Amish women are expected to place the needs of their family, church, and community above their own. What this means is that the women in Amish society are responsible for managing the household, preparing the food, sewing and ironing the family clothes, and assisting the needs of their neighbors.
Most Amish farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania are co-owned by the husband and the wife. In the Amish household, it is generally the wife who pays the bills and makes all the purchases for the home. She will also go to market and bid at auctions for the family.
Since the Amish are a patriarchal society, there are not many opportunities for women to seek careers or lifestyles outside of the home and family. Of course, there are Amish women who do have jobs. To a larger degree than with non-Amish women, Amish women tend to experience a great deal of pressure to balance their jobs with their household responsibilities.
Likewise, within the church, the role of the woman is important and respected but limited. For instance, women participate in nominating the ministers, deacons, and bishops as well as voting on other community affairs. However, they are not given any leadership roles themselves other than as Sunday school teachers, song leaders, worship leaders, and church elders.
Within some of the more modern Mennonite groups, there are instances where women have been ordained into the ministry. But, such roles are often controversial within the communities.
While non-Amish men and women may feel that the lack of freedom to choose one's livelihood breeds alienation and dissatisfaction, it is important to remember that Amish society values church, family and community above all else.
By devoting themselves towards these ideals, the Amish woman is given great esteem by their society. In such a context, they may be less likely to feel worthless and isolated. In any case, it is not our purpose here to make any judgments.
If you enjoyed reading about the role of women in Amish society and would like to learn more about the Amish people in Lancaster County, please take a look at the following pages:
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