Historian profiles Indiana Amish community in new book

Author: Kathleen Joyce


A new book by historian Dorothy O. Pratt, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame, presents the history of an Amish community in northern Indiana and its survival as a cultural and ethnic entity over the past century.

Published by Quarry Books, “Shipshewana: An Indiana Amish Community” tells the story of a community established in 1841 as a “district” of the Elkhart-LaGrange Amish settlement that is the third largest settlement of Old Order Amish in the world.

After spending more than a decade interviewing members of the Shipshewana Amish community, Pratt tells of how they have resisted Americanization and technological change by remaining “a people apart.” In a review of the book, Publishers Weekly calls it a “worthy case study of resistance to change.”

In 19th-century America, the dialect of German spoken by the Amish, a dialect difficult for outsiders to understand, aided the boundary separation between the Amish and their neighbors. Over the years, the Amish developed a stable farming economy and a unique social structure. Pratt details how they protected their boundaries during the crisis years of 1917 through 1945 in ways that would not conflict with their basic religious principles. The book describes how the Amish, as conscientious objectors, bore the traumas of World War I, struggled against the Compulsory School Act of 1921, coped with New Deal bureaucracy, and labored in Alternative Service in World War II.

“Shipshewana: An Indiana Amish Community” tells of the communitys postwar years of continuing difficulties with federal and state regulations and challenges to the conscientious objector status of the Amish. Pratt describes the creation of the Amish Steering Committee for the purpose of presenting a united front to such challenges, but she notes that the committees effect has been limited. Continuing crisis and abuse from the outside world have tended only to confirm the Amish communitys desire to remain “a people apart” from the modern world.

Many tourists, mostly from the Midwest, visit Shipshewana each year to experience its auctions and flea markets, scenery, and Amish residents. A feature story highlighting the attractions of Shipshewana appeared on the front page of the travel section of The New York Times this past summer.

A concurrent assistant professor of history, Pratt earned her masters and doctoral degrees in history from Notre Dame, a second masters degree from Brigham Young University, and her bachelors degree from Vanderbilt University.

Quarry Books is an imprint of Indiana University Press.

  • _p. Contact:

_ * Dorothy Pratt, 574-631-7098 or " _pratt.6@nd.edu ** _ ":

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