From the Inside Out - Book Cover

From the Inside Out

The Rural Worlds of Mennonite Diarists, 1863 to 1929

Royden K. Loewen

Historian Royden Loewen has brought together selections from diaries kept by 21 Mennonites in Canada between 1863 and 1929, some translated from German for the first time. By skillfully comparing and contrasting a wide cross-section of lives, Loewen shows how these diaries often turn the hidden contours of household and community "inside out."

The writers featured were ordinary rural people: young women and grandmothers, rural preachers and landless householders. They include a teenaged boy who immigrated from Russia to Manitoba in 1875 as well as a successful merchant, a travelling evangelist, and a devout, conservatve church elder. An elderly grandfather (nicknamed "Lazy Reimer") recounted the daily circuit of his children's homes, while 19-year-old Marie Schroeder wrote of her literary aspirations, her "secret hope" that some day she would "write things that have a real worth, things that are worth printing, and things that other folks would love to read and pay for."

From the Inside Out also contrasts diaries from two distinct Mennonite communities in Canada. The Swiss-American Mennonites in Waterloo County, Ontario, faced rapid urbanization, while the Dutch-Russian Mennonites in southern Manitoba maintained their more rural environment. The diaries mirror their writers' preoccupations with work and weather, but they also reveal a community's social structure andd round of activities such as weddings, funerals, and worship services.

In the process of diary-keeping, the writers sought to make sense of a dynamic and often unpredictable world. Reading what they chose to record is to learn much about their culture. Their writings provice glimpses of their live, their collective midset, and their history as a people.

Loewen's thoughtful introduction offers insight into the historical importance and social context of these diaries. He also provides background information and a brief biography for each writer.

"A highly original contribution. . . . Here we have the very basic activities and concerns of the turn-of-the-century rural household made visible in a way that perhaps only historians of material culture have been able to illuminate."

— Marlene Epp, University of Waterloo

"This is a fascinating book which provides a wonderful window into the agrarian world of 19th and 20th century Mennonites. . . [and][ an important contribution to Manitoba historiography and to the historiography of the Mennonites."

— J.M. Bumsted, University of Manitoba

Hardcover: 350 pages
Publisher: University of Manitoba Press (April 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0887551688
ISBN-13: 978-0887551680