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An Amish Paradox

Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community

Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell

Publication Year: 2010

Holmes County, Ohio, is home to the largest and most diverse Amish community in the world. Yet, surprisingly, it remains relatively unknown compared to its famous cousin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell conducted seven years of fieldwork, including interviews with over 200 residents, to understand the dynamism that drives social change and schism within the settlement, where Amish enterprises and nonfarming employment have prospered. The authors contend that the Holmes County Amish are experiencing an unprecedented and complex process of change as their increasing entanglement with the non-Amish market causes them to rethink their religious convictions, family practices, educational choices, occupational shifts, and health care options. The authors challenge the popular image of the Amish as a homogeneous, static, insulated society, showing how the Amish balance tensions between individual needs and community values. They find that self-made millionaires work alongside struggling dairy farmers; successful female entrepreneurs live next door to stay-at-home mothers; and teenagers both embrace and reject the coming-of-age ritual, rumspringa. An Amish Paradox captures the complexity and creativity of the Holmes County Amish, dispelling the image of the Amish as a vestige of a bygone era and showing how they reinterpret tradition as modernity encroaches on their distinct way of life.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page

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p. v

Figures, Maps, and Tables

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pp. vii-viii | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317776

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pp. ix-xiv | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317777

Studying the Amish is like undertaking a great detective adventure. There are detours, hidden treasures, unexpected discoveries, and clues to Amish culture and...

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p. xv

We have many people to thank. First and foremost, we could have accomplished little without the cooperation and insights of many local Amish contributors, including members and ordained leaders from...

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Chapter 1 Discovering the Holmes County Amish

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pp. 1-33 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317779

Just sixty miles south of Cleveland and seventy miles northeast of Columbus, in the center of the triangle formed by interstates 70, 71, and 77, lies the largest contiguous...

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Chapter 2 The Origins of Religious Diversity

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pp. 34-57 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317780

Out of the two major waves of Amish immigration to the United States in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at least nineteen Anabaptist groups have sprung up.1 Roughly half have formed the relatively progressive Mennonite...

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Chapter 3 Coping with Church Schism

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pp. 58-95 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317781

Given that church schism inevitably involves hard feelings and even divides extended families, we would expect it to have farreaching social implications. To what extent do the differences between Amish affiliations shape...

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Chapter 4 Continuity and Change in Family Life

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pp. 96-140 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317782

Two images of Amish families compete in the American public’s eye. The first holds up the Amish as a model of family stability and continuity, a carryover from the "ideal traditional family" of years gone by.1 In this view, the...

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Chapter 5 The Changing Landscape of Learning

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pp. 141-173 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317783

For the Amish, no legal decision has had a greater influence on the educational and cultural prospects of their people than the landmark 1972 Supreme Court...

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Chapter 6 Work Within and Outside Tradition

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pp. 174-219 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317784

The dynamic and shifting nature of the Amish economic structure has been well documented,1 and the Holmes County Settlement has not been...

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Chapter 7 Health along the Life Cycle

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pp. 220-258 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317785

As Amish individuals confront health decisions throughout their lives, they, like everyone else, are guided by a variety of considerations. Among the most important are moral values and beliefs, cost, knowledge, and accessibility...

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Chapter 8 Stepping Back and Looking Forward

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pp. 259-290 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317786

In the previous chapters, we have discussed numerous dimensions of the Holmes County Settlement as if they were discrete and isolated from each other. But of course they are not. In everyday life and in reality, they are woven into the...


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pp. 335-346 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/chapter.317791

E-ISBN-13: 9780801897900
E-ISBN-10: 0801897904
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801893995
Print-ISBN-10: 0801893992

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 39 halftones, 3 line drawings, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 647908343
MUSE Marc Record: Download for An Amish Paradox

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Amish -- Ohio -- Holmes County -- Social life and customs.
  • Amish -- Ohio -- Holmes County -- Social conditions.
  • Amish -- Education -- Ohio -- Holmes County.
  • Amish -- Health and hygiene -- Ohio -- Holmes County.
  • Amish -- Ohio -- Holmes County -- Economic conditions.
  • Amish -- Technology -- Religious aspects.
  • Holmes County (Ohio) -- Social life and customs.
  • Holmes County (Ohio) -- Social conditions.
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