Women in Twentieth Century Old Order Amish Society : An Historical Overview
Harker, Stephanie B.
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The information included in this study indicates the significance of women in the Amish culture; though essentially still confined to supportive roles, Amish women remain a vital force in maintaining the communities. Though subordinate to the male members of the society, Amish women appear to remain content with their roles because they are esteemed by the society for serving their "divinely assigned" purposes. Thererfore, an examination of the roles held by Amish women may be profitable for contradictory purposes. In one respect, a study of their lives may support the argument of "domestic feminists:" by holding the roles of housewife and mother in high regard, the Amish maintain the desirability of these essential social roles. On the other hand, the relatively few choices open to women and their subordinate status in Amish society provide further evidence to support the notion that religion has been the primary cause or cultural sanctioner of the repression and domination of women. This paper will focus on the roles of Amish women in the twentieth century, a time of both continuity and change in their lives. Because contemporary Amish ideology and behavior reflect that of their ancestors, the European Mennonites of the sixteenth century, it is necessary to examine the references to women in the classic Anabaptist texts still guiding Amish culture. First, however, this paper will provide a general overview of Amish history for those unfamiliar with it.