CFP: 'Gender-Focused Research in Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies'
The Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies is planning a special issue for late 2020 addressing the subject of gender in Amish and plain Anabaptist research.
A growing body of recent scholarship has identified either a lack of attention to gender in Amish and/or plain Anabaptist studies or a need to revisit some prevailing paradigms. We welcome submissions from both the sciences and humanities that further our understanding of gender in plain Anabaptist life.
Fields of interest include the social sciences, health and safety, history, gender studies, and others, as well as practitioner work. Publications may include original work or new findings from analyzing previously studied data through a gender lens.
JAPAS publishes a wide range of article types, including full length articles, research notes, research briefs, service provider reports, review essays, and plain people’s research. We especially welcome work from advanced undergraduate and graduate students in addition to experienced scholars.
We recommend submitting a 100- to 150-word summary with tentative title by Tuesday, March 31, 2020 or as soon as feasible (send to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Submissions are due by Monday, July 20, 2020, and will be peer reviewed in anticipation of our autumn 2020 issue. Visit https://ideaexchange.uakron.edu/amishstudies to access the JAPAS submission portal.
For this issue, editorial board members Katherine Jellison (Ohio University) and Natalie Jolly (University of Washington) will be joining the JAPAS lead editors, Cory Anderson and Steven Reschly, as guest co-editors. Email email@example.com for questions.
CITATIONS AND ABSTRACTS
In preparation for this special issue, JAPAS is providing an important resource for potential authors: a list of nearly 50 Amish/plain Anabaptist gender-themed publication citations and abstracts. Although not comprehensive of every mention of gender in the literature, the list will help expedite authors’ efforts to ground their work in existing scholarship. Mention is for informative purposes and not necessarily an endorsement.
Anderson, Cory. 2013. "An Evangelical Reorientation: The Contribution of Beachy Amish-Mennonite Mothers." Pp. 236-55 in Mothering Mennonite, edited by Rachel Epp Buller and Kerry Fast. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.
From the introduction: This essay explores how evangelicalism has changed married Beachy Amish-Mennonite women's roles in terms of personal religiosity, the church community, family, and individual pursuits. It focuses especially on the valued contributions of Beachy Amish-Mennonite women and the ways in which evangelicalism has devalued certain contributions while providing other opportunities for women. To this end, I examine three sets of books written by Beachy Amish-Mennonite women which lay out different paths to finding meaningful contributions for married women, as well as outlining the ultimate direction for the integration and stability of the social unites of church community, family, and individual.
Brown, Joshua. 2016. "Gendered Stories, Advice, and Narrative Intimacy in Amish Young Adult Literature." Pp. 87-101 in Gender(ed) Identities: Critical Rereadings of Gender in Children's and Young Adult Literature, edited by Tricia Classen and Holly Hassel. New York, NY: Routledge.
Buccalo, Sharyn. 1997. "Window on Another World: An 'English' Nurse Looks at the Amish Culture and Their Health Care Beliefs." Journal of Multicultural Nursing & Health 3(2):53-58.
Health care professionals working with diverse cultural groups must both recognize and respect the role that culture and gender play in health care practices and interaction with the health care system (health production). This article examines these roles of gender and cultural impact in health production in the Old Order Amish culture. An ethnonursing methodology was used in the interviews which spanned ten years in the life of an Old Order Amish woman. The purpose of this qualitative study was an evaluation of change in the way this woman with rigid role expectations interpreted health for herself and her family. The areas evaluated were: Amish culture as it relates to everyday life, women's roles, and health care beliefs and practices.
Cheek, Cheryl, and Kathleen Piercy. 2004. "Quilting as Age Identity Expression in Traditional Women." International Journal of Aging and Human Development 59(4):321-37.
A qualitative study using McCracken’s (1988) multistage process for data analysis examined how women in three traditional cultures express themselves and their age identities in quilting. In semi-structured interviews, 10 Amish, 10 Appalachian, and 10 Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women discussed their quilting-related experiences, rewards that they receive from quilting, and the variety of ways in which quilting assists them in creating positive age identities. Results illustrated how quilting aided personal progress in building quilting-related skills and enlarging personal influence through owning quilting businesses, teaching and mentoring others, gaining respect as skilled artisans, and acting as guardians of family traditions.
Cheek, Cheryl, and Kathleen Piercy. 2008. "Quilting as a Tool in Resolving Erikson's Adult Stage of Human Development." Journal of Adult Development 15(1):13-24.
A qualitative study using McCracken’s (The long interview, 1988) multistage process for data analysis examined how traditional women in Amish, Appalachian, and Mormon cultures express generativity through quilting. Using Slater’s (Journal of Adult Development, 10(1), 53–65, 2003) description of epigenetic areas of development within middle adulthood, quilting was studied as a facilitator in the process of negotiating Erikson’s stage of generativity versus stagnation. In semi-structured interviews, 30 women discussed the ways they expressed caring, pride, inclusivity, and effectiveness through quilting. Results show that quilting was used to work through each of the epigenetic areas and also show how art forms such as quilting may be used to promote development from middle adulthood on into old age.
Cong, Dachang. 1998. "Single Women in Amish Society." Pp. 131-39 in Sects, Cults, and Spiritual Communities: A Sociological Analysis, edited by William Zellner and Marc Petrowsky. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
Cordell, Sigrid. 2013. "Loving in Plain Sight: Amish Romance Novels as Evangelical Gothic." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 1(2):1-16.
This article examines Beverly Lewis’s highly popular trilogy The Heritage of Lancaster County, a series often cited as inspiring the Amish romance novel trend. Although Lewis did not invent the Amish romance, the high visibility that her work enjoys in the media, and the conventional wisdom that she was the first to develop the genre, means that subsequent novels are necessarily responding to and adapting Lewis’s texts. Looking at Lewis’s trilogy as a foundational text, this article analyzes the ways in which it draws on Gothic conventions to perform evangelical cultural work (to use Jane Tompkins’s phrase). Considering the trilogy as a Gothic text within the context of Christian publishing highlights the ways in which it functions as an extension of evangelical outreach: the narratives both celebrate Amish community values and adherence to tradition while using Gothic tropes of confinement and escape to emphasize the idea that the Amish are narrow-minded and overly rigid. Ultimately, this article argues that Lewis’s novels use the Gothic to argue that the antidote to Amish rigidity is evangelicalism.
Davidson, Denise, Kelly Hughes, Ieva Minsiunaite, Elizabeth Hilvert, and Alan Shuldiner. 2018. "Body Image and Life Satisfaction in Amish, Catholic, and Non-Religious Women." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 6(2):174-91.
Dissatisfaction with one’s appearance is commonplace among Western women. Body image dissatisfaction is believed to be a consequence of societal emphases on appearance reinforced through norms and media. However, some Amish cultural values and norms differ from prevailing Western influences, which may result in a rate of body image dissatisfaction at variance with Western women. The following pilot study explores how religious affiliation and religiosity may relate to body image factors (body dissatisfaction, appearance investment, and body coping strategies) and life satisfaction in Amish (N = 32), Catholic (N = 40), and non-religious (N = 40) women. Results suggest that the Amish have a more positive body image than Catholic women; results were inconclusive when comparing to non-religious women. As this pilot study’s sampling proceduce and size limit our ability to draw definitive conclusions, future research should work toward an expanded, systematic sample. If results from this study are confirmed, research is needed that examines the specific aspects of the Amish culture that may be associated with higher rates of body image satisfaction.
Dabrowska, Ewa, and Susan K. Wismer. 2010. "Inclusivity Matters: Perceptions of Children's Health and Environmental Risk including Old Order Mennonites from Ontario, Canada." Health, Risk & Society 12(2):169-88.
Understanding of risk views in multiethnic Canadian society may be enhanced by including perceptions of a closed, ethno-religious Old Order Mennonite (OOM) community, farming along the most contaminated tributary of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada. This study represents the first time that these Old Order women have participated in any research. For this exploratory study, qualitative methods were the preferred approach. To understand environmental concerns of mothers living in the contaminated area, 34 semi-structured interviews were conducted with mothers from mainstream society and from the OOM community. Emergent themes revealed concerns about exposure to toxicants, children's exposure reflected in their behaviour, and exposure differences determined by lifestyle. When links between perceptions of relationships between children's health and their polluted physical environments by mainstream society are contrasted with the perceptions of the OOMs, it becomes clear that each group defines risk to children's health differently. The inclusion of the OOMs in this study is important because it reveals essential information regarding ethnic vulnerability and a number of ethical dilemmas for the researchers assessing risk in marginalized communities.
Dutcher, Vi. 2009. "'Hurry Back!' The Circle Letter as Communal Liaison in Women's Literacy Practice." Center for Mennonite Writing Journal 1(4).
Letter-writing, and specifically the circle letter, as presented in the essay by Vi Dutcher, qualifies as folk expression, even though it is not an oral genre. But it is customary in that it is a written genre and custom that has been passed on over many years, and it is learned informally from the example of other members of the community—not from formal instruction in a classroom or office, as is the case with most formal composition today. Circle letters are practiced in North America mainly by women, of various social levels and ethnicities, but Vi analyzes the circle letter's culturally specific practice and meaning in an Old Order Amish community.
Ericksen, Julia, and Gary Klein. 1981. "Women's Roles and Family Production among the Old Order Amish." Rural Sociology 46(2):282-96.
The Old Order Amish of Lancaster County , Pennsylvania, can be classified as one of the oldest alternative communities in the United States. In this paper, we wish to examine ways in which the productive role of Amish women helps maintain Old Order Amish society, and the way these roles vary with woman's position in the life cycle. The contribution of women to production varies greatly between societies (Sanday, 1976). Furthermore, this contribution is not always recognized. Recently writers have argued that housewives not only perform private services for their husbands, but that their work helps maintain industrial capitalism (Malos, 1978). We believe our findings are informative not only with references to Amish society but that they are helpful in providing clues about women's roles in general.
Faulkner, Caroline L. 2018. "Gendered Motivations for Religious Exit among the Former Amish." Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 14(Article 4).
In response to calls for more theoretically informed attention to gender in sociological studies of religious phenomena (Avishai, Jafar, and Rinaldo 2015; Charlton 2015; Cornwall 2009), this paper conceptualizes religion as a gendered institution (Avishai 2016a) in an examination of religious exit from a conservative Christian group, namely, the Amish. The present study identifies gender variation in individuals’ motivations for exit and considers how gendered religious ideologies, gendered placement in religious organizational structures, and gendered religious practices explain this variation. Based on analysis of qualitative interviews with fiftynine former Amish adults, I find that concerns about gender inequity motivated some respondents, almost entirely women, to leave. Men’s and women’s other motivations for exit appear more similar on the surface, but closer examination reveals variation by gender. Analysis reveals that the intersection of religion and gender in the Amish context differently shaped men’s and women’s religious realities and, therefore, colored in some way all of their reasons for leaving. These results suggest that most of the previous research on religious exit, which either overlooks gender entirely (e.g., Altemeyer and Hunsberger 1997; Kraybill, Johnson-Weiner, and Nolt 2013; Shaffir 1997; Smith 2011) or conceives of it narrowly, with little attention to gender theory (e.g., Cottee 2015; Hurst and McConnell 2010; Roozen 1980; Vargas 2012), has misrepresented gender variation in motivations for exit and failed to provide adequate explanation for differences identified. Considering the multiple dimensions through which the institutions of religion and gender intersect allows for a deeper understanding of religious phenomena and provides insights into the ways in which gender is produced and reproduced within religious groups.
Good Gingrich, Luann, and Kerry Preibisch. 2010. "Migration as Preservation and Loss: The Paradox of Transnational Living for Low German Mennonite Women." Journal of Ethnic & Migration Studies 36(9):1499-518.
Throughout history, conservative groups of Low German-speaking Mennonites have collectively migrated to preserve their religious integrity. However, their contemporary migrations to North America are not collective or church-sanctioned, but primarily economically motivated. This paper explores the intertwined processes of gender and religion in transnational social spaces through the destination experiences of Mennonite women in Canada. The paradoxes of the transnational social field-each simultaneous gain and loss-constitute a double-bind wherein choice is elusive. Caught in the contest between physical and cultural survival, women find themselves in the 'nothing' of in-between, as conflicting social fields and systems of capital-secular and sacred-collide.
Graybill, Beth. 1998. "Mennonite Women and Their Bishops in the Founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church." Mennonite Quarterly Review 72:251-73.
This essay applies feminist theory to a conflict in Lancaster County that led to the founding of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church in 1968. Since women's dress and gender roles were key elements in that division, the Ainlay / Kniss model of conflict needs greater nuancing to account for gender related themes. To be sure, male and female founding members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church shared a common cause, but a focus on gender as a category of analysis strongly suggests that men and women were attracted to the church for different reasons.
Graybill, Beth. 1999. "'Finding My Place as a Lady Missionary': Mennonite Women Missionaries to Puerto Rico, 1945-1960." Journal of Mennonite Studies 17:152-73.
Graybill, Beth. 2009. "Amish Women, Business Sense: Old Order Women Entrepreneurs in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Tourist Marketplace." Dissertation in American Studies. College Park, MD: University of Maryland.
This dissertation is an examination of Amish businesswomen and gender roles in the tourist marketplace of Lancaster County, PA. Tourism in Lancaster is a $1.5 billion business; tourists largely come because of the Amish and values associated with them. Recently, tourism has come to provide an important source of income for many Old Order Mennonite and Amish women, whose business enterprises cater primarily to a tourist market. Among the Amish, known for their separation from wider society, tourism now puts many women on the front lines in dealing with outsiders, a monumental shift historically. Thus, this ethnography of Amish businesswomen serves as a useful lens for examining Amish women’s changing gender roles in Lancaster County today. Moreover, it fills a significant gap in the literature, as virtually nothing has been written about Amish women, to date. Mine is a micro-study that examines tourism, business, and gender through the words of Amish women themselves, and my analysis of them. Using ethnography and life history I examine the lives of Old Order Amish and Mennonite women whose businesses range from quilt shops to greenhouses to serving meals in their homes. As I show, the ways in which these women handle their business, family, and community roles sometimes involves extensions of traditional roles and sometimes departures from them.
Handrick, Frances M. 2019. "Amish Women: Work and Change- An Investigation into the Lives of Amish Women in Pennsylvania and Ohio." Dissertation in Theology and Religion. Birmingham, England: University of Birmingham.
This thesis describes and analyses the changes in the lives of some Old and New Order Amish women in Ohio and Pennsylvania from about 1970 to the present day. To do this, I used an ethnographic method, living with Amish families in both states for each of my three fieldtrips between September 2012 and October 2014. My work identifies and describes changes that have taken place in the lives of Amish women since 1970’s. It identifies ways in which the well-documented move out of farming by the Amish in both states, occurring at the same time as the growth of the tourist industry in Lancaster and Holmes County settlements led to opportunities for Amish women to work outside the home, and may additionally, have created the need for them to do so. I show how these changes have been able to happen in a community that might initially appear to be unchanging. Using Bauman’s Liquid Modernity, I give examples of how the same pressures that are affecting mainstream life are impacting the Amish community. My thesis fills a gap in the literature in that it concentrates on the lives of women and what has changed for them. It is the first PhD thesis to cover this material.
Hawley, Jana. 1995. "Maintaining Business while Maintaining Boundaries: An Amish Woman's Entrepreneurial Experience." Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Change 4(4):315-28.
Entrepreneurship practices differ from culture to culture, yet these differences have seldom been addressed in the entrepreneurial literature. For Amish entrepreneurs, the ultimate entrepreneurial goal is not one of profit viability measured in monetary reward and prestige. Instead, it is one of maintaining cultural separateness and conducting their lives and business in a manner that values humility over pride. The goal of this research is to illustrate how an Amish woman is faced with constraints of operating her business while at the same time maintaining the cultural boundaries which are inherent in being Amish. Based on nearly a year of ethnographic fieldwork, the researcher gained the ability to observe the nuances-some subtle, others quite obtrusive-of a group who otherwise choose to remain "separate from the world." Results showed that for the Amish, little distinction is allowed between economic activity and social obligation. Furthermore, the greatest responsibility of Amish entrepreneurs is to contribute to group solidarity.
Hiebert, Martha. 2013. "Stories of Betrayal and Hope among 'Horse and Buggy' Mennonite Women in Bolivia." Journal of Mennonite Studies 31:193-201.
The author recalls her experiences interviewing Old Colony Mennonite women in Mennonite colonies in Bolivia. The article discusses the social conditions of Old Colony Mennonite women, particularly their mental and physical health, work responsibilities, and giving birth. It also discusses the memories of an older Old Colony Mennonite woman, particularly her experiences moving to Bolivia in the mid-1990s, the difficult work of establishing a new colony, and her impressions concerning a question about being discouraged and lonely during the adjustment period of living in a new colony.
Huntington, Gertrude E. 1976. "A Comparison: Hutterite Women in the Colony."In Working Together, edited by Seena Kohl. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston of Canada.
Huntington, Gertrude Enders. 1994. "Occupational Opportunities for Old Order Amish Women." Pennsylvania Folklife 43(3):115-20.
Hurd, James. 1985. "Sex Differences in Mate Choice among the 'Nebraska' Amish of Central Pennsylvania." Ethology and Sociobiology 6(1):49-57.
An analysis of 190 marriages in the ''Nebraska'' Amish population of Central Pennsylvania demonstrates systematic differences between male and female marriage patterns. Exogamous females marry 3.4 years older than endogamous females, perhaps because they must search farther afield for a mate. Patrilocal residence is twice as frequent as matrilocal. When churches fission, males tend to regroup with their male relatives at the expense of females regrouping with their female relatives. These male biases in residence patterns and church affiliation are presumeably due to preferential male farm inheritance, and the importance of reciprocal male labor. Mate choice is seen as a strategy for consolidating resources and ultimately for increasing reproductive success.
Janzen, Rebecca. 2018. "American Old Order Teachers Write Home from Mexico: Reflections on Gender, Religion, and Caregiving." Journal of Mennonite Studies 36:237-58.
From the introduction: I argue that, according to their letters and other reflections, teaching in Mexico has given the women unexpuected leadership opportunities. Moreover, I observe that Rachel Miller's memoir, and the house sisters' and teachers' letters show how the Amish and Old Order Mennonite women have expanded their understandings of their own religious traditions as they create new expressions of religious devotion in Mexico. At the same time, I note that these sources also illustrate various ways that the teachers and house sisters' significant emotional labour, in their classrooms and in their homes together in Mexico, means that they experienced continuity between their home in the United States and host communities in Mexico. This is particularly evident in the ways that they describe how they care for one another and for the children in their schools.
Jellison, Katherine. 2001. "An 'Enviable Tradition' of Patriarchy: New Deal Investigations of Women's Work in the Amish Farm Family." Pp. 240-57 in The Countryside in the Age of the Modern State, edited by Catherine McNicol Stock and Robert Johnston. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Jellison, Katherine. 2002. "The Chosen Women: The Amish and the New Deal." Pp. 102-18 in Strangers at Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History, edited by Kimberly Schmidt, Diane Zimmerman Umble, and Steven Reschly. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
How did women's work contribute to the perception of the Amish as models of stability during the American agricultural depression? Katherine Jellison analyzes records from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to describe the centrality of Amish women's work to the economic success of Amish farms and document how government investigators idealized assumptions about strict gender divisions of labor as a recipe for stability.
Jellison, Katherine. 2014. "Amish Women and the Household Economy during the Great Depression." Mennonite Quarterly Review 88(1):97-106.
Johnson-Weiner, Karen. 2001. "The Role of Women in Old Order Amish, Beachy Amish and Fellowship Churches." Mennonite Quarterly Review 75(2):231-56.
Old Order Amish women have a greater voice in governing their homes and church communities than do their sisters in historically related but less conservative Beachy Amish and Fellowship churches. In these modern Anabaptist communities, gender roles are shaped by resolving competing ideas of male and female embodied in the metaphors of (1) divine hierarchy, in which man is dominant over woman, and (2) the church as the body of Christ, in which male and female have equal responsibility for the church. Each community acts on the ideas expressed in these metaphors according to its broader beliefs about the place of the Christian community in the world. The more the community is engaged with the surrounding society and dependent upon it economically and spiritually, the less likely women in the community are to share in community decision-making.
Johnson-Weiner, Karen. 2017. "Keepers at Home? Amish Women and Entrepreneurship." American Studies Journal 62.
Despite the overt patriarchy of Old Order Amish society, Amish women play a key role in maintaining the economic and social health of family and community. Drawing on qualitative research, including interviews of Amish women entrepreneurs and participant observation, this study explores the relationship between the Amish construction of gender and Amish women’s entrepreneurial activities. Although suggesting that Amish women are more likely to operate businesses that extend their culturally and religiously defined role as husband’s helpmeet, homemaker, and nurturer, it also explores how Amish women’s businesses are contributing to the growing diversity of the Amish world.
Jolly, Natalie. 2014. "Amish Femininity: New Lessons from the Old Order." Journal of the Motherhood Initiative 5(2):75-89.
Jolly, Natalie. 2015. "Does Labour Mean Work? A Look at the Meaning of Birth in Amish and Non-Amish Society." Pp. 218-31 in Natal Signs: Cultural Representations of Pregancy, Birth, and Parenting, edited by Nadya Burton. Bradford, ON: Demeter Press.
I consider how a woman is expected to do gender may influence how she is expected to do birth. I ask how mainstream norms of femininity, particularly those that celebrate passivity and weakness, manifest in a woman’s particular experience of childbirth. As a counterpoint, I examine how gender norms associated with Amish femininity shape Amish women’s experience of birth. I present an ethnographic account of three aspects of Old Order Amish birth based on the criteria developed by Sarah Jane Brubaker and Heather Dillaway and consider (1) details of the birth setting, (2) issues of control, and (3) how the use of medical technology (or lack thereof) may be seen to influence a woman’s birth experience. I draw on two years of participant-observer data to show how practices such as midwife-attended unmedicated homebirth come to possess specific social meaning for Amish women, and are tied to how Amish women do gender. I conclude by suggesting that a discourse of femininity valuing hard work, body confidence, and shared power constructs an environment where the work of labor is equated with accomplishment rather than something distasteful to be avoided, and may create a social context within which women can do birth differently.
Jolly, Natalie. 2017. "Birthing New Kinships: The Cross-Pollinating Potential of Amish Health Research." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 5(2):147-61.
In this article, I explore the connections between Amish gender socialization and Amish birth practices to suggest that an Amish construction of femininity shapes the ways that Amish women experience childbirth. This study is framed by Amish women’s health research and takes as a point of departure two observations often made about Amish childbirth practices: (1) medical research has found that Amish women have shorter labors than their non-Amish (English) counterparts, and (2) doctors, midwives, and birth attendants have argued that Amish women’s expression of pain during labor and delivery differs substantially from their English counterparts. I draw on my two years of ethnographic work on Amish midwifery and homebirth to argue that there is deep sociological richness in medical findings that often dismiss Amish life as merely culturally anomalous. I argue that Amish birth is shaped by the norms of Amish society, particularly those that govern gender. I conclude that many of the features of Amish birth that have so interested health researchers cannot be fully understood without a sociological investigation of Amish life, and plain Anabaptist scholarship seems well positioned to foreground the social and cultural features of Amish society that likely remain invisible to health researchers. Reciprocally, comparative health studies on the Amish may illuminate areas of inquiry that were previously understudied and offer new possibilities for future social and cultural research within plain Anabaptist studies.
Klassen, Doreen Helen. 2008. "'I wanted a life of my own': Creating a Singlewoman Mennonite Identity in Mexico." Journal of Mennonite Studies 26:49-68.
The article presents a study that deals with women on the margins of a heterosexual patriarchal society. Focal to the study is an oral history project that centers on four Low German-speaking singlewomen, ages 28-41, in an Old Colony Mennonite community in Mexico. The author examines how these women constructed a distinct adult identity described as one that simultaneously contested gendered norms. She adds that this identify sought a meaningful integration in a communitarian and agrarian society.
Kulig, Judith, Margaret Wall, Shirley Hill, and Ruth Babcock. 2008. "Childbearing Beliefs among Low-German-Speaking Mennonite Women." International Nursing Review 55:420-26.
Background: Low-German-speaking (LGS) Mennonites are a conservative religious group that has migrated from Eastern Europe to Canada and then to countries such as Mexico. They are now returning to Canada in large numbers. They adhere to religious principles based upon a literal interpretation of the Bible. This conservative religious group provides opportunities for nurses and midwives to implement culturally competent care. Aim: The purpose of this article is to discuss LGS Mennonite women’s childbearing knowledge and beliefs to develop and implement care that considers and includes their conservative religious beliefs. Methods: An exploratory, descriptive study was conducted to generate information through open-ended interviews with 38 LGS Mennonite women about their knowledge, beliefs and practices related to childbearing. Data collection and analysis occurred simultaneously; emerging themes were discussed by the research team to ensure a contextual understanding of the data. Findings: The participants engage in proscribed practices (‘turning the baby’) and adhere to specific dietary measures (increasing dairy products) during pregnancy to ensure a healthy birth outcome. During the post-partum, extensive support is provided by other Mennonite women to assist the mother and newborn during this important transition. Conclusion: Building trust and working in a respectful manner with religious groups such as the LGS Mennonites are a cornerstone of culturally competent nursing practice.
Lehman, Marilyn. 2005. "Women and Their Work: Reflections on the Amish Church Tradition." Mennonite Historical Bulletin 66(4):10-12.
Masuk, Lesley Catherine. 1998. "Patriarchy, Technology, and the Lives of Hutterite Women: A Field Study." Thesis in Sociology. Saskatoon, SK: University of Saskatchewan.
McGuigan, William, and Sarah Stephenson. 2015. "A Single-Case Study of Resiliency After Extreme Incest in an Old Order Amish Family." Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 24(5):526-37.
This exploratory research brief presents a single case study of the resiliency of “Mary B.” She grew up in an Old Order Amish family where isolation, secrecy, and patriarchy masked repeated sexual assaults by her older brothers that began at age 7. By the age of 20, Mary alleged she had been raped on more than 200 separate occasions by members of her Amish family. After years of pleading with her mother and church officials to intervene, she sought therapy outside the Amish community. This led to three of her brothers being incarcerated. Her family disowned her and she was banned from the Amish community, leaving with an 8th grade education and little more than the clothes she was wearing. In less than 2 years, Mary had moved to a new town, completed her GED, obtained a car and driving license, maintained a small home, and worked as a certified nursing assistant. She consented to tape recorded interviews and completed several quantitative diagnostic measures. Scores on the diagnostic measures placed her within the normal range on self-esteem, competency, depression, stress, social support, and life skills. Analysis of interviews revealed Mary rebounded from her past by reframing her experiences. Themes identified within the interviews supported 6 of the 7 types of resiliencies (insight, independence, initiative, relationships, humor, and morality) outlined in the therapeutic Challenge Model.
Miller, Kirk, Berwood Yost, Sean Flaherty, Marianne Hillemeier, Gary Chase, Carol Weisman, and Anne-Marie Dyer. 2007. "Health Status, Health Conditions, and Health Behaviors among Amish Women: Results from the Central Pennsylvania Women's Health Study (CePAWHS)." Women's Health Issues 17:162-71.
We performed one of the first systematic, population-based surveys of women in Amish culture. We used these data to examine health status and health risks in a representative sample of 288 Amish women ages 18–45 living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in particular for risks associated with preterm and low birthweight infants, compared with a general population sample of 2,002 women in Central Pennsylvania. Compared with women in the general population, Amish women rated their physical health approximately at the same level, but reported less stress, fewer symptoms of depression, and had higher aggregate scores for mental health. Amish women reported low levels of intimate partner violence, high levels of social support, and they perceived low levels of unfair treatment owing to gender compared with the general population. Amish women also reported higher fertility, fewer low birthweight babies, but the same number of preterm births as the general population. The findings suggest that these outcomes may be due to higher levels of social support and better preconceptional behavior among Amish women.
Naka, Tomomi. 2013. "'Single Sisters' and Occupations: Singlehood in a Conservative Mennonite Community." Pp. 165-79 in Mothering Mennonite, edited by Rachel Epp Buller and Kerry Fast. Bradford, ON: Demeter Publishing.
From the introduction: This essay discusses some of the ways in which single women in a conservative Mennonite congregation, the Summer Creek Church, respond to cultural and religious expectations about marriage and motherhood through an examination of their stories about employment.
Neriya-Ben Shahar, Rivka. 2017. "Negotiating Agency: Amish and Ultra-Orthodox Women's Responses to the Internet." New Media & Society 19(1):81-95.
This study explores how women in two devout religious communities cope with the Internet and its apparent incompatibility with their communities’ values and practices. Questionnaires containing both closed and open-ended questions were completed by 82 participants, approximately half from each community. While their discourses included similar framings of danger and threat, the two groups manifested different patterns of Internet use (and nonuse). Rigorous adherence to religious dictates is greatly admired in these communities, and the women take pride in manipulating their status in them. Their agency is reflected in how they negotiate the tension inherent in their roles as both gatekeepers and agents-of-change, which are analyzed as valuable currencies in their cultural and religious markets.
Olshan, Marc, and Kimberly Schmidt. 1994. "Amish Women and the Feminist Conundrum." Pp. 215-29 in The Amish Struggle with Modernity, edited by Donald Kraybill and Marc Olshan. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
Amish society is organized around preindustrial gender roles that for the most part have remained sheltered from the winds of feminism. At first glance Amish women appear to live under the domination of a male patriarchy legitimated by traditional religious teaching. Yet Amish women exhibit an unexpected self-confidence and strength. In this chapter Olshan and Schmidt explore this intriguing feminist conundrum and suggest that an understanding of gender roles in Amish society requires an understanding of their world view.
Pederson, Jane Marie. 2002. "'She May Be Amish Now, but She Won't Be Amish Long'." Pp. 339-63 in Strangers at Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History, edited by Kimberly Schmidt, Diane Zimmerman Umble, and Steven Reschly. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Reed, Robert, Mark Dransfield, Michael Eberlein, Michael Miller, Giora Netzer, Mary Pavlovich, Toni Pollin, Steven Scharf, Alan Shuldiner, Don Sin, and Braxton Mitchell. 2017. "Gender Differences in First and Secondhand Smoke Exposure, Spirometric Lung Function, and Cardiometabolic Health in the Old Order Amish: A Novel Population without Female Smoking." PLoS ONE 12(3):e0174354.
Due to their relatively homogeneous lifestyle and living environment, the Amish offer a novel opportunity to study the health associations of tobacco smoke exposure, particularly secondhand smoke. We hypothesized that secondhand smoke exposure is associated with worse pulmonary and cardiometabolic health. We examined cross-sectional data on 3568 Amish study participants, including tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure from family members included in the study. Thirty-four percent of Amish men reported ever smoking. Of this proportion, 64% used cigars, 46% cigarettes, and 21% pipes. Less than 1% of women reported ever smoking. Smoking was associated with lower spirometric lung function, higher body mass index, lower HDL cholesterol, higher heart rate, lower ankle-brachial index, and larger aortic diameter in men. A greater number of sources of secondhand smoke exposure (defined from the total of spouses, parents, and siblings who smoke) was associated with higher body mass index (p = 0.03) and with higher fasting glucose in men (p = 0.01), but not in women (p = 0.007 for sex*secondhand smoke interaction). Secondhand smoke exposure was also associated with reduced HDL cholesterol only in women (p = 0.002) and a lower heart rate only in men (p = 0.006). Smoking habits among the Old Order Amish are notable for the absence of female participation and a high proportion of cigar and pipe use. Smoking is associated with decreased spirometric indices of lung function and increased cardiovascular risk in this population and secondhand smoke exposure is associated with a greater burden of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Sex differences in correlations could reflect differences in exposure patterns, mechanisms, or susceptibilities.
Reschly, Steven. 2002. "'The Parents Shall Not Go Unpunished': Preservationist Patriarchy and Community." Pp. 160-81 in Strangers at Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History, edited by Kimberly Schmidt, Diane Zimmerman Umble, and Steven Reschly. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
How are gender systems constructed and reconstructed? New communities offer opportunities to observe the process. Amish leaders during the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States stabilized their communities by placing increased authority in the hands of male household heads. In one Iowa community this larger process played out around issues of household simplicity and subordination, and in 1865 it became visible in decisions to take or refuse communion.
Related: Ch. 3 "Preservationist Patriarchy" in Reschly, Steven. 2000. The Amish on the Iowa Prairie, 1840 to 1910. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Reschly, Steven, and Katherine Jellison. 1993. "Production Patterns, Consumption Strategies, and Gender Relations in Amish and Non-Amish Farm Households in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1935-1936." Agricultural History 67(2):134-62.
Reynolds, Margaret C. 2001. Plain Women: Gender and Ritual in the Old Order River Brethren. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Rozen, Frieda Shoenberg. 1977. "The Permanent First Floor Tenant: Women and Gemeinschaft." Mennonite Quarterly Review 51(4):319-28.
Schmidt, Kimberly D. 2001. "'Sacred Farming' or 'Working Out': The Negotiated Lives of Conservative Mennonite Farm Women." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 22(1):79-102.
By placing the work experiences of Charlene and Barbara in their historic and religious contexts, this article chronicles the changes in Conservative Mennonite farm women's lives and highlights how the farm women of Croghan, New York, negotiated the conflicting demands of saving the farm and religious beliefs that sought to severely restrict women's off-farm work choices. An examination of Charlene and Barbara's work-related choices provides insights into how the interactive dynamics of gender, religion, and the economy forces change in traditional communities.
Tharp, Bruce. 2007. "Valued Amish Possessions: Expanding Material Culture and Consumption." Journal of American Culture 30(1):38-53.
Van Ness, Silke. 1995. "Ohio Amish Women in the Vanguard of a Language Change: Pennsylvania German in Ohio." American Speech 70(1):69-80.
Voelz, Sabrina. 2016. "Writing Life, Writing Back, and Writing Through: Saloma Miller Furlong’s Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds." Journal of Amish and Plain Anabaptist Studies 4(2):201-19.
In recent years, the memoir boom has left publishers searching far and wide for new material. As part of this trend and the immense demand for anything Amish, non-professional writers have seized the opportunity make their voices heard. While there is a wealth of scholarship on the Amish, the often trauma-filled narratives of the ex-Amish have neither been widely accessible to the public, nor the subject of much academic scrutiny until recently. This article explores the memoir, its genre conventions, and current debates. Furlong’s debut memoir, Why I Left the Amish (2011), is a powerful narrative about a desperate struggle for self-determination. She breaks the silence on mental illness as well as physical and sexual abuse among the Amish, while also providing readers with cultural information and alternative perspectives on Amish traditions and values. At the same time, Why I Left the Amish raises a few ethnical concerns. In the second installment to her serial memoirs, Furlong explores the challenges of beginning a new life in an unfamiliar environment and coming to terms with her trauma-filled past. Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds (2014) is a more polished memoir, in which Furlong critically reflects on her first memoir, narrates her struggle to build interpersonal relationships as well as continues to forge of her own intersectional identities.
West Emerson, Catherine. 1997. "Clothing the Pennsylvania Mennonite Woman in the Eighteenth Century." Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage 20(2):2-19.
Wright, Richard. 1977. "A Comparative Analysis of Economic Roles within the Family: Amish and Contemporary American Women." International Journal of the Sociology of the Family 7(1):55-60.
Despite the increased influence of Marxian theory in contemporary sociology, no conflict theorist has developed a scientific historical methodology based on a materialist interpretation of historicalevents. In this paper I use a materialistic methodology to assess the origin of modern feminism. I first compare the role of women in traditional agrarian families, as exemplified by the Amish, with the position of women in the modern industrial household, as exemplified by Americans. I then argue that the loss of a productive economic role is a more important factor producing modern feminism than is the existence of status differences between men and women. In modern industrial societies production occurs in factories rather than in individual households, so the housewife's role no longer includes direct contributions to the family's productive capacities. As a consequence, the modern American housewife is classically alienated in a Marxian (materialistic) sense. The social consequences of this historical change include: (1) the obsolescence, in modern societies, of discriminatory institutional regulations that were originally designed to insure the protection of housewives as efficient productive units; (2) the psychological inferiority prevalent among modern wives as a consequence of their economic dependence on husbands, and (3) the transformation of childrearing from an economic necessity in traditional agrarian societies to an economic liability in modern industrial societies. I conclude by discussing similarities in the roles occupied by employed housewives in working-class American families when compared with Amish housewives.
Zimmerman Umble, Diane, Kimberly Schmidt, and Steven Reschly. 2002. Strangers at Home: Amish and Mennonite Women in History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.