Amish Women, Business Sense: Old Order Women Entrepreneurs in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Tourist Marketplace

Thumbnail Image
Publication or External Link
Graybill, Beth E.
Caughey, John L.
This dissertation is an examination of Amish businesswomen and gender roles in the tourist marketplace of Lancaster County, PA. Tourism in Lancaster is a $1.5 billion business; most tourists come because of the Amish and values associated with them. Recently, tourism has come to provide an important source of income for many Old Order Mennonite and Amish women, whose business enterprises cater primarily to a tourist market. Among the Amish, known for their separation from wider society, tourism now puts many women on the front lines in dealing with outsiders, a monumental shift historically. Thus, this ethnography of Amish businesswomen serves as a useful lens for examining Amish women's changing gender roles in Lancaster County today. Moreover, it fills a significant gap in the literature, as little has been written about Amish women, to date. Mine is a micro-study that examines tourism, entrepreneurship, and gender through the words of Amish women themselve, and my analysis of them. Using ethnography and life history I examine the lives of Old Order Amish and Mennonite women whose businesses range from quilt shops to greenhouses to serving meals in their homes. As I show, the ways in which these women handle their business, family, and community roles sometimes involves extensions of traditional roles and sometimes departures from them.