The stories of early twentieth-century Japanese picture brides—women in arranged marriages coming to the United States to meet the immigrant men to whom they were married by “proxy” according to the popular press—are widely known in memory, scholarship, and popular culture. Less is known about their Southern European counterparts—primarily women from Greece, but also Italy and Armenia—coming to the country at the same time, and to much less public outcry and legislative restrictions. Yet as this article demonstrates, the title of “picture bride “ was prominently and popularly applied to Southern European and Japanese women alike as a politically charged racial signifier that provides nuance to the complex yet fluid racial hierarchies of the early twentieth century. This article closely examines popular media depictions of “off-white” picture brides using Greek immigrants as a case study—the predominant European group practicing picture marriage from 1907 to 1924—to demonstrate the quotidian ways that audiences learned the politics of race and immigration through seemingly apolitical messages about family, marriage, and romantic love. This work argues that far from being a mere footnote in Greek American history, picture brides and their popular depictions in national newspapers were critical symbols of Greeks’ transition from “in-between” white others to ethnic white Americans. By contextualizing picture marriage as occurring across a diverse racial hierarchy, this work illumines the ways that white supremacy acts in contradictory, often hypocritical ways, excluding some groups while excusing and including others.

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