Wisconsin Woman Leaves Amish Community, Starts Successful Bakery

“I did not tell them I was leaving…I left them a note, and left.”

Miriam Lambright says that “looking outside, I was like – there’s more there.” Leaving her community meant “freedom.”

Miriam left the Amish seven years ago, at age 22. Her story is briefly told in a new video from Milwaukee station WTMJ.

We don’t get a ton of background in the 2-minute clip, besides her sense of dissatisfaction with an Amish life.

She did have her first photo taken when she was 14, when someone had snuck a camera into the community.

Clearly Miriam did not have Amish life in her DNA.

Or maybe that’s incorrect.

Maybe in different family or community or other circumstances, she would have found contentment and stayed. We don’t know.

That is actually an unexplained question in some of these stories in which people leave the Amish – for instance the recent case of John Shrock.

Troubles at home make leaving the community that much more attractive.

Another example is Saloma Furlong, who has documented her traumatic home life, and journey out of the Amish, in two books.

While it’s unclear what her family life was like, Miriam says “her path was set for her at birth”, in the words of the reporter. The typical Amish housewife/family trajectory was not for her.

Miriam seems like a very cheerful person, and content with her baking business: “it’s a very good feeling when you see people come in and buy your goods that you made…I just love watching people enjoy good food.”

Some people leave the Amish because their ambitions don’t fit with an Amish life (ie, desire for higher education, incompatible careers, etc.).

Baking is certainly a passion that Miriam could have pursued within the Amish. But she clearly wanted more.

It looks like she found the right place for her.

One last, puzzling thing about this video that caught my eye, or rather, ear.

Is it just me, or do I hear a New York accent in her voice?

I don’t know how folks in Waupaca County speak, but for the most part it doesn’t sound “typical Wisconsin” – or “Amish” for that matter – to me.

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    42 Comments

    1. kim hansen

      I was born and raised in New Jersey that state as well as New York State and New York city have really thick accents I listen to the video several times I don’t hear any accent that would say New York. You would know even if she was raised amish the accent would be very pronounced.

    2. Mark Louden

      As is familiar to regular readers of this blog, Amish life is not for everyone who is born to Amish parents, and clearly Miriam is happy in her life today. That’s important.

      What’s interesting, though, is that her professional life – at least as depicted in this brief profile – is not all that different from what she would or could have done had she remained Amish, the main difference being that her bakery has electricity and a Facebook page (and there are very likely more than a few Amish-run bakeries featured on Facebook and Yelp). And I bet she didn’t just start baking after she left her community.

      The media portrayal of Amish life through stories like this is so predictable, down to the fuzzy black-and-white pictures. “How can anyone live without cellphones, TVs, and radios??” And by the way, does anyone believe that large numbers of Amish adults don’t know who the president is? But profiling Amish folks who are happy to be Amish isn’t newsworthy … not “passionate” enough.

      1. MKJ

        Re: picture

        Yeah, black and white cameras or film are rare today. My parents have a few black and white BABY pictures, from 70+ yrs ago. She’s around 30, so 15 yrs ago someone snuck a primitive black n white camera into the community to take grainy pictures? I mean, it’s possible, but unlikely. I can see cell phone picture or even Polaroid being more likely. If this is common to see in profiles of before/after stories, then the editors are taking the liberty to use Photoshop etc on photos for desired effect (grainy black n white giving a “scarier”, more severe, depressing etc look, it’s used for that reason on crime shows and even on the “before” part of ads of TV marketed gadgets!)

        1. That caught my attention as well. If she was 14 when the photo was taken, that would have made it about 2004.

          1. Just to follow up, on viewing the video again, the black and white version of the photo is visible hanging up in the bakery alongside a newspaper article about the business. So it wouldn’t be any Photoshop work from the editors, looks like the B&W version is the original photo.

    3. Rose

      Wisconsin!

      Being from Wisconsin I personally hear a Wisconsin accent (The way she says daily as DAYYYlee) with a thick German accent, pretty aligned with the Amish I’ve met at farmers markets. Interesting story! Good for her for making it as entrepreneur.

      1. Abraham

        Accent

        Rose, I hear clearly what you hear.

    4. Stephen Cassinera

      Lambright? Amish??? I don't think so!!!

      Too many fake amish stories by the media for me!
      Amish family members who start a business usually start one to help support their family. She seems to have started one as a means to a worldly lifestyle. Of course the media is going to embrace anyone glorifying their own destructive behavior.
      Selfish indulgence is not a virtue!!!

      1. Lambright is an Amish surname

        Lambright is actually a fairly common last name in some Amish communities, northern Indiana (Elkhart and Lagrange Counties) being probably the best example. You’ll find a good number of Amish Lambright families there.

    5. Katherine

      Not a total disconnect from "Amish."

      I went to Miss Miriam’s business Facebook. All of her baked goods looked very pretty, and I am sure that they are all delicious. What surprises me is that she has what looks like a business card with the inscription: “We use real ingredients and bake everything fresh daily, the old fashion (sic) way. For those who want the best and know the difference.” Then, in larger letters, it reads “AMISH MADE” and has the photograph of Miss Miriam when she was an Amish teenager. This shows me that she wants to profit from her Amish background even though she wants freedom from it.

      1. Mark Louden

        Interesting observation, Katherine. I remember an Amish person commenting once about ex-Amish drawing on their Amish background for commercial purposes. He said, “Funny thing, the Amish weren’t good enough for them when they part of our community, but now …”

        1. It’s not really visible in the screen shot I’ve shared above, but the words “Amish made” also show up in the upper right corner of the sign on the storefront.

    6. Bill Rushby

      I have very mixed feelings about Miriam's Decisions

      I too left the denomination I was raised in. Ironically, I taught “Adult Sunday School” for them for several years, decades later! It’s important to consider the value of the heritage one is leaving behind, and not to act impulsively in abandoning it. And there is the further question of what one is replacing one’s heritage with; a bakery business wouldn’t quite fill the bill for me! What will fill the spiritual void??

    7. SB

      Wisonsin Woman Leaves Amish Community

      I have family and friends who live in New York and I traveled there frequently when I was younger. Miriam doesn’t have a trace of a New York accent. I do hear more of a Wisconsin accent and some Germanic tones.

      I applaud her and hope she’s happy.

    8. Marla Jones

      Accent

      She sounds similar to Michigan accent, a little like Irish or Canadian also, which being where she is, makes sense, lots of Celts in Canada which borders WI. I had a friend from upstate NY and the accent there is nothing like urban NY, so if a person is saying they are hearing “NY” maybe they’re hearing like an upstate NY which is more like MI.

      1. Seems like I’m just about alone here in hearing NY tones in her voice 🙂 For me it sounded more NY at the beginning of the video, for instance when she says “like 8 o’clock at night” and “the wife works at home”.

        She sounds more Wisconsin to me at points later in the clip, like on the word “had” when she says “what I had when I was Amish.”

        I lived in Wisconsin for 3-4 months and recall a different sound to the accent (this was in western Wisconsin closer to Minnesota). It’s been some years since that time though. I haven’t been to any Amish communities in Wisconsin. She doesn’t sound like other Midwestern Amish English accents to me (eg, N. Indiana or Holmes County), but maybe this aligns more with how some sound in communities in WI.

        1. Maureen New York

          Maybe not so alone

          Erik,

          As you well know New York is a BIG state. If you live on Long Island, and the five Burroughs [Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Staten Island], that thick New York dialect [can vary slightly] but there’s no mistaking it. Some other states can’t even understand us.

          However, up north and west of these Burroughs within New York state, is vast farm country and they all speak way different and might as well be from the mid-west. So I can see you point.

          As per this Amish woman, I personally hear Penn/Dutch and a Wisconsin [mid west] pronunciation, And she sounds pretty close to most of our Amish here in New York outside of Long Island and the Burroughs..

    9. Leslie Kendall

      More?

      Oh, there’s more out here alright.
      A much too long list of things I’d like to get away from.
      And I’d like to know who funded the opening of her business.

      1. Alex Knisely

        "I'd like to know who funded her"... uhm, why?

        Here’s a narrative or four.

        Ms Lambright leaves the Amish, works as a cleaner, saves her money. Or –

        Ms Lambright leaves the Amish, works in an “English” bakery, saves her money. Or –

        Ms Lambright leaves the Amish, distinguishes herself in the eyes of someone who gets to know her, and receives financial backing as a “start-up” from that someone. Or –

        Ms Lambright is placed in touch (by whom?) with folks who will Stop At Nothing to harm Amish people and communities (who ever can these folks be?) and receives backing with Tainted Lucre. Possibly satanic, that lucre. But certainly evil.

        Really, I’d bet on one of the first three, and really, I can’t imagine why you care. What DO you suspect here?

        1. Maureen New York

          Suspect

          Alex,

          I couldn’t have replied and said it better!

    10. Ann Rozsi

      Anyone following their dreams should be respected for doing so

      My husband, sister and I stayed at a lovely home in an Amish community in Indiana. A young Amish woman was tasked with making breakfast, and while doing so, encouraged us to ask her questions about her life within her community. She shared with us that her dream was to become a nurse. She explained that education stops after the 8th grade, Amish rules weighed heavily into what her life should become (wife, mother, household), and she was unsure how she was going to realize her dream.

      Annually, when I visited the area, I would recognize her behind the counter of an Amish bakery. It was clear to me that she had not been able to pursue her life’s dream. It is probably a very difficult situation for anyone who wishes to pursue a different life journey. I don’t want to make this a negative about the Amish, but for their young people who strive for something different (healthcare field, engineering, etc), it must make for difficult decisions at a tender age.

    11. Mike Sparks

      Wisconsin Woman Leaves Amish Community

      Very interesting read and video. Katherine….you took the words out of my mouth. This young lady gets a A+ in Marketing 101. Even though she did not want to remain Amish, she understands the draw of “Amish made” to the English, especially baked goods or furniture. I certainly am not here to judge her, but, if you don’t want to be aligned with the culture, why use the reference?

      As for the accent, I listened very closely and I thought early in the video, there was certainly words pronounced that seemed to still have the Amish accent, based on my experience in listening to Amish speak. I also did not get a NY or NJ accent in her voice.

      Regardless, I wish the best success for her business.

    12. Yoder in Ohio

      I get the leaving part — it’s not for everyone. But I have a problem with the “Amish made” promotion. That’s in very poor taste. (No pun intended.)

      1. Alex Knisely

        "But I have a problem with the 'Amish made' promotion."

        Sure, I would too. If her hands were in the batter.

        What about this “maybe”?

        Maybe she’s hired a bevy of really-o, truly-o, Amish girls — or Amish-reared girls who haven’t yet joined the church — to punch down the dough, grease the pans, do the making in the baking.

        Do we know enough to exclude that? Not yet, or so it seems to me.

        And if that’s the case, then those baked goods are Amish-made and heretic-sold.

        Should be just fine, eh ?

    13. Yoder in Ohio

      Good points, Alex!

      I always find your comments interesting and thought-provoking, Alex, and often chuckle because you have a good sense of humor. 🙂

      You’re right — she might have Amish girls baking, but to be honest, I have the problem with Amish-made in general, whether really-o, truly-o, or not. I have yet to see “Presbyterian Furniture” or a “Mormon Gas Station” or “Catholic Crafts,” but maybe I don’t get out enough. 😉

      There is no end to marketing things as Amish this or that, but I kind of cringe when I see it. But yes, good point and thanks for calling me out on it.

      1. Alex Knisely

        Reply to "Good points, Alex !"

        Well, thank you. Thank you for the compliments, and thank you for taking my comments lightly, as they were intended.

        “Amish-made”… I’ve bought some roadside-stand “Amish-made” whoopie pies from girls dressed Amish that were just short of celestial. (Could’ve had more filling.) And I’ve bought ditto from ditto that were… well, I wanted to nail those whoopie pies over mouseholes. And Amish-made, every last tooth-breaker among them.

        So we’re on the same page there !

    14. Yoder in Ohio

      Certainly!

      I certainly take your light comments as “tongue in cheek” when you exercise your wit!

      Yes, same page indeed. And on the different outcomes of these Amish-dressed bakers: there is not some mysterious baking gene unique to the Amish that automatically makes every Amish-born person an outstanding baker. I have had some truly horrible “treats” in Amish kitchens just like I have had some that have made me make happy little sounds.

    15. marie meroz

      Starts Successful Bakery

      I think if she just left a note and then she just left, she must not have had a good home life. If you are with family that you greatly love I think it would very difficult to make such a decision with just a note. I wish her the best.

      1. A good point, and I think a reasonable inference.

    16. Kathy Heath

      Happy for her

      She sounds distinctly Amish to me and very like other young Amish women I have heard interviewed. I can’t hear any NY at all in the way she speaks. I also think it’s her prerogative to use the term “Amish made”. Just like anyone who opens a business, having a point of difference is very important. If I left my home for another country and opened a bakery using traditional recipes from my homeland, I would be sure to make sure that was part of my marketing strategy! I would be crazy not to and I’m sure people would be interested. It’s a small bakery and if drawing on her background helps her with her business all power to her.

      She has a spark in her eye and looks like she’s found her place in life. How lucky for her to have found her passion and be able to make a living from it.

      1. Kate

        I so agree with feeling happy for her happiness, but to be honest, I’d feel she had misrepresented her business if I drove in there expecting “Amish made” and saw otherwise. Certain “brands” result in certain expectations or assumptions. I see “Amish” as more than a country’s traditional recipes, but that’s just me. I might have a whole different feeling about it if she was using “Amish Style” or “Traditional Amish Recipes.” My point is if she’s not Amish, advertising Amish-made isn’t honest.

        1. Fitz

          I feel the same way. I’d feel I had been ripped off and her advertising was dishonest.

        2. It gets into the interesting question of what “Amish” means. I have often heard former Amish people say that they “feel Amish”, think in an “Amish” way, etc. and I would not doubt them or dispute this sense of identity and upbringing.

          But looking at it strictly as a church membership question, there are specific objective requirements for other Amish to consider you to be an Amish church member. I think Miriam is quite aware of this; however I would consider her use of “Amish-made” a gray area of sorts, if she thinks of herself as “culturally” Amish. Language like “Amish-style” or “Amish heritage” would be less disputable and that’s what some businesses use.

    17. Alex Knisely

      "Amish-made", "Amish-mode"...

      Amish fruit pies. Oh, my. Three cherries to the slice and all the cornstarch (with some red food coloring) you could ever want. Frugal, yes. Something sweet and stomach-packing with which to end a meal, yes. Authentic, for sure. But…

      I’ve had my disappointments at Amish baked-good stands, put it that way. But maybe that was just around New Wilmington.

      “If the buggy’s yellow-top / At the bakestand best not stop”. Discuss, showing your work. Use both ends of the pencil.

    18. Yoder in Ohio

      Pies! Pies! Pies!

      There is definitely something to be said for that! I’ve had pies that I had to struggle to finish and the 3 cherries & clear-gel nails it. Ugh.

      But…. may I serve you a slice of MY wife’s cheery pie??? Real cherries, piled high, the “syrup” being cheery juice with just enough clear-gel to keep it from oozing out as soon as you cut into the flaky crust, a hint of almond… Mmmm.

      The more conservative groups/ areas definitely have a different approach to baking! But no freezer? No fridge? No mixer? Those things make a difference.

      PS: Best cherry pie ever? Sour cream cheery pie!

      1. Maureen New York

        Receipe please!

        Yoder, yes indeed. I have been served up some horrendous baked goods from the very conservative Amish families. It is because of exactly what you stated. Also, they seem to be so busy most of the time, that meals are an after thought.

        However, there are some Amish women who are beyond delicious cooks. You can’t top Ruby’s fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, Amy’s lamb stew and home made bread cannot be beat, no one makes better flap-jacks and home made sausage than Hazel and no one can make her coffee either. I could go on.

        Can I have your wife’s cherry pie recipe? Amish here prefer sour cream to whipped cream, so this would be a wonderful good Thanksgiving treat. – Mrs. Yoder’s Cherry pie! Because while these women are good cooks, they are not such good desert bakers, lol!

        1. Yoder in Ohio

          For Maureen

          Your comment made me smile and made me hungry. 🙂 I will make a note to ask the Mrs. for her recipe. (Maybe I should offer to sample such a pie again before posting the recipe. You know… just to make sure it’s good. Ha!)

      2. Melissa Walker

        Amish Baking

        I chuckled when I read your post. My husband and I stopped at an Amish stand near Mansfield, Ohio many years ago and purchased cookies and bread. The cookies were really bad. Not too much of a stretch to say horrible. The bread was o.k. but not nearly as good as other homemade bread that I have had, or even some store-bought. You mentioned more conservative groups and their baking. This family was Swartzentruber, or so it appeared. I definitely learned something valuable that day. Don’t assume that just because it’s “Amish made”, that it will be good. On a more positive note. If you haven’t been to the Amish Home in Berlin, OHio (I think), they have the best hand pies. Truly heavenly!

    19. Yoder in Ohio

      Cherry Pie

      Not “cheery.” My wife’s pies don’t express any particular emotion: they just create emotions.

      1. Alex Knisely

        Cherry cheery

        I’d be ready to cheer for a pie like that.

        Does Mrs Y know that you’re opening the door to Heaven knows what kind of person, ravenous for pie ? I think that she should be told.

    20. Yoder in Ohio

      Telling Mrs. Y.

      Aren’t surprises FUN?!

    21. Kathy Hansen

      New York accent

      As a native of New York State, I detect no type of New York accent in her speech.
      If she grew up speaking an Amish German dialect, that would influence her English, and Wisconsin does have its own pronunciation in certain respects, so there is probably some of that involved as well. (My father was from Wisconsin, and we visited relatives there every year, so I’m familiar with the differences.)