks Rose for your comments.

Rose West from Michigan on August 02, 2011:

This was very interesting - I can't imagine what it would have been like to travel so far to live that kind of life.

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on July 31, 2011:

Thanks Ashly and Trish. I enjoyed learning more about the history picture brides in Hawaii.

Tricia Mason from The English Midlands on July 31, 2011:

Hi :)

Very interesting. I had not heard of this tradition before.

Ashly Daugherty from Big Rapids, Michigan on July 31, 2011:

Very interesting :)

Elayne (author) from Rocky Mountains on July 31, 2011:

Glad you liked it leann2800. Thanks for commenting.

leann2800 on July 31, 2011:

Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

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