Sunday, October 23, 2022

 Review of

The Amanas Yesterday: A Religious Communal Society, by Joan Liffring-Zug

Four out of five stars

 An instance of creative destruction

  As a lifelong resident of Eastern Iowa, I have heard about the Amana Colonies all my life and have been there several times. They are known for the superb and bountiful meals in the restaurants, where the side dish bowls never empty. The only mention that I can remember of the Amanas in my K-12 educational experience was the description of the colonies as a communal (communist) society. Given the extremely negative light that communism was presented in during the years of the Cold War between the U.S. and Soviet block, this was most unusual.

 This book has brief textual descriptions of a large number of high quality images of the infrastructure and people of Amana in the years from 1900 to1932, when the communal society was officially ended. Everything is neat and orderly, bushes and trees are trimmed and the people and animals are going about their business. Wooden fences and sidewalks are straight and keep everything in its place. While there is some variation in the designs on the women’s dresses, they are all dressed in the same style. Nearly every chore was done together, from harvesting ice to sorting vegetables to knitting.  The people were organized based on their skills and professions; there literally were butchers, bakers and candlestick makers along with other professions such as blacksmiths and cattlemen.

 A common religion brought the people of Amana from German-speaking areas of Europe and that was an integral part of their life. They were also very industrious and community minded, building a functioning society that could probably have lasted forever if an economic depression and technical advancement had not happened. This glimpse into their lives pulls your nostalgic strings.

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