Erik Wesner posed a question on his latest post on the blog Amish America that asked, “Are Amish women happy?” I responded with these comments:
The answer to this first question posed is probably as varied as the question of “Are American women happy?” It is impossible to make a generalization.
Yes, Amish women have a vote in church, but at least in the community in which I grew up, a woman was expected to voice her disagreements to her husband, who was then the designated spokesman. It was never clear to me who I was supposed to go to when I disagreed. I had to stay silent about my disagreement and vote “yes” with every other woman in the congregation, even though every fiber in my being sometimes protested.
As for me, I was not a happy Amish woman. My independent nature was a problem. The “why” questions that boiled up from within were a problem in a culture where one doesn’t ask questions. And above all the domination that the men in the community lorded over me was a problem, whether it was the bishop admonishing me in public for jogging, my father getting violent with me for a perceived slight, or my older brother bullying me into doing exactly what he wanted me to — making a meal for him, washing his buggy, getting his bath water ready, cleaning the floor after his haircut… it didn’t matter how small the demand… it had more to do with whether or not I did it submissively.
I was not the only unhappy Amish woman. There are those who feel stuck, perhaps by their family circumstances (many children, for instance) making it nearly impossible for them to leave, or else they don’t have the courage to leave the only culture they know. I feel for these women.
I would agree there are also happy Amish women. In fact, I knew some of them. Theirs was a submissive, quiet nature, and I often envied them that. It is also why they are still there and I am not.
8 thoughts on “Are Amish Women Happy?”
I’ve often wondered about this. I’m glad you shared about it. Saw that Amish America had the post about it but didn’t get over there yet. Your blog is more fun to visit:)
Why, thank you Karen, for the nice compliment. I hope it’s as much fun to visit as it is for me to write the posts and get your comments in return.
I saw that question on the AA blog and anticipated what you might say about this. Women in any plain group are about as happy any woman, anywhere. Not even researchers can make generalizations about the happiness among any cultural group.
Only submissive women could be “happy” in a culture where women are not equal, but beneath men. I am also very independent minded and am grateful that I can be “my own boss”. Glad you had that option, too.
I know as a non-Amish woman, if I asked that question it would be with a sense of disbelief, but that is because I cannot fathom any woman being truly happy in a submissive role. I love your carefully thought out response to the question.
Women all over the world, in any walk of life are happy or unhappy depending on all their life experiences. Generalization is typically not a good thing. I am enjoying reading your blog and playing ‘catch-up’. I love how articulate you are and how willing you are to share some painful bits of your life. I wish I had your bravery.
I agree with anonymous that life experiences certainly can affect one’s happiness. But there has to be more to it than that. Otherwise, how could my son who had his third open-heart surgery during his senior year of high school and now needs another one less than two years later be one of the happiest individuals I know? How could my best friend, who died from cancer two years ago this month have been happy? She did not want to die and leave her three babies without a mother. But she knew she was going to. She was not only amazingly strong through it all. She was happy. She wasn’t happy with her circumstances but she was happy with her life. I have no idea how, but she was. I think sometimes people decide to be happy in the circumstances they can’t change or they change the things they can so that they can be happier.
Anon, well put. I have often marveled at people such as the woman you mentioned. What an inspiration, and “living” of the serenity prayer. Many blessings to your son as he goes through another surgery… now to be happy in the face of that is truly brave. I am very touched.
On the other hand, I’ve known people who have so much to be happy about but never seem to be happy about anything. Maybe that’s where some type of mental or emotional illness may be a factor. Any thoughts on this, Saloma?