Old Order Amish do not drive cars.

They travel by horse and buggy

Women often drive the buggies as well.

They will only ride in cars owned and driven by non Amish.

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The Only Career Option for Women
(c)copyright Bea Sheftel

Being a Wife and Mother is the Only Career Option by Bea Sheftel

Before marriage a woman might be a teacher in the one room schoohouse, work in town in one of the stores like this young woman. She's at the indoor farmer's market where there are different stalls. Some sell homecooked items, others serve soft drinks like orange juice, and some sell handcrafted items. After marriage she is supposed to stay home and take care of the house, the children, and her husband. She might help out on the farm. She might also do crafts or can foods. If her husband agrees, she can sell these at a road side stand or at the farmer's market. She won't be allowed to teach in the one room school house, or to work for someone else.

A married Amish woman is a homemaker whether or not she has children. Before the children arrive she'll help her husband on the farm. If they don't live on a farm, she might work on a quilt or other craft project to supplement their income. She might have an extra large garden and then do canning. These things she'll bring to the farmer's market to sell during the summer and early fall season. She may even work at the Farmer's market as a young girl or at one of the shops in town. As a married woman she won't be allowed to work for someone else. However she may continue making quilts, sewing objects, crochet and knitting projects to sell at the Farmer's Market.

Young unmarried Amish woman might work at the farmer's market. A married woman is also allowed at the farmer's market since it is only a few days a week and can contribute to the family financial resources. The difference is the unmarried girl can work for someone. The married woman must have her own stand and sell only things she and her family or friends have made at home. If she has children they will go with her.

A woman's career in the Amish community is to take care of her home, her husband and her children. The Amish woman works from before sun up to the evening keeping her home, her husband and her children satisfied. In some marriages the union is of equals though the work differs for men and women. Some marriages are made in love and others are arranged by family. There are unmarried or maiden lady Amish women as well as widows. They can work outside their home or in co-op shops, but even so the kind of work they do is regulated by the Bishop.

The home is the center of Amish life. It is here the children are usually born, and here they are raised. The older generations remain with the family living in smaller attached houses and helping with various chores. The elderly are kept at home, not put into nursing homes. There also is no divorce in the Amish community so if a woman is unhappy, she has no recourse.

Amish women can have their babies at home with a midwife or they can go to the hospital. It is up to them and is not restricted by the Ordnung. Today most Amish women prefer to give birth at home unless there is danger of complications. This is a choice modern women have also chosen over the anteseptic atmosphere of the hospital. Instead of hurrying to find a neighbor with a car to drive them to the hospital, Amish women now have their husband's bring the midwife who lives in their area. The mid-wife stays with the women during the entire labor. The water is put on for tea, conversation flows, other close woman relatives visit also and the birth becomes a family affair.

Many modern women who work at careers and take care of their homes and children might envy the life the Amish homemaker. She is respected for the work she does, and she has built in recreation. These are work frolics where the women gather to make quilts, or make cookies.

You can find out more information about the day to day life of the Amish in my special paid report.



Confessions of an Amish Woman

As told to Bea Sheftel

An Amish woman talks frankly about her life.

I can't identify the woman I talked with who once was Amish. I met her while in Lancaster. I was talking with so many people, and asking so many questions, she joined in. "Perhaps I can help? I once was Amish." Have you wondered what happens to a young man or woman who leaves their community? How can they adapt to the modern world? How can they earn a living? Do they long for the plain life? My new friend was admitted she sometimes longed for the life she lived on an Amish farm. "We worked hard, but life was simpler," she said. "What do you miss most?" "My family, of course," she replied quickly. "I see them, but it is not the same. The closeness we once had is gone.

Those who stayed belong. I no longer do." I could hear the nostalgia in her voice. "But I am not sorry for my decision to leave." She continued to relate her experiences while we sat sipping cups of tea. She missed the simple things of Amish life. Sitting in a warm kitchen surrounded by her family.

The quilting bees and frolics where women gathered to visit, talk, and work on a quilt, or bake cookies. She even missed the glow of the gas lantern on a winter evening. The reason Amish women leave vary but most leave to marry outside the Amish church, or to pursue an education and a career.

The Amish only allow education until 8th grade. Women can work outside the home before marriage, but once married they work at home. Her words took me inside the heart of the Amish community, the home. The saying, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," is a credo to the women who clean their homes thoroughly every spring and fall. "Hardly any dust at all," she said, when speaking of her mother's cleaning. "She attacked them on a daily basis."

It is true some Amish women are austere, but many have cheerful personalities and a love of life. The world of technology passes them by almost unnoticed because their own world is filled with the love and laughter of children and families.

She told me about the homemade rootbeer floats that taste so much better than bottled soda floats. There were strawberries from her mother's garden. Potatoes too, mashed and covered with butter and milk. And flowers, she said. Mother had a garden filled with flowers.

"Not a weed was allowed to invade," she said. "We kids went out in the morning and pulled those weeds before they could choke mother's beautiful flowers." I've included more of this fascinating interview in my paid report. I also have an interview with an old man who once was Amish.



(C)COPYRIGHT Bea Sheftel

The Amish dress alike because they believe more in the community than in individuals. They can recognize each other by the manner of dress. They also don't have to worry about fashion which would be worldly. This is an example of the women's clothing.

There are three required elements of a woman's outfit in Lancaster.There is a one piece dress in a dark solid color, and apron which is always worn over the dress, and a cape. They are all in the same fabric and color. These are necessary for modesty. The Amish woman does not flaunt her figure.

The clothes are homemade. Once they were all cotton, but today the practical Amish homemaker will use a fabric blend that doesn't need a lot of ironing.

At a workshop on the Amish I was told the women pin their clothing on rather than sew them. I imagine the apron would be pinned on but I can't believe the dress is pinned. It doesn't seem practical to have to pin and unpin everyday.

All Amish adult women, and teen girls, wear a white cap at all times. In Lancaster it is made of a linen fabric. There are different styles for different communities.

In winter the women wear long black triangular shawls or homemade black coats. Amish women make their own stockings, gloves, scarves and other clothing. However, if they can buy an item at a good price, they will since Amish women are very busy. Probably the items they would buy would be underwear, socks, stockings.


The Amish School

The Amish school is a one room school with all the grades in one small building. Amish children only go to school until 8th grade, and then work at home on assignments until age 16. During this period between classroom and actual work time, they do an internship and learn a trade. It could be working with their father on a dairy farm, or in a blacksmith shop. The girls work with their mothers.

The Amish are not against education. They train their children in both German and English, and encourage the students to work hard. They feel that going beyond 8th grade is wordly and not necessary for the Amish community.

The Amish had to fight the system to win the right to educate their own children in their own schools. The teachers are young unmarried women from the community. When a woman is going to be married, she will train another young woman to teach.

Some Amish men and women leave the community in order to continue their education. If they leave before they are Baptized, they can come back and be full members of the Amish community, despite their education. This is not the common practice though. Most learning is done through on the job training with their parents, or others in the community.

Despite leaving official school at 8th grade, the Amish are literate. They can read and write in both English and German. As a group they are creative and find ways to live in the modern world while keeping to the rules of their Ordnung. Many inventions have come out of the community for equipment that can be run without electricity. The Amish are indeed a unique people.


Return to the HOME page for more articles

Home Page of the Amish of Lancaster: The Amish of Lancaster, directory of articles with clickable links
Ebook Excerpt: The Secret Life of the Amish (Not available yet): Read an excerpt from my Ebook. You can order for quick delivery through paypal.com
Amish weddings: Amish wedding customs

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