The Numbers — of Women versus Men Who Leave the Amish

One of the questions asked at my talk this past weekend was whether there are more women than men who leave the Amish. I didn’t actually know the answer to this gentleman’s question, but I decided to find out.

I have a book called “Ohio Amish Directory; Geauga County and Vicinity,” that lists all the Amish families in my home community as of 2006. There are codes as follows:

A — Means children are living at home with their parents
B — Means they are Amish and living in this community
C — Means they are married and Amish and living in another community
D — Means they are no longer Amish
E — Means they are single but do not live at home.

There are approximately 2,500 “household heads” listed in the directory. This includes widows and widowers and singles.

I looked through 536 pages of listings and found 177 people who have left the Amish. Out of these, 100 were women, and 77 were men.  My sisters and I helped tip the scales in the direction of making the women the majority — we are the only family in the whole community in which all the women left and the men stayed.

It is hard to know whether this trend in my home community holds true throughout other Amish communities. It is also important to note that the only reason my sisters and I are listed in the directory at all is because when this directory was compiled, my mother was still alive. She died soon thereafter, so any subsequent directories from this community would not list my sisters and me, but they would list my brothers and their families, because they are still in the community. Therefore, there may be more people who left the community, but they are no longer listed because their parents are deceased. It is hard to know whether these percentages (56 percent women and 44) percent men would hold true if everyone from the community who left were still listed.

So, there is the answer — more women do leave than men — at least in my home community.
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9 thoughts on “The Numbers — of Women versus Men Who Leave the Amish”

  1. I would have to guess that your former Community is a good representation of all the others. Places change but similar situations have a tendency to pop up and there are “little Salomas and her sisters” all over the country. Your book is going to be a fascinating read for many people for many reasons. I already know of people who didn’t want to put it down. I’m sure I’ll be one of them :-)

  2. Hi Saloma,
    This was interesting to me because in the community I’m going to there are a lot more boys that leave than girls. Over the time I’ve been there 4 youth boys have left, 1 older man (left his family behind..) and only 1 girl has left the Amish. So this is just from the 5 years or so that I’ve been going there but I guess this must vary from church to church. Interesting though! Good luck on your book and God bless,

  3. Very interesting, this is not what I thought at all! When I lived in LaGrange more men left than women; factory jobs and construction crew work gave many Amish who wanted to leave the skills and financial security to do it. Also, the men were more likely to leave in spite of having a wife and children, whereas no married woman would ever leave unless they left as a family.

  4. Thanks, all, for your comments. Hope Anne, so glad you and others are enjoying the read… I can’t wait for the sequel, either… smile.

    Peggy, thanks for your compliments. I don’t know if my sisters are an anomaly… the fact that we are the only family that has the dynamic of the woman leaving, the men staying, at least in my home community, makes me think we are somewhat. Makes me want to obtain the directories of other communities and find out…

    Kate, that is very interesting about the community you know and who has left from it. Thanks for your good wishes.

    Monica, I think you might be right… there are probably different dynamics in every community. I’ve met a woman from Indiana who separated from her abusive husband, but she is still Amish. She can never get remarried as long as her husband is still alive, and she also cannot divorce him, but still, I cannot imagine that this would be tolerated in my home community.

    These numbers actually surprised me, too. I would have thought it would be close to even.

    Thanks, everyone for your thoughts and comments.


  5. Living around an Amish community here in Kentucky, I have found the Amish to be like any of my other neighbors. Of course there are some really big differences, but by having contact with the Amish people has allowed me to have a basic understanding of their beliefs. However, I have started a research project for my Masters degree. This has led me to the discovery that besides living in close proximity to many Amish people, I truly understand very little about them. Most of our interactions have been the exchange of pleasantries and the occasional business transaction. In some ways I have an outsider, inside view, if that makes any sense. But in many other ways I am ignorant to many of the customs that take place within the community proper. I have found your blog to be very helpful.

  6. Susan, because this directory is for the Amish in that community, it would include my brothers who are still Amish and their children, but not those of us who have left, unless we are listed as daughters of our parents’.

    Tom, what you experience is quite typical… even though I had many “English” friends, I knew there were things I could never tell them about my Amish life. There are certain things around which a shroud of secrecy lives… the courtship rituals in my home community being one of them.

    It is always gratifying to know that people find my blog helpful… thank you for letting me know.

    Stay warm, all!

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