How is the average Amish woman different from her non-Amish counterpart? This article was inspired by a reader request.
This list shouldn’t be read as a critique. As I note below, these differences reflect realities of Amish culture and community.
And of course, I’m necessarily generalizing here–both about “modern” women, and the Amish.
That noted, on to the list.
5 Ways Amish Women Differ From Non-Amish Women
1. Career Takes a Backseat to Family
This is not to say Amish women don’t have occupations or don’t work hard. Many run businesses and make sizable contributions to the family’s bottom line. But the idea of career doesn’t supersede the family with Amish women.
Though some Amish women may be having fewer children, the norm is still early marriage and starting families soon afterwards.
Financial needs must be met, but family time is more important than personal career goals. Some run businesses, but they typically are based around the home.
For women, this might mean part-time sewing work, a roadside stand, or a small store. But not a job that takes them away from the home for extended stretches of time (especially when children are young).
2. Physical Beauty is Not Emphasized
This isn’t to say that physical beauty is ignored–obviously that is a natural part of human attraction. But hairdressers and makeup are not a part of Amish women’s lives (with the notable exception of some Rumspringa-age females).
Amish stress the importance of internal virtues over external beauty (this goes for the men as well). And in some, particularly “lower” (ie, plainer) Amish communities, beauty may be even more de-emphasized than in others.
I sometimes hear young non-Amish girls get praised for looking beautiful in a new dress, or whatever it might be. You don’t hear the same thing among the Amish. Modern culture simply places a greater value on physical beauty.
3. They’re Mothering Like non-Amish Women Did Centuries Ago
This reflects many things, including religious and cultural beliefs in Amish society, as well as shifting mores regarding marriage in non-Amish society, along with delaying the start of families.
Large families are also more feasible thanks to the way Amish live–bolstered by strong community and familial support. They’re made more realistic by their setting in rural areas where space is not at the same premium it is in urban areas.
Also, it’s probably safe to say that the style of parenting of Amish today is more like that of generations ago. A rural life in a large family with less individual adult supervision inevitably means more bumps and bruises.
4. A Belief in the Husband as Family Head
Amish believe in the idea of the husband being the head of the family. This is something Amish women, raised in the culture, accept.
This shouldn’t be read to mean they are subservient. Not that there aren’t unhealthy marital relationships among the Amish, as there surely are.
The Amish couples I know feel more like a partnership, than a relationship where one party dominates the other. This is in part by necessity, as there is a lot to manage in an Amish household, from children to food to visitors to farm work.
Amish women have a lot of influence and even run much of the show, so to speak. But, the husband is at least outwardly the head of the family, his wife his “helpmeet” as described in the book of Genesis.
5. They Still Practice The “Home Arts”
By “home arts” I mean things like sewing, gardening, baking, canning, and other traditional domestic practices. Certainly, these activities are still common with some modern women (and I suspect a number of our readers).
But not to the degree that is prevalent among the Amish, where these are standard and expected skills a woman should have.
Not every Amish woman today makes all her family’s clothes or cooks all their food. But these practices remain strong in Amish culture and continue to be taught and carried on from one generation to the next.
What do you think? Do you agree with these ideas? What else could go on the list?
Image credits: Women walking, Rag rugs, Mother w/children- ShipshewanaIndiana; Mirror- rianpie/flickr; Genesis- rschreff/flickr; sewing needle- karen_d/flickr