Amish Children Play with Dolls Without Faces

Torah Bontrager
4 min readJul 19, 2020

I spotted it after church services were over. Laura was playing with it. The white miniature-sized, plastic English doll with delicate features looked so pretty. I admired its tiny, beautiful brows with open eyes, its dainty nose and lips, and its cute defined hands and feet, the tiny fingers and curly toes. She was exotic, a non-Amish doll dressed in proportionately scaled-down Amish clothes-the first time I saw an English one in our clothes.

I played with a set of white cloth twin Amish dolls. My mother had crafted them from scratch when I was too young to remember. They were about twelve inches tall and outfitted in a matching set of dark brown clothes: a dress and black Amish cap for the girl, and a shirt and black pants for the boy.

The dolls had no faces. No eyes, no nose, no mouth, no fingers, no toes. Featureless shapes denoted the head, hands, and feet.

“Mom, look. I want a doll like that.” I dragged my mother’s attention away from the church women she was visiting with.

My mother pressed her lips together. “No, it’s zu hoch.”

Zu hoch meant “too prideful” or “too arrogant.” Hoch also referred to all non-Amish, non-Anabaptist people: die hoche leht. “The prideful, arrogant people.” Er is hoch gah. “He left the church and joined the English.” It was a sin to be hoch.

“But Laura and Mandy have one. Why can’t I have one, too?”

My mother’s forehead creased and her body stiffened. “ Heich mich! “ That meant “Obey me and stop questioning or I’ll spank you.”

Laura and Mandy’s parents are so nice to them. Someday I’ll have an English doll like that. “Can I play with your dolle?” I asked Laura.

“Yes.” Laura smiled and gave me a turn.

Later that year, after begging often enough for the little English doll, my father ordered my mother to buy one for me. My mother was upset that my father had taken my side. She threw away the doll’s English clothes but refused to make Amish clothes for her. So, at eight years old, I taught myself how to measure and cut material from scraps that my mother tossed into the wastebasket when she was sewing. I didn’t know how to make separate pieces for the arms and upper and lower parts of the…

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Torah Bontrager

Amish escapee & Columbia University alumna. For the right of Amish kids to go to school. Get chapters of my book Amish Girl in Manhattan @ TorahBontrager.com