Glimpse of Yesteryear
A short time after The Great War, the Amish faced two other challenges to their way. In 1920, and continuing over the following 10 years,…
A short time after The Great War, the Amish faced two other challenges to their way. In 1920, and continuing over the following 10 years, the Old Order Amish, by then some 10,000 strong in the United States, began the ban on connection to the electrical grid. However, they continued to use electricity from batteries.
In 1921, the Amish began their journey to private schooling; Ohio’s Bing Act mandated that children through age 18 attend school. Old Order Amish resisted this new law because they believed children only needed basic scholastic knowledge, reading, writing and math and should learn their values and morals at home. Several Amish parents kept their older children out of school, prompting arrests, fines and jail sentences. The resistance continued in 1922 when five Amish fathers are arrested in Holmes and Wayne counties of Ohio for disregarding the Bing Act by keeping their teenagers at home.
The next notable problem came in 1937 with the Pennsylvania state legislature’s plan to close 10 one-room schools and replace them with a consolidated elementary school, as well as lengthening the school year by one month (to nine months) and raising the age of compulsory attendance by a year to 15. The outrage that met these changes led in May of 1939 to Pennsylvania state legislators passing a measure allowing 14-year-olds to leave school for farm and domestic work.
However, it was around this time that the Amish opened their first two private schools in this state. The sure and steady withdrawal of the Amish from the American Public School System continued until 1972 when the Supreme Court ultimately sided with the Amish, allowing them to withdraw their children from schools (private or public) after the eighth-grade and affirming their right to their local private schools.
Technology was on the move in the 1920s and farms were becoming more mechanized. Starting in 1923, Old Order Amish communities banned the use of tractors and other self-propelled farm equipment in fields. New technology and equipment could be used in the field if pulled by horses or mules.
In 1928, the Beachy Amish begin buying and driving their own automobiles, thus crossing a cultural boundary. This division solidified the use of horse-drawn transportation as a key aspect of Old Order Amish identity. In the 1930s, Amish leaders in some groups began allowing telephone shanties in community areas for emergencies.
1935 saw the beginning of social security. The Social Security Act passed to help limit the risks of modern life for Americans in retirement or illness. At that time, the act did not include farmers, and the Amish community remained largely unaffected.
Then, in 1939, World War II began in Europe and, shortly after that, the United States was once again called upon to honor the religious freedom part of the Constitution.
For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geaugahistorical.org.
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