A Day in the Life of a Woman in the Old Order Amish Community
Dr. Rivka Neriya-Ben Shahar
Between 2012 and 2017 I conducted an anthropological study among women of the Old Order Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The study included participant observations, in-depth interviews, and distribution of questionnaires. I spent eight stretches of time on the farm of an Amish family, participating as much as possible in their daily activities. A personal relationship marked by openness and trust evolved between the family and me. One reason for this was our special bond as people with religious beliefs. They were respectful and appreciative of the fact that as a religious Jew I observed the Sabbath and the dietary rules of kashrut.
I took part in most housekeeping chores, especially washing dishes and folding laundry. Since the Old Order Amish are forbidden to drive or own a car, I often drove the women of the family, and sometimes female neighbors and friends as well. I was invited to an end-of-school picnic, to church, to youth groups – and I was asked to teach the children at the local school the Hebrew alphabet.
In the course of my observations, I accompanied the mother of the family for the duration of one day, starting at 4:15, when she gets up to prepare meals, until 22:00, when she goes to sleep. My lecture offers a look at the intensive routine that I observed and in which I participated, and attempts to sketch an outline toward analysis and conclusion. So – how does it look – an Amish woman’s daily schedule? Dozens of pictures from the farm’s life, kitchen, and garden will take you to a different world, where the laundry takes four hours and schedules are determined by the harvest.