Friday, June 10 
Session Abstracts and Descriptions


Perceived Influence of the Amish on “English” Values

Kristin Park

This paper examines non-Amish perceptions of, and their extent and forms of experiences with and influence by, their tradition-minded Amish neighbors. The context is a small town with minimal Amish-themed tourism. The paper reports on research in progress. The study uses an inductive and interpretive approach that discovers meaning construction and its expression in individual behaviors and community interactions. Data from in-depth interviews is coded for emerging themes whose focus influences ongoing literature review and future data collection. The sample varies in sex, age, educational attainment, occupation, length of town residence, level of religiosity, and degree of interaction with Amish individuals. Preliminary findings indicate high levels of enduring and intimate interaction in multiple forms with selected Amish individuals, and harmonious relations in the larger community. Participants note Amish influence on their pace of life and character, in the direction of increased humility and frugality. Interview data will be supplemented with observational data from public sites where Amish and non-Amish residents intensively interact, including a produce auction, quilt auctions, and perhaps town council meetings. In stage two, I hope to explore Amish perceptions of their influence upon the non-Amish residents in this community.

Kristin Park is a professor of sociology at Westminster College in Pennsylvania. She teaches classes that include the Sociology of Religion, Cultural Anthropology, the Sociology of Food, Women in Cross-Cultural Perspective and Social Theory.

Representations of the Amish in Japan

Tomomi Naka

This presentation examines the ways in which Amish society and cultures are discussed in Japan. As noted by several scholars, Japan is one of the countries that show continued interest in the Amish. This, however, prompts a few questions. How do Japanese, most of whom have little, if any, ethnic, historical, or religious ties to the Amish, narrate Amish society and cultures? More importantly, what do their commentaries on the Amish illuminate about the significance of exploring Amish society? This presentation explores continuity and change in the representation of Amish society and cultures in Japan, based on an analysis of Japanese newspaper articles and other publications appearing in archival databases.

My analysis suggests that, while there are some divergent tendencies depending on the type of media, Japanese narratives about the Amish indicate a number of characteristics that relate the Amish to wider societal contexts. I argue that multi-layered frameworks and perspectives suggested through these Japanese accounts present an informative insight into the ways in which scholarship on the Amish can contribute to an understanding of non-Amish communities, including those that do not have any Amish population.

Tomomi Naka is a lecturer in the Department of Regional Culture in Tottori University, Japan. Her interest in Amish and Mennonite communities began in 1996 as an exchange student in Wooster, Ohio. Her research includes occupational choices among different Mennonite groups and her current work on Mennonite and Amish charitable contributions.

Old Order Spirituality and Medieval Monastic Precedents

Andrew Martin

“Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites are not spiritual.” This accusation by some Christians is based on a theology that goes back to the Reformation and Luther’s conception of forensic justification. This perspective also fails to recognize that Christian spirituality historically encompassed ethics as well as the way in which one thought about and encountered the presence of God. Old Order spirituality, on the other hand, reflects themes from medieval monasticism which was the dominant spirituality in the West up to Protestantism.

From its birth, monasticism was an adult commitment to the Gospel to forsake the world, take up the cross and follow Christ in a life of penitence. It took its inspiration from the early Church and was considered to be a “second baptism” and a “bloodless martyrdom” because of its self-denial and suffering. This spirituality had both interior and exterior elements, but predominantly the outer life was understood as a means for transforming the inner. Investigating Old Order themes of Ordnung, Gelassenheit, humility, simplicity, obedience, and community as reflections of medieval monasticism demonstrates continuity with the past and the shape of this contemporary spiritual tradition.

Andrew Martin is a doctoral student at Toronto School of Theology and is writing a dissertation titled Old Order Mennonite Spirituality: An Analysis of Historical Parallels and Mystical Elements of a Contemporary Anabaptist Ascetic Community. Martin has published on Anabaptist-Mennonite history and theology and is a counselling therapist.


The Amish and the American Political System from 1963 to 2013

Frédérique Green

Historically, the colliding of the American politico-legal system with Amish groups has been a starting point of negotiation between the Amish, Anabaptist immigrants and descendants, and the host country, America. Whilst American society has increasingly developed its rules and regulations, the Amish have largely resisted acculturation, and the gap between the two has enlarged dramatically.

This study focuses on the fifty years between 1963 and 2013. However, this work will first describe a historical overview of the American politico-legal system. The second part will look at how the Amish made their mark on the American soil since their arrival, from Europe, in the eighteenth century. The third part will examine how/why American law, encroaching on different aspects of life, is resisted by the Amish “law” or Ordnung (rules and regulations). The fourth section will be dedicated to an analysis of a few specific court cases between 1963 and 2013 in order to delineate a pattern of interaction between the American politico-legal system and the Amish groups. The conclusion will demonstrate how continuity and change have regularly intermeshed to produce a patchwork, showing that cohabitation between a religious minority and the mainstream society in the United States of America is possible as long as negotiation is permitted.

Frédérique Green is a PhD researcher at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Her research focus is “What has been and is the relationship between the American politico-legal system and the Amish?”

The Amish and Freedom of Religion: Compromise in American Democracy

Benyamin Neuberger

This presentation focuses on the culture of compromise in American democracy, which has characterized the interaction of the Amish with the state since the foundation of the U.S. in the eighteenth century. Our thesis is that compromises were possible, both because of the nature of Amish society—characterized by high work ethics, modesty, self-reliance and non-violence—and because of the American culture of compromise in matters of religion and state. What makes the relations between the Amish and the state so distinctive is the ability to find compromises on nearly all problematic issues—even when the conflict relates to matters of principle (such as freedom of religion, communal autonomy, the rule of law, equality before the law) or to different notions of individual rights and liberties (e.g., compulsory education or medical dilemmas like immunization).

Benyamin Neuberger is professor (emeritus) of political science at the Open University of Israel. He holds a PhD from Columbia University and has published widely on ethnicity and on religion and politics. In 2012 he was the Snowden Fellow at the Young Center for Anabaptist Studies.

Amish and Criminal Law

Quinton K. Meil

The isolation in which the Amish place themselves separates them from the surrounding English community. While this separation is substantial, room for shared interaction remains. In fact, as the Amish population increases, interaction between the two groups has also increased. As a result, the nature of these interactions often spill over into ambiguous territory and raise questions of law. While legal exceptions for the Amish are rare, discretion is not. The result is a growing application of law inconstant with that of the surrounding community. This paper will examine the interactions between the two communities with regard to specific laws and practices. Areas of tension will be isolated, and the implications will be manifested. Reform will then be proposed for the Amish and English to continue their growing trend of interaction, while nurturing a consistent application of law. This study draws reference from literature, philosophy, legislation, court rulings, media, and interviews.

Quinton K. Meil is a senior at Temple University pursing a BA in philosophy with a concentration in meta-ethics and philosophy of law. A recipient of the Diamond Research Scholars grant from Temple, he is researching the Amish community and their interactions with the law. A native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he will pursue further graduate studies.


Since the groundbreaking research by Elmer Lewis Smith over fifty years ago on demographic data about the Amish, a variety of scholars have published studies related to population increase, settlement expansion, fertility, mortality, and other demographic topics. This body of scholarly work can be described as sporadic and scattered. This panel of experts will propose a more integrated approach to Amish demographics using new database models based on Amish directories and other sources.

Panelists include Joseph F. Donnermeyer, Rachel Stein, Corey Colyer, and Edsel Burdge.

Joseph F. Donnermeyer is a professor emeritus in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. He has a deep interest in the social, cultural, and economic changes affecting the Amish. His Amish research focuses on the demographic dimensions of the Amish such as population growth, settlement expansion, and occupational change. Recently, he was featured as an OSU TEDx speaker with a presentation titled “A Leadership Lesson from the Amish.”

Rachel E. Stein is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Akron. Stein’s research has focused primarily on the analysis of cross-national victimization within a theoretical framework of routine activities and lifestyles. She has focused recently on sociological study of the Amish utilizing Amish directories and news outlets.

Corey Colyer is an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University. He received his PhD from Syracuse University. His dissertation and recent publications examined the processes and procedures of coercive substance abuse treatment programs. Colyer’s recent research extends the management of large databases related to Amish demographics derived from Amish directories.

Edsel Burdge, Jr. is research associate at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, Elizabethtown College. He has an MA in history from Villanova University and researches Amish demographics and plain Anabaptist groups. He compiles statistical data for the Young Center’s annual Amish population growth report.


 Medicine and Modern Amish

Martha King

Medical anthropology provides us with some tools for understanding the ways various groups of people engage with the body. This seminar will begin with considering the cultural, religious, and political factors at play when we all make evaluations about health care—what do you do for an ear infection, or a fever, or the impending birth of a child? From there, we will discuss the kinds of decisions Amish families are making about health and wellness in the Lancaster area and beyond. In the last segment, we will explore why relationships between Amish communities and medical providers matter in our national and global conversations about medicine and wellness.

Martha King is an anthropologist and folklorist examining the intersections of health, medicine, religion, faith, genetics, community, practice, and the body. She holds an MA in folklore and a PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is currently a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology. Her research interests include the bodily care employed by the Amish, their relationships with biomedicine, and health care choices among the Lancaster Amish. 


 Continuity and Change in the Lives of Amish Women

Karen Johnson-Weiner

The growing technological diversity in the Amish world, unimaginable even fifty years ago, has had enormous impact on family life and community relationships, economic interaction with non-Amish society, the role of the church in the lives of Amish men and women, and Amish notions of appropriate gender behavior. In the past, researchers argued, Amish women became Amish wives and their primary role was to manage the household. They were the “keepers at home,” helpmeets to their husbands. Today, Amish women are still running households—but they may also be running businesses, writing books, engaged in wage labor on an assembly line, or serving pies in a restaurant. Their roles are as varied as Amish communities themselves. This talk explores how the socially defined roles of Amish women have changed as Amish churches have evolved.

Karen Johnson-Weiner is a professor of anthropology at SUNY Potsdam. She is also the author of New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State and Train Up a Child: Old Order Amish and Mennonite Schools and coauthor (with Donald B. Kraybill and Steven M. Nolt) of The Amish.


Bridging the Divide: Agricultural and Conservation Support for Plain Producers

Caroline Brock, Jessica D. Ulrich-Schad, and Linda Stalker Prokopy

It is important to understand Plain farmers’ attitudes towards the land they manage, given their growing presence in the agriculture sector and the linkages between nonpoint source pollution and environmental problems like the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Agricultural and conservation training resources need to be tailored to better fit the needs of this key population. We explored the challenges and success stories of eighteen professionals from a variety of backgrounds who have experience working with this population. Additionally, surveys and interviews with Old Order Amish farmers in the Berne settlement in Indiana and two settlements in southwestern Wisconsin provided information about farmers’ management practices. The surveys indicated high adoption of practices like cover crops, but minimal awareness around larger water quality issues. We found that working with Plain farmers presents unique challenges and opportunities for support personnel. For example, due to their religious doctrines, Plain communities strive to live apart from the “world” and may be discouraged from working with government entities and attending non-“Plain people” events. Educators must design outreach strategies that take into consideration the diversity of Plain producers and that overall these materials should be practical and straightforward. 

Caroline Brock is an assistant professor in rural sociology at University of Missouri-Columbia. Brock’s current research and teaching interests include sustainable agriculture and conservation, Amish communities, science, technology, and society, as well as sociology of food and effective techniques for teaching writing and communication intensive classes.

A Half Century of Expanding Amish Presence in Wisconsin

John Cross

Both continuity and change are displayed in Wisconsin’s Amish settlements, whose number increased by nearly fifty over the past half century. Their expansion in number and population growth reflect change, but many aspects of their selective use of technology represent continuity.  Change has occurred, as Wisconsin has received Amish settlers from Pennsylvania over the past quarter century, bringing greater diversity to an Amish population that was previously connected to other Midwestern states. While communities with more restrictive Ordnung continue to ship can milk and have changed little in their use of technologies, those that use bulk tanks and produce Grade A milk have shown expanded use of technologies and growing herd sizes. 

Data comes primarily from (1) directories of Wisconsin Amish; (2) dairy producer licenses, and (3) surveys conducted among Amish bishops and ministers throughout Wisconsin in 2002, 2012, and 2015. Wisconsin had 1,085 Amish dairy herds in 2015, 11 percent of the state’s dairy farms.  Farming of all varieties employed 56 percent of all Amish households. Growing involvement in organic agriculture and produce sales has occurred. Woodworking occupies 36 percent of Amish households, yet it employs more households than farming in 45 percent of Wisconsin’s Amish communities. 

John A. Cross is professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. His research has focused upon agriculture, ethnic populations including the Amish, and natural hazards. He has published articles describing the expansion of Amish dairy farming in The Geographical Review, the Journal of Cultural Geography, and Focus on Geography.

Religion, Science and Diverse Farming Methods among the Amish

Nicole Welk-Joerger

Dairy farming was a significant occupation in the development of the Amish community. In its beginnings, dairying allowed members to focus on subsistence agriculture and year-round labor emphasizing their role as stewards of God’s land. Recently, farming has diminished as a lifestyle and occupation among the Amish, and this has encouraged a surge of scholarship paying closer attention to the new small business-focus of communities. However, dairy farming continues to be regularly practiced by many members, and further emulates both history and tradition for many Amish communities. The negotiations made by individual farmers between this maintenance of tradition and economic livelihood are important to consider when analyzing change and continuity in Amish communities.

This paper narrates a few examples of such negotiations found in settlements located in Pennsylvania and Maryland. This is produced from ethnographic research conducted in 2013. I argue that while farming is certainly viewed collectively by the community as a “traditional” occupation, how farmers care for their land and animals can be interpreted in dramatically different ways by individual farmers. This results in a myriad of technological and philosophical adoptions that do not necessarily imply community consensus about what it means to be an “Amish dairy farmer.”   Views on organics, GMOs, agricultural technology, and animal care differ not only between settlements, but family members. These attitudes are found to be fostered through close attention to contemporary science, consumer trends, and national economic and political infrastructures.         

Nicole Welk-Joerger is a PhD student in the History and Sociology of Science program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her current work focuses on the history of animal nutrition science and how “animal health” becomes differently defined by scientists, farmers, and food-animal consumers. 


Critical Issues in Public Child Welfare Systems Relating to the Amish

Jeanette Harder

Children and youth need protection from abuse and neglect in all our communities. Although the prevalence is not known, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse are present in Amish communities. The expressions and responses to abuse are just as varied as are the Amish communities themselves; therefore, child welfare systems must learn to provide tailored rather than standard responses.

Public child welfare systems must have an understanding and respect for the Amish faith and cultures so they can conduct assessments and investigations that help and not harm Amish families and children. Child welfare systems must also learn how to prepare and implement treatment and safety plans with these communities. Together, the child welfare systems and Amish communities can consider ways to keep children and youth safe, including the Amish becoming foster and adoptive homes for their own and for the English.

This workshop is based on the presenter’s work with the Amish and with the public child welfare systems in upstate New York. Through this work, promising models were discovered and tailored, and are being tested. Having trained child welfare workers who understand and respect the Amish cultures and faith is critical to the goal of keeping children and youth safe.

Jeanette Harder is the co-founder and board president of Dove’s Nest, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower and equip faith communities to keep children and youth safe in their home, churches, and communities. Harder is also a professor at the Grace Abbott School of Social Work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She and her family are Mennonite by choice and by heritage.

The Cost of Health Care and the Amish

Donald Hess

The high cost of health care has placed tremendous financial burdens on Amish communities, making it increasingly difficult for families and their local churches to pay large hospital bills. Alms funds and freewill contributions are being stretched to the limit. Customary ways of handling these debts have become unwieldy. As a result, Amish deacons are exploring more efficient ways to pay their hospital bills, often in the hope that this will enable them to negotiate better payment terms. This case study will use several narratives to describe how an Amish community and a health care organization adopted an alternative method of transacting business with each other. Their interactions will be viewed through the lens of complexity theory. Functioning as two distinct complex adaptive systems, they developed a process consistent with their respective cultural contexts. The paper will conclude with recommendations that will inform future efforts of Amish deacons and health care providers to coproduce financial services.

Donald W. Hess, MD, MPH is the director of continuing medical education for Susquehanna Health, a multi-hospital health system in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His work includes organizing clinical and financial services designed to meet the needs of the regional Plain communities. 

Public Health and Vaccination in Two Amish Communities

Christine Nelson-Tuttle and Lynn Ouellette

This pilot study collected data on vaccination receptivity and practice from thirty households of Old Order Amish in Conewango Valley. This community is the oldest and largest in New York State. The goal of this study was to learn more about the Amish views on vaccinations and to determine how and where they receive their information on vaccinations. The survey included a brief demographic section and eleven questions including knowledge or awareness on specific vaccinations. Data collection occurred in various ways, with most participants preferring to fill out the survey at home and have the researchers return or preferring to answer the questions verbally and the researchers acting as the scribe. Findings of the study suggest that while most of the Amish choose not to vaccinate, the decision is made by the individual. The participants varied widely on their awareness of specific vaccinations with the most frequent awareness being of influenza, tetanus, varicella (chicken pox), and MMR. The participants were most receptive to vaccinations for diseases that had been noted to have outbreaks in the community (pertussis) or diseases that their lifestyles (agricultural) put them at greater risk for (tetanus). Implications for health care will also be discussed.

Christine Nelson-Tuttle is an associate professor in nursing at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, and a visiting research scholar at the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. Lynn Ouelette is a solo nurse practitioner in a primary care office, Medicor Associates of Salamanca, in Salamanca, New York. She resides among her Amish neighbors in Conewango Valley, New York. 


Public health nurses from eight health units meet quarterly to identify needs, share valuable learning and resources, and support each other in working with the Old Orders. The group’s objectives are to identify trends, gaps, and strategies and respond to needs, to share research, resources, experiences, and information, and to advocate for consistency across the province. The panel will describe advocacy efforts for reduced hospital costs for self-pay clients, catastrophic dental outcomes, and learnings for all.

Shared communication even between quarterly meetings aids us in providing timely information to our own populations about other Plain people in Ontario that they may not learn about otherwise but could benefit from. For example, learning of a child’s fatal fall from the rear window of a buggy in another settlement can prompt safety reminders to siblings who may be watching over younger children during travel.

Panelists include Debbie Bullas-Rubini, Elgin Health Unit; Karrie Skilling,Oxford Health Unit; Karen Stauffer,Grey Bruce Health Unit; and Jane Leach,Perth District Health Unit.

Debbie Bullas-Rubini has been a public health nurse in Elgin County for twenty-nine years, working in many different areas including minority populations and most recently with the Amish settlement for the last six years. Karrie Skilling is a public health nurse in Oxford County. She works with the Amish settlement there. Karen Stauffer is a public health nurse in Grey and Bruce Counties who has been working with the Amish and Mennonite communities for the past four years. Jane Leach has been working as a public health nurse with the Old Order communities in Perth County for nineteen years.


Reality TV Amish

Dirk Eitzen

In the last decade, there has been a spate of reality TV shows about the Amish. All of what is shown in these shows is contrived and a lot of it is totally made up, in ways that deliberately confound and deceive viewers. It is natural for those of us who respect the Amish, as people and as a culture, to be outraged at what we know to be deceptions or outright lies, especially because many of them seem disrespectful as well as dishonest. But to understand how the shows actually work—what their fans want and take away from them, what difference their deceptions make, and whether and how they impact viewers and Amish communities—one needs to take a step back and examine the shows from arm’s length—not uncritically, but coolly. One needs to count to ten, as it were. That is the purpose of this presentation and the discussion that will follow.

Dirk Eitzen is the director of the Film & Media Studies program at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His scholarly specialty is the psychology of movies. His current project is a book on the reception of the popular reality TV show Amish Mafia. He has also produced numerous documentaries, including a nationally televised public TV documentary about “Amish country” tourism, The Amish & Us.


Amish Use of Mental Health Services, 1999-2013

Jill Korbin, Sarah Miller-Fellows, Jim Adams, and Lawrence Greksa

This paper examines the increase in use of mental health services by the Geauga Settlement Old Order Amish over an approximately fifteen-year period. In the late 1990s the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services and three adjacent counties (Ashtabula, Portage, and Trumbull) serving Amish populations recognized that mental health services were underutilized by the Old Order Amish. With grant support from the state of Ohio, the four counties, along with anthropologists from Case Western Reserve University, initiated a study to determine whether Amish populations were underutilizing mental health services, the reasons for these patterns of use, and possible solutions that would be congruent with Amish culture. Meetings were arranged to connect members of the Amish community, specifically Amish bishops and Amish women, with mental health service providers. These meetings included information sessions about mental health and locally available services, and they sought insights from the community about how to make services more congruent with their needs. Interviews also were conducted with a small number of Amish clients of the mental health agency who were willing to participate in these interviews. Recommendations from this study (1999) were used to initiate changes to the mental health delivery system, including assigning a case worker specialized in working with this community and opening a satellite office in a more readily accessible location. Approximately fifteen years later, an opportunity arose to collect data on mental health service usage in Geauga County. These data showed an increase from 19 clients in 1999, with a steady increase to a high of 112 clients in 2006 to between 90 and 100 clients per year since that time. A total of 285 Amish were identified as clients between 2000-2013, with 49 randomly selected for case review. Primary diagnoses were depression (57.1 percent) and anxiety (36.7 percent). This increase in use of local mental health services has required a continued vigilance in ensuring culturally competent services for the Amish population, as well as plans for support and reimbursement for services.

The authors all have been involved in work on mental health in the Geauga Ohio Settlement. Adams, Greksa, and Korbin were part of the team working on the 1999 study. Miller-Fellows and Adams carried out the 2013 research.

Sarah Miller-Fellows is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology and a research assistant at the Schubert Center for Child Studies at Case Western Reserve University. She holds an MP. and an MA in medical anthropology from Case Western Reserve University. Her research interests include reproduction, early childcare, genetic disorders, infectious disease, and medical technology use. She received a 2015 National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant for her dissertation research on how Amish women experience pregnancy and caring for young children in the context of genetic disorders.

Jim Adams has served as the chief executive officer of the Geauga County Board of Mental Health and Recovery Services for the past twenty-eight years. The Geauga Board serves a significant Amish population. He has clinical experience in various mental health settings. He helped to develop nationally standardized mental health outcome measures at the National Research Institute at Harvard University. He is past-president of two statewide associations in Ohio that focused on the treatment and prevention of mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Lawrence P. Greksa holds a PhD from Pennsylvania State University (1980) and is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. He is a human population biologist whose most recent work has focused on the Old Order Amish, particularly their demography (population growth rates, fertility, out-migration rates, and rates of joining the church) and factors influencing their utilization of mental health care services.

Jill E. Korbin holds a PhD from UCLA (1978) and is the Lucy Adams Leffingwell Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University, where she is also associate dean, director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies, and co-director of the Childhood Studies Program. Her research interests include culture and human development, cultural, medical and psychological anthropology, and the effects of context on child maltreatment and child well-being.

Health Care Providers and Chronically Ill Amish Children

Angela Kueny

The purpose of this presentation is to describe the interface between health care providers and Amish families in the management of care for Amish children with chronic illnesses. Amish families balance community-based natural care with biomedical care for ongoing management of children with chronic illnesses such as hemophilia. However, little is known about how negotiations occur between health care providers and Amish families in the care of these children. Fourteen months of ethnographic methods inform this presentation, including interviews and observations with Amish community members and health care providers, and review of Amish newsletters. Ethnographic analysis involved thematic and cultural narrative techniques. This presentation highlights several points that illustrate the experience of Amish families incorporating biomedical services into their lives, as well as health care provider perspectives into the negotiations around the care of Amish children with chronic illnesses. In order to improve children’s health while allowing them to thrive in their home community, health care providers and Amish parents creatively worked through several options with community-based resources and services. This presentation is intended to give health care providers and Amish families recommendations based on successful or less-than-successful interactions and strategies in the care of Amish children.    

Angela Kueny is an assistant professor of nursing at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Her passions lie in providing culturally appropriate care to populations to improve public health. Her background research in this area lies specifically with Old Order Amish populations.

Physical and Mental Health Conditions in Six Plain Communities

Berwood Yost, Christina Abbott, Kirk Miller, and Scottie Thompson

This presentation is designed to provide an understanding of the current health and health needs of Plain communities. This research also presents information about how Plain communities’ perceptions and use of modern medicine and technology may be altering the Plain way of life.

The Franklin & Marshall College Center for Opinion Research designed a survey that assessed the current health and health needs of adult Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite individuals living in Lancaster County, Somerset County, and Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. Households included in the survey were sampled from the church directories of each settlement. Mail survey materials and follow-up contacts were administered from August 2014 through May 2015. The survey’s response rate was 49 percent. A total of 685 completed surveys were returned.

The survey found significant differences between Old Order groups in terms of their background characteristics and their health behaviors and conditions. Comparing the survey data to publicly available health information suggests that the Amish report fewer physical and mental health conditions than the general public. The survey also finds no evidence that exposure to modern medicine and technology affects fatalistic attitudes.

Christina Abbott holds a PsyD and is currently a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Franklin & Marshall College. She teaches introductory psychology, applied psychology, health psychology, collaborative research in health psychology, and laboratory courses in introductory psychology, and design and statistics.  Abbott’s research interests focus on examining moderators and mediators of physical health and understanding risk and protective factors for the academic, psychological, and social adjustment of refugee children and adolescents. 

Kirk Miller is professor of biology and public health at Franklin & Marshall College. He teaches biostatistics and epidemiology.

Scottie Thompson is a project and data specialist at the Franklin & Marshall College Center for Opinion Research. Her responsibilities include gathering and analyzing statistical data, conducting literature reviews, and researching material for both scholarly research and survey research projects. She researches survey instrument design and reporting and statistical data analysis. She supervises undergraduate student interns and conducting research in biology and psychology lab settings.

Berwood Yost is the director of the Center for Opinion Research and the Floyd Institute for Public Policy at Franklin & Marshall College. He has substantial applied experience in designing and implementing public opinion research using both qualitative and quantitative methods. He has conducted funded research on behalf of government, business, nonprofit organizations, public utilities, higher education, and the media.


The Individual is Not the Primary Reality: Amish Identity

Inga Dwenger and Claudia Lillinger

This presentation is based on a teaching sequence created by the presenters to help teachers in Germany who teach English, history, and religion to understand Amish identity and culture and introduce it to their students. The speakers will present selections of material used in their lessons about Amish life. They will describe how their sequence helps high school students to learn about Amish lifestyle, beliefs, and identity, and engages students to reflect on these concerns in their own lives and cultures. 

Claudia Lillinger received her teacher’s diploma from the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1993 and since then has taught English and religious education at three different high schools in Lüneburg, Germany. She was a research student in the Department of English at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. Her interest in the Amish dates back to1983 and 1985 when she was in an exchange program between Rotenburg, Fulda, and Lower Dauphin High School, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, in 1983 and 1985. A visit to Lancaster County at that time made a long-lasting impression.

Inga Dwenger received her teacher’s diploma from the University of Hannover in 1989 and finished her teacher’s education in Lüneburg in 1992. She has taught at schools in Lower Saxony and Hamburg since then. From 2010 to 2015 she worked as an International Baccalaureate Diploma coordinator at Hansa-Gymnasium, Hamburg. She is currently a lecturer in English pedagogy at Leuphana University in Lüneburg (Germany) at the Institute of English Studies. 

Balancing Art with Factuality: Saloma Miller Furlong’s Memoirs

Sabrina Völz

In recent years, the memoir boom has left publishers searching far and wide for new material. As part of this trend and the immense demand for anything Amish, nonprofessional writers have seized the opportunity to give voices to groups of individuals who have previously not received much attention from scholars, journalists, and the media. Mary Ann Kirby’s I Am Hutterite appeared in 2010, and 2011 saw the publication of Saloma Miller Furlong’s Why I Left the Amish and Ira Wagler’s Growing Up Amish. The success of these three memoirs have paved the way for an outpouring of further life narratives by ex-members of Plain People groups.

Situated between biography and autobiography, objectivity and subjectivity, and multi-temporal levels of the past and present, the memoir represents a liminal space where identity is not only explored, but creatively and consciously crafted. After briefly discussing memoir theory and the genre of the ex-Amish memoir, I will introduce Saloma Miller Furlong’s serial memoirs Why I Left the Amish (2011) and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds (2014). Next, I will analyze Furlong’s modes of self-representation presented in her books. Furlong poignantly “writes back” and speaks for the tolerated but not accepted Amish family, the sexually abused Amish teen, the “wayward” Amish runaway, and the ex-Amish memoirist. Yet mixing cultural information with subjectivity, evidence with art, as well as ethics with agency is a difficult task, which Furlong only partially masters in the first installment of her serial memoir, Why I Left the Amish. In Bonnet Strings, Furlong attains more distance to her subject matter and pens a more balanced memoir.

Sabrina Völz has taught English and American studies at Leuphana University in Lueneburg, Germany, since 1997. Her teaching and research interests include German American history and culture, North American ethnic literatures, and creative non-fiction. Her recent research on Amish studies began with an interview of Ira Wagler about his memoir, Growing Up Amish, and blossomed into an interdisciplinary conference at Leuphana in July 2015. The conference proceedings, The Plain People: Contemporary Perspectives and Future Prospects, will appear later this year.


This panel discussion describes how a regional health care system in Pennsylvania has built a Plain Community Initiative that is beneficial and highly utilized by clients from Plain communities across south-central Pennsylvania. This program may even be a model for health care services to other population segments in the future. Members of the WellSpan Health Plain Community Program team will provide their insight on Plain Community attitudes towards care, overcoming the barriers to accessing care, and lessons learned as the program has been developed.

Presenters include Cindy Heisey, community health liaison at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital; MaryAnn Robins, Plain Community program coordinator at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital; and Lydia Nolt, Plain Community liaison at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. Joanne Eshelman, director of Plain Community relationships for WellSpan Health, will moderate this session.

Cynthia Heisey works as community health liaison staff at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. She works with persons from Plain communities. MaryAnn Robins is the Plain Community program coordinator for WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Lydia Nolt is the Plain Community liaison person at WellSpan, Ephrata Community Hospital. Joanne Eshelman is the moderator for this panel session. She is the director of Plain Community relationships for WellSpan Health in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.


The ABCs of Amish Quilts: Abstract Art, Big Business, and Country Craft

Janneken Smucker

In this interactive seminar, participants will consider Amish quilts from a variety of perspectives: as art, livelihood, and traditional practice. Participants will gain an appreciation of the diversity of Amish quilts, and the changing role of these objects in Amish life. We will examine primary sources and images of quilts and related objects, as well as engage hands on with objects. 

Janneken Smucker, a fifth-generation Mennonite quiltmaker, is the author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). As an assistant professor of history at West Chester University, she specializes in digital history and American material culture. Smucker has served as a board member for the national non-profit Quilt Alliance since 2005. She lectures and publishes widely on the topic of quilts for both popular and academic audiences.


 Continuity and Change in Pennsylvania Dutch, 1963-2013

Mark Louden

In the fifty-plus years since the first appearance of John Hostetler’s groundbreaking Amish Society, much has changed in the external situation of the main language spoken by the Amish, Pennsylvania Dutch. How the use of Pennsylvania Dutch by the Amish has evolved since the early 1960s is reflected in part in the vocabulary and grammar of the language itself. At the same time, there are a number of patterns of continuity in both the use and structures of Pennsylvania Dutch among the Amish that extend back to the very beginnings of the language in the eighteenth century. In this presentation, I will discuss a number of the most important examples of continuity and change in the varieties of Pennsylvania Dutch spoken today in Amish communities across North America.

Mark Louden received his undergraduate and graduate training in Germanic linguistics at Cornell University. A fluent speaker of Pennsylvania Dutch, he has written extensively on the language and its speakers. His most recent book is Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language.  Since 2000 he has served as a professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is co-director of the Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies. He is also an affiliate faculty member in the UW Religious Studies Program and the Mosse-Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies.