Title Reviewed:
Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishing, Toys, Dolls, and Quilts

Author Reviewed:
Kathleen McLary

Kathleen Stiso Mullins


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 91, Issue 1, pp 114-115

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishing, Toys, Dolls, and Quilts. By Kathleen McLary. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. Pp. xvi, 104. Map, illustrations, figure, bibliography. Clothbound, $39.95; paperbound, $24.95.)

Northern Indiana is home to one of the country' major Amish communities. The Amish first migrated to America in 1714, settling in Pennsylvania. The need for land caused them to look westward. The country in and around LaGrange and Elkhart counties in Indiana was determined a good place to settle, and the first families moved to this area in 1841.

Religion is the basis of Amish life. It defines clothing, furnishings, toys, and more. But there are differences in religious opinion among the Amish, differences which have led to variations in lifestyles. Some drive automobiles, others hold public office, still others own businesses. Still, there are those who prescribe strictly to a life that excludes the outside world. Even with differences in religious belief, the separate churches and the people live in harmony.

Quilts are an exception to the quiet ways of the Amish. Colorful expressions of life and nature, the quilts are sought by individuals and museums alike, and approximately one-third of this book is dedicated to them. More than forty photographs of quilts appear in the book, which also includes a narrative on the crafts women who are responsible for design and construction. Kathleen McLary is to be commended for encouraging the Indiana State Museum to acquire this excellent collection; the museum is to be commended for listening to her. In fact, Amish Style: Clothing, Home Furnishing, Toys, Dolls, and Quilts is in many ways an exhibition catalogue on the museum' fine collection. Each chapter includes an introduction to the topic and excellent photographs of objects in the museum collection or representative of Amish life.

It is difficult to research and write about the Amish because they are a very private people. It is even more difficult to photograph them because they respect the scriptural passage "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above" (Exod. 20:4). In spite of these difficulties McLary has put together a book that serves as a good introduction to some of the complex issues of Amish life. Those readers who are interested in more than a glimpse, however, will want to consult other publications that delve more deeply into Amish traditions, beliefs, and lifestyles.

KATHLEEN STISO MULLINS is executive director for the Northern Indiana Historical Society, which owns and operates the Northern Indiana Center for History in South Bend.

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.