Mennonite Overcoming

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade December 2001

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Family, Church, and Market by Loewen, Royden Toronto, University of Toronto Press Inc., 1993 Pp 370 Mennonites Overcoming In this book Loewen follows the German Mennonites (called the Kleine Gemeinde) from their villages Russia as they emigrate to Manitoba, Canada and Nebraska, USA. He traces back from the 1870's to about the 1930's highlighting the different ways this resilient group of people have survived and adapted to their surrounding while still maintaining the dignity of their cultural and religious roots. While reading this book the reason so much of Canadian literature is about overcoming became apparent. It was clear that any story based on the history of the people who make up this country would need to overcome a great deal of obstacles.

The author describes the lifestyle of the Mennonites who came to North America in the 1874, he covers the subjects of the importance of community, farm land, the unique economy, the difference between the American and Canadian settlements, religion, and the roles of women in society.

While examining these subjects he illustrates the way the Mennonites changed almost every aspect of their "old world" lives, from the technology used in farming, to monetary systems, to the surprisingly growing importance of women in the community.

Loewen comes to the conclusion that the Mennonites who "sought to safeguard what it saw as the 'essence of life' in an increasingly urban, industrial society."(P 269) did so successfully, while at the same time learning the skills of the "new world" that they would need to live in the climate, and society of North America.

This book really conveys a spirit of determination and survival of these people. It really gave me a sense of the work and determination it took to be a settler on the Canadian prairies. Also the excerpts Loewen takes from various diaries of people from that day makes it a lot more personal and has given me a deeper understanding of literature based that period.