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University of Iowa News Release


April 8, 2009

New UI Press releases expanded version of 'A Peculiar People'

The University of Iowa press will release a new, expanded edition of "A Peculiar People: Iowa's Old Order Amish," written by Elmer and Dorothy Schwieder, on April 15. The book is part of the Bur Oak Books series.

The book, which includes a new essay by Thomas Morain, will be available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

This classic of Iowa history focuses on the Old Order Amish Mennonites, the state's most distinctive religious minority. Schwieder, a sociologist, and Schwieder, an historian, began their research with the largest group of Old Order Amish in the state--the community near Kalona in Johnson and Washington counties--in April 1970. They extended their studies and friendships in later years to other Old Order settlements, as well as the slightly less conservative Beachy Amish.

"A Peculiar People" explores the origin and growth of the Old Order Amish in Iowa, their religious practices, economic organization, family life, the formation of new communities, and the vital issue of education. Included are appendices giving the 1967 "Act Relating to Compulsory School Attendance and Educational Standards"; a sample "Church Organization Financial Agreement," demonstrating the group's unusual but advantageous mutual financial system; and the 1632 Dortrecht Confession of Faith, whose 18 articles cover all the basic religious tenets of the Old Order Amish.

Morain's essay describes external and internal issues for the Iowa Amish from the 1970s to today: the growth of utopian Amish communities across the nation; changes in occupation (although the Amish Directory still lists buggy shop operators, wheelwrights and one lone horse dentist); the current state of education and health care; and the conscious balance between modern and traditional ways. The essay describes how the Old Order dedication to Gelassenheit--the yielding of self to the interests of the larger community--has served its members well into the 21st century.

Schwieder (1925-2005) was emeritus professor of sociology at Iowa State University. With Schwieder he wrote "Buxton: A Black Utopia in the Heartland." Schwieder is emerita professor of history at Iowa State University and the author of "Iowa: The Middle Land" and "Growing Up with the Town: Family and Community on the Great Plains."

Morain is the author of "Prairie Grass Roots: An Iowa Small Town in the Early Twentieth Century." Formerly director of research and interpretation at Iowa's Living History Farms, he is currently director of community outreach at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.

The original and reprinted Bur Oak Books, named after the state tree of Iowa, represent the Press's dedication to preserving the literature, history, geography and culture of the Midwest.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,