Colony Allows Teens a bit of Latitude
Aksamit, Nichole. "Colony Allows Teens a bit of Latitude." Forum, 18 November 1999, sec. A7.
The modest women of Spring Prairie Colony
share a quiet moment in the early morning sun on a trailer behind
a tractor headed for a cucumber field northwest of Hawley, Minnesota.
Spring Prairie Colony, Minn.
Although Hutterites believe that if you spare the rod you spoil
the child, the elder minister of this colony northwest of Hawley
says teenagers are teen-agers and, as such, should be given a little
"As the apostle Paul said, we were all at one time very unwise,"
says John Waldner Sr. "Some people grow in stature faster than
their mind and that sometimes causes problems. I guess the colonies
aren't immune from that, but then I guess the control we have is
Waldner says the colony's small size, moral rules and dress code
curb what have become common teen problems in the outside world:
premarital sex, drugs and alcohol, violence.
"Sex in life has its time, and everything that leads to it
prematurely starts with dress," he says.
At Spring Prairie, teen-agers' clothing, like adults', covers them
almost from head to toe. Hutterite boys wear button-down shirts,
long black pants, suspenders and caps.
Hutterite girls wear white button-down shirts under brightly colored
vests and matching long pleated skirts with aprons. Their hair is
always parted in the middle, pinned up in the back and covered by
a bonnet or kerchief, depending on their age.
Makeup, jewelry and perfume are not allowed. Nor are radio, television
or the Internet, although the colony does use computers for record-keeping
and its business manager uses the Internet to locate goods or hard-to-find
Smoking and drugs are strictly forbidden and only adults are allowed
to drink small doses of alcohol, such as beer or homemade wine,
Colony schools and workplaces are small and teen-agers must often
work with people outside their peer group - parents, aunts, uncles,
cousins, siblings - so peer pressure to do the wrong things is offset
by encouragement from adults and younger children to behave in accord
with the moral code.
"We can control it to a certain extent here," Waldner
says. "But in schools where freedom overextends itself, what
problems that can create!"
Reprinted with permission of The Forum