The Hutterites of Liberty County are reclusive, pacifist Christians. For the nearly 500 years of their existence, they have always preferred to live as untouched by the outside world as possible, although it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to remain aloof from the forces of the 21st Century.
As a woman and an artist I knew that I wanted to tell their story largely through the eyes of their women and children, whose obedience to the cadences of their patriarchal social order is something that most American women shed decades ago. And yet for the most part the women love what they do, something that begins in childhood, because in their lives of faith doing the work of the colony, no matter how menial or exhausting, reminds them that their faith is centered in the colony, and not in their individual lives. Thus hard work deepens both their ties to their faith, and to one another. So, whether scrubbing floors, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, planting, harvesting, preserving, doing childcare—or playing hard as children—it is humbling to see how they treat each task as though it were a privilege. Which for them it is.
I hope that this rare glimpse into their world will raise for you some of the same thoughts it has raised for me about what we gain, and what we lose, when our cultural identities become more about to our individual selves than our communal selves—a natural outgrowth of the powerfully individuating, technologically driven world we inhabit. And that you may also experience the sense of wonder that I experienced when I first met these unusual people one hot July day in 2008.