Superficially, Hutterite society may appear unchanging. Many colonies hold firmly to the traditional rules concerning dress, food, and recreation, but at the same time important shifts have been occurring in family size and relations. Although still very communal by outside standards, some evidence suggests that individualism is on the rise (Huntington 1997).
In visiting a Dariusleut colony, one gets the feeling of an extended family sharing an inherited farm. The atmosphere is not so much one of communalism as it is of togetherness. Rather than living in the apartment rows, every nuclear family has its own home. This includes mobile homes brought onto the property. Families do their own laundry, and furniture stays in a family from one generation to the next rather than going back to the community.
Although there is the community dining hall, each house has a kitchen with a microwave and refrigerator, and people can eat at home if they chose to. The groups use many store-bought goods in addition to those the colony produces. Each adult is given a personal monthly allowance, and everyone has personal knick-knacks. They are comfortable with picture taking. One sees children's books, soda cans, and toys in the rooms. Unlike the Lehrerleut households, their furniture is soft and comfortable.
Most important is the family interaction, which reminds one of the idealized American family of the 1950s. Families are still technically patriarchal with occasional blustering on the part of the father, but the mother does what she wants in most cases. There is a real affection that leads to greater gender equality in decision-making. Without televisions, families engage in easy, happy conversations. Word games and jokes are common, with extended kin dropping in and out throughout the evening.
The center of life seems to be the family, with the colony as a shared business extended family. Hutterites remain faithful to key tenets and are not threatened by societal incursion in minor areas. They are still conservative enough to be set apart and are less individualistic than are members of the greater society. But the family is now psychologically more important than the community, which has become a support rather than the center (Ingoldsby 2001).
Boldt, E., and Roberts, L. (1980). "The Decline of Hutterite Population Growth: Causes and Consequences—A Comment." Canadian Ethnic Studies 12(3):11–117.
Eaton, J. W., and Meyer, A. (1954). Man's Capacity to Reproduce: A Demography of a Unique Population. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.
Hofer, S. (1991). Born Hutterite. Winnipeg: Hofer Publishers.
Hofer, S. (1998). The Hutterites: Lives and Images of a Communal People. Winnipeg: Hofer Publishers.
Hostetler, J. (1974). Hutterite Society. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.
Huntington, G. (1997). "Living in the Ark: Four Centuries of Hutterite Faith and Community." In America's Communal Utopias, ed. Donald Pitzer. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Ingoldsby, B. (2001). "The Hutterite Family in Transition." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 32(3):377–392.
Ingoldsby, B., and Stanton, M. (1988). "The Hutterites and Fertility Control." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 19(1):137–142.
Kephart, W. (1976). Extraordinary Groups: The Sociology of Unconventional Life Styles. New York: St. Martins Press.
Laing, L. M. (1980). "Declining Fertility in a Religious Isolate: The Hutterite Population of Alberta, Canada, 1955–71." Human Biology 52(May):288–310.
Lee, S. C., and Brattrud, A. (1967). "Marriage Under a Monastic Mode of Life: A Preliminary Report on the Hutterite Family in South Dakota." Journal of Marriage and the Family 29(3):512–520.
Peter, K. (1966). "Toward a Demographic Theory of Hutterite Population Growth." Variables 5(Spring):28–37.
Peter, K. (1971). "The Hutterite Family." In The Canadian Family, ed. K. Ishwaran. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Peter, K. (1980). "The Decline of Hutterite Population Growth." Canadian Ethnic Studies 12(3):97–109.
Stanton, M. (1989). "The Maintenance of the Hutterite Way: the Family and Childhood Life-Cycle in the Communal Context." Family Science Review 2(4):373–388.
BRON B. INGOLDSBY