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The Lives of Amish Women

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner

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Presenting a challenge to popular stereotypes, this book is an intimate exploration of the religiously defined roles of Amish women and how these roles have changed over time.

Continuity and change, tradition and dynamism shape the lives of Amish women and make their experiences both distinctive and diverse. On the one hand, a principled commitment to living Old Order lives, purposely out of step with the cultural mainstream, has provided Amish women with a good deal of constancy. Even in relatively more progressive Amish communities, women still engage in activities common to their…

Presenting a challenge to popular stereotypes, this book is an intimate exploration of the religiously defined roles of Amish women and how these roles have changed over time.

Continuity and change, tradition and dynamism shape the lives of Amish women and make their experiences both distinctive and diverse. On the one hand, a principled commitment to living Old Order lives, purposely out of step with the cultural mainstream, has provided Amish women with a good deal of constancy. Even in relatively more progressive Amish communities, women still engage in activities common to their counterparts in earlier times: gardening, homemaking, and childrearing. On the other hand, these persistent themes of domestic labor and the responsibilities of motherhood have been affected by profound social, economic, and technological changes up through the twenty-first century, shaping Amish women's lives in different ways and resulting in increasingly varied experiences.

In The Lives of Amish Women, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner draws on her thirty-five years of fieldwork in Amish communities and her correspondence with Amish women to consider how the religiously defined roles of Amish women have changed as Amish churches have evolved. Looking in particular at women's lives and activities at different ages and in different communities, Johnson-Weiner explores the relationship between changing patterns of social and economic interaction with mainstream society and women's family, community, and church roles. What does it mean, Johnson-Weiner asks, for an Amish woman to be humble when she is the owner of a business that serves people internationally? Is a childless Amish woman or a single Amish woman still a "Keeper at Home" in the same way as a woman raising a family? What does Gelassenheit—giving oneself up to God's will—mean in a subsistence-level agrarian Amish community, and is it at all comparable to what it means in a wealthy settlement where some members may be millionaires?

Illuminating the key role Amish women play in maintaining the spiritual and economic health of their church communities, this wide-ranging book touches on a number of topics, including early Anabaptist women and Amish pioneers to North America; stages of life; marriage and family; events that bring women together; women as breadwinners; women who do not meet the Amish norm (single women, childless women, widows); and even what books Amish women are reading. Aimed at anyone who is interested in the Amish experience, The Lives of Amish Women will help readers understand better the costs and benefits of being an Amish woman in a modern world and will challenge the stereotypes, myths, and imaginative fictions about Amish women that have shaped how they are viewed by mainstream society.

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The Lives of Amish Women

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner

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Reviews

Reviews

This much-needed book fills a long-neglected gap in Amish studies. The field has long been dominated by men, most of whom have paid scant attention to women's historical experiences or gender dynamics and how these have shaped Amish communities. Bringing Amish women to life in nuanced and meaningful ways, Johnson-Weiner's book is the culmination of 35 years of fieldwork in five states.

At last. In this ground-breaking volume, Karen Johnson-Weiner presents diverse narratives of Amish women from the European homeland to present-day North America. She draws on nearly four decades of conscientious research and participant observation to show how Amish women have influenced and continue to influence their society in myriad ways.

Karen Johnson-Weiner brings thirty-five years of keen observation to this nuanced and fine-grained portrait of Amish women. With her in-depth analysis, these women emerge as individuals and as practitioners of womanhood, in both cases central players in far-flung and diverse Amish communities navigating a changing world.

Karen Johnson-Weiner combines the informed gaze of scholarship with the warm storytelling of friendship to craft an intimate portrait of Amish women. Rooted in three decades of research and conversation, this book elucidates constructions of gender, modes of patriarchy, and women's agency in a separatist religious community. Johnson-Weiner's unprecedented study will inform Amish scholarship for decades to come.

Johnson-Weiner writes with clarity and a deep knowledge gained from more than three decades of fieldwork in Amish communities. The book brims with the voices of Amish women themselves—an immense achievement that speaks to a lifetime of cultivating trust and building relationships with a diverse group of women. A comprehensive, nuanced, and compelling read.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
320
ISBN
9781421438702
Illustration Description
36 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. The Dynamic Worlds of Amish Women
Chapter 2. Becoming an Amish Woman
Chapter 3. Marriage and Ever After
Chapter 4. Events That Bring Women Together
Chapter 5. Women Out

Preface
Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. The Dynamic Worlds of Amish Women
Chapter 2. Becoming an Amish Woman
Chapter 3. Marriage and Ever After
Chapter 4. Events That Bring Women Together
Chapter 5. Women Out of the Ordinary
Chapter 6. Homemakers and Breadwinners
Chapter 7. Reading Amish Women
Chapter 8. Change, Diversity, and Amish Womanhood
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Ph.D.

Karen M. Johnson-Weiner is an associate professor of linguistic anthropology and the chair of the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Potsdam.