As a writer, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to get my facts right when it comes to the Amish culture. On my last trip to Wisconsin Amish country, I paid special attention to some of the differences among Amish communities. In one community the women tie their kapp strings, in another, they leave their kapp strings hanging. In the more conservative communities, the dresses are black or darker colors with dark purples, blues, and maroons preferred. In other communities you see pink, yellow, royal blue, and mint green dresses. I met one young mother who had dressed her baby boy in a beautiful peach-colored shirt with black trousers and suspenders.
The use of pins has always fascinated me. Many Amish women close the fronts of their dresses with straight pins instead of buttons. Buttons are seen as proud and too fancy in some communities, although many of the men’s shirts have simple buttons. I always wonder how often a housewife accidentally scratches herself on one of the pins in her dress. This trip, I noticed an Amish woman in Bonduel who had snaps down the front of her dress instead of straight pins. Another woman at the fabric store used safety pins. That seems much safer—especially for someone like me who would more likely than not scratch herself every day.
This is a picture of my friend Barbara’s dress. She wears snaps. She lives in Pennsylvania.
I was given permission to photograph these two children in Pennsylvania. They both have snaps on their clothes. Notice the braces?
All Amish communities have a set of rules—the Ordnung—that they live by, but the rules vary from district to district, and each Amish community does things slightly different from the next. For example, some communities allow their members to own chainsaws. Others only allow members to borrow chainsaws. Others forbid the use of chainsaws altogether.
Sometimes people in a community won’t like the way the bishop runs things or the way the Ordnung is interpreted, and they move to another area. Some are searching for a more lenient bishop. Others are seeking a stricter set of rules.
For a writer, this diversity can be challenging and fun. Sometimes my fictional communities have a combination of rules. One thing I always insist on in my Amish communities is indoor plumbing. I just can’t bear the thought of my characters using an outhouse. 🙂
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014. Visit JenniferBeckstrand.com for recipes, upcoming events, and news about books and giveaways.