Gender relations in the countryside: The Old Order Amish in the 1930s

Rural identities?
By Katherine Jellison

The experiences of Old Order Amish women and men in 1930s Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, demonstrate in sharp relief the characteristics and practices that enabled successful family farming during the Great Depression. Rejecting the notion of mechanised, capital-intensive agriculture in favour of traditional, labour-intensive family farming, the Amish practised a system of labour that necessarily required the crossing of strict gender-role boundaries. Although men primarily identified as farmers and women as homemakers, agricultural success among the Amish necessitated a significant degree of cooperation and mutual labour. Employing data from the US government’s Consumer Expenditure Surveys, the author investigates how the gender arrangements of Lancaster County’s Amish population enabled them to survive the Great Depression more successfully than many other agrarian communities.

Go to the article on