Wisconsin v. Yoder & The Fleeing Amish Children Photo

Some time ago I was asked about the famous photo of Amish schoolchildren running away from officials in Iowa.  You can see the photo below, taken during an incident in 1965.  It was a turbulent time for Amish which ended with the 1972 Wisconsin v. Yoder Supreme Court decision enabling Amish schooling as we know it today.

This photo was taken in Buchanan County, Iowa, after a failed attempt to bus Amish children to new consolidated schools.  You can read a summary of events leading up to that day here.

John Hostetler writes of the culminating event that “school authorities forced their way into a private Amish school in order to compel the children to board a bus to take them to the consolidated town school.  The press got wind of impending events and recorded the scene as frightened youngsters ran for cover in nearby cornfields and sobbing mothers and fathers were arrested for noncompliance with an Iowa school law” (Amish Society p. 264).

The photo would help galvanize support for the Amish, as David Belton, who made the film “The Amish” for PBS, explains:

On a cold November morning in 1965, a journalist took a photograph that would inspire a religious freedom movement as well as a legal battle culminating in a historic Supreme Court decision. The grainy, black and white image of a group of Amish children running away from police into a cornfield in rural Iowa appeared in local and national magazines and newspapers throughout the United States. That photo prompted a young Lutheran pastor, Rev. William Lindholm, to begin a lifelong commitment to safeguard Amish religious freedom.

Belton writes in this piece about meeting Reverend Lindholm and about how he became involved with the cause of Amish schooling in the 1960s, setting up the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom and guiding the legal fight for the Amish.  Lindholm is now in his 80s but remains active; his website is amishreligiousfreedom.com.

The Wisconsin v. Yoder decision had its 41st anniversary last week.


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    1. Al in Ky

      I was very interested in seeing this picture again — hadn’t seen
      it for years, and it brought back lots of memories. I had an
      uncle (non-Amish) who farmed in that settlement next to an Amish
      farm. My family lived in southeastern Minn. about seventy miles
      away. We would occasionally visit my uncle, and observing the Amish in that settlement created a curiosity and life-long interest in Amish culture for me. Many of the non-Amish in the community would refer to the Amish as “The Hooks” (referring to their use of hooks and eyes on some of their clothing). I always thought the term was rather derogatory and wonder if they are still referred to as “The Hooks”.

      1. Al I have heard some derogatory terms used for Amish, but never “Hooks”. I wonder if this term was just limited to that region. And did the Amish call the English “Buttons” perhaps? 🙂 Nice to hear your back-story, I did not know before where your interest originated, and given your screen name I think of you as Kentucky but now will think MN/IA too.

    2. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      This is an aspect of the Amish story that I didn’t know anything about until I glanced at the American Experience website for “The Amish” to do a little research into what I was going to watch.

      Before just recently I would have thought that there wasn’t such a big deal over one room school houses because they where so common, we learn something new every day. Thank you for sharing. I’m thinking about doing more reading about this.

      1. Challenges to Amish schooling

        Shom glad you found it worthwhile. I do often hear Amish express appreciation for their schooling and they are conscious of meeting the state standards which apply to their schools. However I also think there is a sense that even though it’s been over 40 years their schooling arrangement is not a foregone conclusion (kind of like with how Amish are trying to be proactive with regards to Selective Service and the draft ever returning https://amishamerica.com/amish-military-draft/).

        There have been articles published in the last couple of years arguing against various aspects of the Yoder decision on the basis, among other things, that times, and the Amish, have changed. I will try to share a little more about those and the issues they raise in a future post.

    3. Jackie

      Caliber of people

      If only the caliber of immigrants today had even one tenth of the character and honesty of the Amish, America would be in far better shape today.

      1. Agatha

        With Respect

        Jackie, with respect, may I comment that your remark could have been made historically about Irish, Italian, Jewish or Asian immigrants. Different cultures have different values that we may find commendable or not, but tolerance is always a trait to value.

        1. faith

          no religion

          i really wish people would realize that amish and religion have notheing to do with another!!!!!!!!!!! it is amish and tradition…………i come from the amish and we go way back……i jsut wish they would never be said int he same sentence…..amish and religion NOOOOOOOOOOOOO amish and tradition YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS

      2. Annette

        Alas, your comment is ripe with xenophobia and bigotry.
        I have taught ESL in several schools across the nation, and many, many immigrants are hard-working, upright people who I am so glad to know. They make me so happy I chose the career I have.
        I don’t know that they’re any better or worse than the average Amish person, of whom I know quite a few as well.

        1. OldKat

          My view

          Annette: I live in a town that has been virtually inundated with illegal aliens in the past few decades. Don’t be so quick to label people before you know all the facts.

          Let me give you a little background before I tell you what our experience has been. 1)I tend to be predisposed to like Hispanic people, the vast majority anyway tend to be friendly and outgoing 2) If I lived in a depressed / corrupt nation, like for instance Mexico, I would do whatever it takes to get out of that environment and make sure my children did, too. So I don’t blame them for wanting something better for their families. 3) The vast majority of the early immigrants were hard working and honest, NEVER, causing any problems. Not so anymore. 4) We were experiencing this virtual invasion 25 years ago, LONG before it was even discussed in the rest of the country. I know that immigrants come from all sorts of nations, most commonly they are Hispanic in our area though.

          NOW, fast forward 25 years and let me tell you where we stand. Crime is rampant in our once tranquil community. That can be said of lots of communities on lots of areas of the country. What we see over and over again is this though; the criminal, when identified, will be (in the VAST, VAST majority of the cases); Hispanic, (usually Mexican …not always though), alien & almost always an illegal alien. Very often, in the case of automobile accidents you can add “drunken” to that list. Also, if not arrested with hours of the crime they will flee. Intelligence from within the immigrant community says that they are fleeing to their native country to avoid prosecution. What a shock, huh?

          Meanwhile, our community hospital went bankrupt because the illegal aliens use the emergency room for their medical care and then refuse to pay ANYTHING. We had to create a hospital tax district to keep it afloat, which means that the rest of us are paying for their actions. Our schools have become severely overcrowded, most of the increase has been with non English speaking students, such that the property taxes on our home have increased over 10 fold in the past 15 years. (We pay for our schools here mostly with Ad Valorem taxes). The market value has only increased a fraction of that amount though.

          In the 1980’s people could walk the streets of our town at any hour of the night or day with little fear for their safety. Not so anymore. Whenever there is an incident the alleged preparatory, if arrested, turns out to be an alien … almost always an illegal alien at that.

          So having watched all of this unfold over two and half decades and in a town that most of the people in the nearby city consider to be nearly idyllic,(you should see what is going on over there), I am forced to ask a question. Since I clearly see what is going on right before my very eyes, AND, unlike most people: I am willing to comment on it and question “why this is even allowed to exist”? THEN, by doing so am I now identified as Xenophobic, Bigoted, Racist … or all three?

          Also, as bad as things are in my community I listen to several friends at work who are all from the same town in South Texas, which is much closer to the border than we are and I feel thankful. Their little town, which they say was a typical “All American” little town when they were growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s is now a virtual war zone. They have urged their family members to leave, but it is hard when that community is all you have ever known & you are in your 70’s. Besides, who in their right mind would buy them out? The problem (according to them): “Those illegal aliens coming up from the south”. Oh, and my friends have surnames like Barrera, Gonzales and Perales. Are they xenophobic, bigots and racists, too?

          1. OldKat

            Typo time ... again.

            Ahh, make that “perpetrator” … not “preparatory”.

          2. Annette

            I did not call the OP a bigot or a racist. I said her comment was ripe with bigotry and xenophobia.

            She made a broad claim that today’s immigrants are essentially bad people and that Amish people are essentially good people.

            Both are generalizations, and to paint “today’s immigrants” as 10% as decent as our home grown Americans is an example of a bigoted/prejudiced statement.

            I think perhaps some of the problem is the conflation of “immigrant” with “Hispanic, illegal immigrant” in most people’s minds. *sigh* Either way, it was too broad a brush and I think my response stands.

            1. OldKat


              Whatever. Remember when you point a finger just how many are pointing back at you. “Sigh”

              1. Annette

                Why is this personal now?
                I said a comment was bigoted.

                Now, you’re responding as if I called a person names and now have fingers pointed back at me calling me the “same name” presumably

                If you can point out how my _comment_ is bigoted, that’s reasonable.
                If you can’t, this exchange is completely nonsensical and I see no reason to continue it.

    4. Alice Mary

      Just last week on my trip to Shipshewana, our local tour guide pointed out some Amish schools in the area saying that school regularly ended in early May so that the kids could help with farm/home chores…their “vocational” training. I thought about when I was in school. It was always SO HARD, this time of year, trying to keep my mind on my studies. Lucky Amish kids!

      I knew about some of the Amish “resistance” against higher education, but never saw that photo or knew the details of this case. I’m glad you brought it up.

      As I’ve said before, vocational training (for English kids, too) is something we need more of. I think it would help keep kids interested in learning if they could see that what they were learning, hands-on, would result in a paycheck that much sooner. I mean, I liked Algebra, but I can’t say it’s ever actually helped me in my job (other than possibly helping a kid with homework—and even that wasn’t helpful, since kids learn in middle school or earlier, what I learned in high school.) I wish I could have learned woodworking, instead.

      Alice Mary

      1. Ed

        Alice Mary, I agree with you regarding vocational training. It seems to have taken a back seat in favor of getting as many students to college as possible. Nothing wrong with college, but it is very expensive, and few students wind up in a career where academic credentials are really required. Vocational training gives students an actual skill they can use to get a job or earn income. It also can readily be combined with college studies, if the student wants both.

    5. Frank T.

      Paradise Valley


      It’s amazing you posted this recently, I have been knee deep in the Amish fiction novel of Paradise Valley by author Dale Cramer and can’t put it down (and it’s exactly about the children & parents being targeted for not attending public schools). It is centered around the Amish in the 1940’s – 1950’s time frame, and how they were jailed and the children placed into homes due to this law. I know it’s fiction….but the book seems so accurate and it appears that the author did his homework. Anyway, this is great information because as I was reading the book today I thought to myself that there is no way that this could have happened in America and chalked it up to a fiction novel. However, I was stunned to read your article tonight which makes the book even more addicting! Thanks again for the great information, I can never learn enough about the Amish.

    6. Linda

      Iowa Amish children scurry into cornfield

      “13 photos: Superintendent reflects on forcing Amish to go to school,” is a collection of clippings and letters featuring the retired school superintendent from Oelwein or Hazleton, Iowa. In photo #9 out of 13, Amish children scurry into hiding in cornfield, as reported by The Des Moines Register on Nov. 20, 1965.

      (16 photos: Amish picked up by school bus, printed Nov. 20, 1965)

      (Lost Schools: A photo that launched a revolution. with 8:47 video. The 50th anniversary of the Amish school incident is coming up.)