Amish Women: Work, Life and Change

Fran Handrick (University of Birmingham)
7 March 2016

This seminar considers Amish women and how their roles have changed over time with regard to their work and their everyday lives. The Amish emerged around 1693 and were welcomed into the United States between 1730 and 1850. Today they are settled in thirty two states and two provinces in Canada, their population estimated around 327,000. Their orthodox Christian beliefs and distinct way of life has meant many have become interested in the way they lead their lives.

Fran Handrick talks particularly about how the Amish community have adapted, noting that the most dramatic change is how the Amish woman’s role has developed regarding work and business. Due to the decline in farming and the increase in home-based businesses, women began to have an increasingly active role. Activities such as sewing, baking, and gardening, which were once domestic tasks, are now lucrative businesses. Alongside this, the gradual process of overall change is also discussed, as Handrick considers how the Amish are able to still perform activities such as laundry and cooking without the use of electricity, showing that these changes are not eroding their way of life.


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