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My Mom Grew Up in a Utopian Colony in Iowa

We read about the Oneida Community, which evolved into a silverware company. It’s not the only intentional community, or utopia, that morphed into a successful consumer goods company. the Amana settlement in Iowa began as a separatist religious commune, but ended up in your kitchen.

If Amana sounds familiar it may be because it’s the name of your fridge or microwave. Although the Germanic religious group embraced separatism and outdated fashions in a similar way to the Amish, the Amana Society has always had a comfortable relationship with technology.

In 1855, the Amana Colonies were founded by a Pietistic German religious sect called the Community of True Inspiration. The founders were communal pacifists attracted to America for its religious freedom and to Iowa for its fertile soil. This soil was made available by earlier treaties designed to drive out the Meskwaki Nation to make room for white settlers.

Ellie Gordon-Moershel came from a family of Amana settlers, but didn’t connect the family’s appliances with the traditional religious sect her mother grew up in for many years. Now she tells us the story of Amana, both the sect and the company, at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: courtesy of Ellie Gordon-Moershel. Pictured is her great-great grandmother.)


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