Mail Order Brides

Early colonised Australia began with the arrival of both convicts and free settlers, the majority of whom were men. Very few women made the long and arduous journey.

By the late 19th century, this imbalance among European settlers had decreased in most regions but persisted in rural and frontier areas where men found financial success but had little chance of romantic conquest. Matrimonial agencies may have played a key role in finding wives for farmers and frontiersmen in remote Far North Queensland. These matrimonial agencies, commonly referred to as marriage bureaus, existed as a matchmaking service for single men and women seeking a spouse.

31 years old, Protestant, elegant, very good housewife, with 3000 marks of savings, wishes to make a happy marriage, possibly with a civil servant. Photo at home. Lives in Gelsenkirchen (Germany).

Matrimonial agencies batch 1912-1950 ITM319062

In 1914, police censors intercepted a thick envelope from The Leopold Schlesinger International Bureau of Marriage and forwarded it to the Commissioner of Police in Brisbane. It contained a catalogue of ladies available for proposals of marriage, ranging from 20 to 60 years old. Each woman had a passport-sized portrait on an index card with a number that corresponded to their description in an accompanying booklet. The envelope was addressed to one ‘Mr John Karasinsky’ of West Ingham, North Queensland. Also included in the package was a Russian flyer inviting season subscriptions from ‘those wishing to achieve their object in matrimony’.

Young lady 22 years old, Catholic, good height, tall, slender, irreproachable past in all respects, only daughter of wealthy parents. 25,000 dowry marks in cash. later still more, desire husband, even if middle age, a high official, doctor, private person etc.

Matrimonial agencies batch 1912-1950 ITM319062

The shortage of women in remote areas appeared to persist until at least 1936, when the Superintendent of Police in Brisbane received an unusual letter. It came from a lonely bachelor on the Lockhart River Mission in North Queensland, enquiring about a wife. ‘[I] am desirous of getting married but there is no one here of course,’ he wrote, ‘and wondered if in your capacity you ever come across a decent young girl who has been led astray and who would appreciate a good home, etc.’ The Brisbane police made enquiries to see whether a suitable wife could be found for the lonesome letter writer. Several weeks later, a detective constable wrote back:

Matrimonial agencies batch 1912-1950 ITM319062

Inquiries made from other members of the C.I. branch showed negative results. I have conferred with the two police-women and also Matron Beverley of the Women’s Salvation Army home … but they know of no suitable person who would be interested in this matter.

The detective constable suggested the bachelor advertise through the Brisbane daily newspapers. We can only hope the gentleman eventually found a wife.

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