An Indiana Amish Community
Dorothy O. Pratt
Distribution: World
Publication date: 10/19/2004
Format: Hardback 10 b&w photos, 1 figure
ISBN: 978-0-253-34518-9
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2005 AAUP Public and Secondary School Library Selection

While most books about the Amish focus on the Pennsylvania settlements or on the religious history of the sect, this book is a cultural history of one Indiana Amish community and its success in resisting assimilation into the larger culture. Amish culture has persisted relatively unchanged primarily because the Amish view the world around them through the prism of their belief in collective salvation based on purity, separation, and perseverance. Would anything new add or detract from the community’s long-term purpose? Seen through this prism, most innovation has been found wanting.

Founded in 1841, Shipshewana benefited from LaGrange County’s relative isolation. As Dorothy O. Pratt shows, this isolation was key to the community’s success. The Amish were able to develop a stable farming economy and a social structure based on their own terms. During the years of crisis, 1917–1945, the Amish worked out ways to protect their boundaries that would not conflict with their basic religious principles. As conscientious objectors, they bore the traumas of World War I, struggled against the Compulsory School Act of 1921, negotiated the labyrinth of New Deal bureaucracy, and labored in Alternative Service during World War II. The story Pratt tells of the postwar years is one of continuing difficulties with federal and state regulations and challenges to the conscientious objector status of the Amish. The necessity of presenting a united front to such intrusions led to the creation of the Amish Steering Committee. Still, Pratt notes that the committee’s effect has been limited. Crisis and abuse from the outer world have tended only to confirm the desire of the Amish to remain a people apart, and lends a special poignancy to this engrossing tale of resistance to the modern world.

Author Bio

Dorothy O. Pratt received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Notre Dame. She serves as Assistant Dean for the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame and is a concurrent Assistant Professor in the history department. She lives in Granger, Indiana.

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Table of Contents


1. The LaGrange County Settlement
2. Creating Cultural Fencing
3. The Draft and the First World War
4. The Indiana Councils of Defense and the Amish
5. Modernization and the School Issue
6. The Great Depression
7. Civilian Public Service
8. The Home Front in the Second World War
9. Gaining Control, 1946<N>1975
10. Conclusion

Suggestions for Further Reading