Great Depression; gender; agriculture; Study of Consumer Purchases; New Deal


Old Order Amish men did not own gasoline tractors or other large power farm implements to amplify their manhood, and Amish women did not own mechanical household appliances to symbolize their feminine role as housekeepers. Rejecting the notion of mechanized, capital-intensive agriculture in favor of traditional, labor-intensive family farming, the Old Order Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, practiced a system of labor that necessarily required the crossing of strict gender-role boundaries. Although men primarily identified as farmers and women as homemakers, agricultural success among the Amish necessitated a significant degree of cooperation and mutual labor. In the words of one Old Order Amish wife of the 1930s, “On our farm I did whatever needed to be done.” Employing data from the federal government’s Study of Consumer Purchases, the authors investigate how the traditional gender arrangements of the county’s Amish population enabled them to survive the Great Depression more successfully than other agrarian communities. [Abstract by author.]



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