Why 1,000 marriageable girls came to New York

Was there really a shortage of marriage-minded women in the United States in the early 1900s? Apparently rumors had been circulating in Europe that American men couldn’t find wives.

MarriageablewomenWith this in mind, just over 1,000 “maids” (one is photographed at left) booked passage on a New York–bound ship that arrived on September 27, 1907.

“When the White Star liner Baltic tied up at the foot of West Eleventh Street yesterday morning 1,002 young women tripped down the gangplank and looked about them for husbands,” wrote The New York Times.

“Purser H.B. Palmer of the Baltic when asked about his cargo said: ‘They’re here all right. We took on a bunch of them at Liverpool and gathered in over 700 more when we reached Queenstown.

RMSBaltic“You ought to have seen them come up the side of the ship. They did it just as if they expected to find husbands awaiting them on the steerage deck.'”

The Washington Post covered the story too, noting that “each one of the fair consignment was handsome, and study and buxum. . , , They were all sizes and ages and complexions, but each knew her mind.”

According to the Times, the girls were aiming higher than steerage. Some said they hoped to marry a railroad engineer, skyscraper builder, or “a Pittsburgh millionaire.”

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14 Responses to “Why 1,000 marriageable girls came to New York”

  1. gimelgort Says:

    Jeez, I HOPE that’s a veil…

  2. vastlycurious.com Says:

    @gimelgort- I was thinking the same thing!!! Great post !

  3. Wendy Oborne Says:

    She is beautiful and looks so spunky. I wonder what ever happened to her?

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I’d love to know too. Maybe one of them did find a Pittsburgh millionaire….

  5. lzurowski Says:

    Before Silicon Valley, before Hollywood, before Miami Beach, there was… Pittsburgh! 🙂 Certainly not going to break any records for per capita millionaires, but as an ex-NY/New England-er who now lives there, I can say that with the city’s home prices and taxes I certainly feel like one!

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    I like that! Pittsburgh was the Silicon Valley of 1907. Someone should put together a slideshow of the short-lived Silicon Valleys of different decades. Detroit could be in there….

  7. Lady G. Says:

    It would have been interesting if someone had thought to gather their stories after maybe 2 or 3 years to report on what became of their lives and if they found husbands. Hopefully they didn’t land in the seedy tenement parts of old New York, getting used and abused.

  8. Bob_in_MA Says:

    The ratio of unmarried men to women was definitely pretty high here in 1900. I remember reading about how it had helped to change the equation of power in marriage. Women could be fairly picky.

    My Polish great-grandmother was a mailorder bride. She married a miner in Pennsylvania. They had five daughters and then he died in a cave-in. Not surprisingly, they had a pretty tough time for a while.

    Queenstown is the port of Cork, Ireland. Almost all of the people boarding there would be traveling steerage.

  9. michnovak Says:

    This is an interesting theory from an immigration point of view, too, as single women immigrants of the time had to be received by a relative, husband, or employee in order to leave Ellis Island. It they were engaged to someone already here, they were married on Ellis island, as a single man could not “sign for” (for lack of a better term) a single woman. Only males in her immediate family: fathers, brothers, and brothers-in-law could do this. I believe wealthy employers could do this, too, if there was a pre-contract for employment (not sure and the National Archives is closed). It was all designed to help keep immigrant women from falling on hard times.

    So, the women, if mail order brides, would need a sponsor company to organize the trip and bypass the official policy — I’m not even sure if this was possible, but it would make news if it were.

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