Questions about females in Amish society

Gathering of Women

  1. What are traditional Amish female roles?
  2. Do Amish women have the same rights as men?
  3. Do Amish women run businesses?
  4. Are Amish women content?
  5. Are Amish women free to choose?

Back to FAQ main page

What are traditional roles for Amish women? Amish women are mothers, homemakers, wives, church members, and community scribes among many other roles. On farms, Amish females may be expected to lend a hand with chores and other agricultural jobs, in addition to running a household, maintaining a garden, and other tasks.

Though, like Amish men, they operate within the boundaries of the church community, it’s hazardous to typecast Amish women as meek and submissive. There are many examples to the contrary, even though they might not be immediately visible to outsiders.

Do Amish women have the same rights as Amish men?  Like men, Amish women have a vote in church matters, and can nominate candidates for the ministry. Unlike men, women do not serve as ministers.

As Amish take a Biblical view of the relationship between man and wife, the man is seen as the head of the household, the woman his “helpmeet”. One of many Bible verses pertaining to this is Ephesians 5:23 (“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.”)

In practice, while men may ostensibly make more decisions, and be the more publicly vocal of the pair, many Amish women wield decision-making power and influence within the home in particular. Read more.

Do Amish women run businesses? Some do. Amish females, particularly those in larger settlements, may run successful food stands, quilt shops, or variety stores. Many Amish women operate smaller-scale enterprises such as roadside stands, craft or quilting businesses.

woman-pushing-cart

Women take on many roles in Amish society.

Married Amish women typically do not work at an “away” job, though some may run their own businesses, both in and outside of the home. Single Amish women without the demands of children may have greater latitude in terms of work, including operating a business.

Are Amish women content? 

This question is impossible to answer in broad strokes. But to generalize about Amish women, many seem to be content in their roles. Amish women find fulfillment in various ways, as mothers, wives, business owners, quilters, and so on.

Raised within the culture, Amish women are naturally more apt to accept and endorse Amish cultural mores regarding women and men. Amish women do have numerous avenues for self-expression, whether it’s crafting a quilt, designing and cultivating garden, or penning a letter to an Amish newspaper.

The sense of security and community enjoyed by all members of Amish church communities–women and men–weighs positively when considering this question as well. Ultimately it’s a question that only individual women can answer for themselves.

Are Amish women free to choose? Amish women are free to make many choices within the scope of their culture and communities. In practice, Amish women consult with their husbands on certain decisions, such as large financial purchases. But husbands are apt to defer to a wife’s wishes, particularly in matters concerning the home or children (one example would be the decision to purchase Bible story books for children).

But Amish women make many of the same decisions Amish men do–which youth group to join, who to date, hobbies and occupations, whether to be baptized and join the church community, and many more.

The larger matter–the idea that Amish choices are limited–may be true in one sense, but must be considered in light of other cultural factors. For further reading, one Amishman writes on this question of freedom of choice in his society.

More questions on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the FAQ main page.

References:

  • Graybill, Beth E. “Amish Women, Business Sense: Old Order Women Entrepreneurs in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Tourist Marketplace.” Diss. U of Maryland, 2009.
  • 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life. Aylmer, ON: Pathway Publishers, 1992.
  • Stevick, Pauline. Beyond the Plain and Simple: A Patchwork of Amish Lives. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2007.
  • Stoltzfus, Louise. Amish Women: Lives and Stories. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1994.

To Cite this Page: Wesner, Erik J. “Women.” Amish America. Erik Wesner, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. [Date Accessed]. <http://amishamerica.com/women/>.

Image credits: Women gathering- Jerry