I would like to thank Emma Miller for her end-of-the year post. I understand why she is proud of starting the ADSFund. It speaks to her generous spirit that she would conceive of the idea at a bittersweet moment in her life — on the day of her own graduation.
I would like to second Emma’s thanks to those who have donated to the ADSFund, and encourage anyone who has been thinking of it to please help. When a person leaves the Amish and thinks about furthering their education, it can feel pretty daunting, especially because most of us experience money constraints. We like to lend support in whatever ways we can, and we depend on contributors to provide monetary support.
I have been gathering stories of people who have embarked on a journey to acquire more formal education. I have had the privilege of bringing you stories of Henry Troyer, Laura Miller Burress, and Emma Gingerich. If you haven’t already, please click over and read their stories.
Today I bring you a new story. This one is structured more as a biography than the other stories have been and it’s written by Freeman Kinsinger, who grew up in the same community as I did. In fact, his grandmother delivered me into the world… turns out I was one of many I believe I was close to the tail end of her years as a midwife. I had no idea until I talked with Freeman a few months ago, just what a wise woman she was. Without further ado, here is the first half of Freeman’s story.
I was born in 1939 and grew up in Geauga County in northeast Ohio. My parents were both raised Amish but were married in the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church. My mother was shunned all of her life because she left the Amish church. My father, raised by his Amish uncle in Illinois, never joined the Amish church and was not shunned. Although my parents were not Amish, all of my extended family, playmates, and friends were Amish. I wore Amish clothes and spoke Pennsylvania Dutch because I wanted to be like my Amish cousins. I attended the first eight grades in a public school along with all the other local Amish children. There were no Amish schools at that time. My parents told me that my formal education would end after the eighth grade. All of our church members were former Amish families, and no one had ever gone beyond the eighth grade. My parents planned for me to work as a hired hand on my Amish uncle’s farm, and all the money I earned would be given to my parents until I reached 21 years of age. I soon realized that graduation from eighth grade was going to be a life-changing event for me. I yearned to continue my education and no longer wanted to be identified with the Amish tradition of limiting formal education to only eight grades. I was an insolent, insubordinate, and recalcitrant teenager for not wanting to honor my parent’s wishes.
Then suddenly an emancipator and liberator came to my rescue, my AMISH grandmother! My mother’s mother was a strong and determined woman. Grandma, who lived next door, spent her busy days delivering Amish babies in her home, preparing meals for her patients and their husbands, giving free medical advice to the Amish, sewing clothes for the Amish, gardening, and baking all kinds of goodies. As a young married woman, mother of two and step-mother of three, she and Grandpa moved the family from Geauga County to Rio Hondo, Texas, to start a new Amish settlement. After several years the settlement failed, so they sold all their belongings, bought a Model-T Ford which Grandma personally drove back to Ohio, and resettled the family in Geauga County. Grandma teamed up with the local doctor and became a midwife for the Amish. In her lifetime she assisted in over a thousand births in the surrounding Amish communities. She never shunned my mother and stood her ground before the Bishop and the Amish church by threatening that her excommunication from the church would require the Amish to go to Cleveland hospitals to have their babies. Grandma (encouraged by the doctor) wanted me to have the formal education that she was never able to achieve for herself and her children. She knew I was a straight-A student and a voracious reader. She told the school librarian to suggest good books for me to read. I smuggled library books home (hidden in my broadfall Amish pants) to hide under my mattress. I read them in bed at night after my light should have been turned off.
During the summer after eighth grade, Grandma arranged for me to live and work on my Amish cousin’s farm about five miles from home. I attended public high school for the next three years away from my parents’ objections and criticisms, while still giving them my earnings. I dressed as an “English” or “Yankee” teenager and was well received and accepted by my non-Amish classmates. High school classes were enlightening and stimulating, and they expanded my world view. Grandma arranged and paid for my senior year at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I eagerly awaited Grandma’s letters and gift boxes of baked goodies. Of course, the spending money she included in the letters was a real bonus. Her high school graduation gift to me was a new 1957 Chevrolet. My Amish Grandma inspired, supported, provided for, and encouraged me to pursue a higher education—all made possible by money she earned delivering Amish babies.
To be continued…