30 years in the making, Picture Bride Stories stems from 250 oral history interviews conducted by author Barbara F. Kawakami, 96.
16 of those stories made it into her book published by University of Hawaii Press. These are the stories of women who married men they never met, introduced via pictures. These women sailed to Hawaii to marry men who lived in a bachelor society and who were in desperate need of female companionship. The men, an estimated 200,000 of them, came to Hawaii to work on the plantation as laborers. 20,000 picture brides came to Hawaii.
Many of the women she interviewed were widowed.
“They just opened up their hearts to me,” she said to Honolulu Magazine . “It’s like they met an old friend and they were ready to open up and tell me all the intimate stories about their hardships and everything. I hardly had to ask questions.”
According to the Japan Times, Kawakami let her subjects speak for themselves, largely relying on transcripts and period photos.
There were also stories of abuse.
“My husband, he drink too much, so I suffer,” said Kama Asato. “He used to beat me when he get drunk. The children used to be so afraid. They run out to the outhouse an’ hide, till the beating stop. Sometimes, they wait in dark outhouse long time.”
Another picture bride was blunt about her feelings.
“I thought if there was a way to walk across the ocean (back) to Japan, I would have done so,” said Haruno Tazawa.
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