Dr. Claire Marie Mensack, a public health doctor, gave a lecture at Elizabethtown College at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19.
Her research goal was to discover how the Amish took care of their elderly and how a Dawdihaus worked. Mensack explained that a Dawdihaus is a separate or attached building to a main house. She prefers to think of Dawdihaus as both a noun and a verb.
“It is a noun because it is a literal house. It’s also a verb because it physically represents self-service to one another,” Mensack said.
Janelle Zimmerman, a visitor from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, came to the event sponsored by the Young Center to see Mensack.
Zimmerman studies “how culture affects health care in a community.” She was highly interested in what Mensack has been researching.
Sophomore Kate Linton attended this lecture because “it was a course requirement for my multicultural class.”
Some went to the lecture simply for the sake of educating themselves. Phoebe Oellig, a visitor from Leola, Pennsylvania, came because she “always loved learning, especially anything to do with Anabaptist heritage.”
Mensack studied two different Amish families: Lancaster Amish and Dover, Delaware Amish. She conducted interviews to discover information about their demographics, family size and daily routines inside and outside of the Dawdihaus.
Mensack first studied a Lancaster Amish family. Mary and her husband Solomon live in Reedsville, Pennsylvania. They own 30 acres of land and used to have a dairy farm. The Amish couple has nine children. Mary’s primary occupations include child rearing, canning and doll and quilt crafting. Solomon helps his oldest son with the wood mill and around the farm complex.
Mensack talked to the family extensively about their Dawdihaus. For their Amish family, it was a simple transition because the home was given to one of their eldest daughters, Ruth. While studying the family, Mensack saw that there was an “open door” policy at the home.
The grandchildren would often visit Mary and Solomon, as well as their children. Mensack noted this observation tapped into the Amish culture’s core values: humility, stewardship and respect for the elderly.
The second couple Mensack studied, Lizzie and Ammon, own 122 acres of land in Dover, Delaware. They used to have a dairy farm and rent out their farm to non-Amish people. Lizzie and Ammon have 13 children, 85 grandchildren and 122 great grandchildren. The couple owns several Dawdihauses.
Lizzie and Ammon’s transition was complex. They moved to the Dawdihaus so that Lizzie could take care of the elders in her family and so that her newlywed daughter could live in the main house. Similar to Mary and Soloman, Lizzie and Ammon had family members frequently visit them in their Dawdihaus. Amish people are a collectivist community.
“These cultures put the good of the community first. They also place family above self,” Mensack stated. However, the United States is primarily an individualistic culture.
“We don’t wake up and say, ‘I want to be average today,’” Mensack said.
The primary motives include self-success and focusing on one’s own needs. Mensack came to realize that the U.S. is a pluralistic country because it contains both individualistic and collectivist ideologies. Despite differences in everyday routines, both cultures desire to be valued, respected and loved.