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Hutterites of Montana

By Laura Wilson

Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2000, 160 pages, 109 Illustrations, hardcover.


Isolated on the prairies of Montana far from mainstream America, the Hutterites live on large farms and ranches. They shun the modern world. Less assimilated than the Amish and the Mennonites, they practice communal living through shared ownership of all property and income. Although the Hutterites use modern agricultural equipment, they carefully protect their spiritual life by avoiding worldly temptations--no televisions, radios, cars, or dancing. The Hutterites represent an overlooked story in the modern American West and are apart of our nation' s religious history.

This stunning book is a unique document of the Hutterites of Montana, comprising Laura Wilson' s photographs and interviews with them over a fourteen-year period. Wilson explains how she met the Hutterites and received unprecedented access to photograph them in their day-to-day life. Then, often using the words of members of the community, she reveals fascinating details about their history, their leadership structure, their religious beliefs, the place of women in their society, the education of their young, and the strength of their communal tradition. Wilson' s text and photographs bring to life a remarkable people whose close family ties, spiritual activities, and sure sense of place contrast dramatically with the values and preoccupations of our own rootless society.

Laura Wilson is a photographer whose work has appeared in such magazines as the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, the Washington Post Magazine, Texas Monthly, and the Sunday Times (London). She is the author of Watt Matthews of Lambshead.


Review by Howard R. Lamar, editor of The New Encyclopedia of the American West

Shunning the modern world, the Hutterites of Montana practice communal living, share ownership of all property and income, and protect their spiritual life by carefully avoiding worldly temptations. In this book Laura Wilson documents the lives of the Hutterites, offering stunning photographs and a fascinating view of this close-knit religious society.

"Wilson's powerful photographs, which tell the story of strength, belief, and community in dramatic ways, are here combined with an informative and beautifully crafted text. The result is a truly original book about a neglected American ethnic group."


Review by David McCullough

A book such as this--a book so clearly and genuinely extraordinary--comes along only so often and only as a result of exceptional skill and dedication. With her powerful photographs and clear-eyed, understanding text, Laura Wilson has created both a surpassing portrait of the Hutterites of Montana and, by implication, a profound comment on the mainstream of modern life. She writes from thorough familiarity with her subject and she writes beautifully. Her themes are the time-honored American themes of religious freedom, the right of privacy, independence, community, and steadfastness in the face of adversity set in the immense open spaces of the West. And through it all, in her words and photographs, one senses her own uncommon strength and integrity.


Review from the magazine, Booklist

Black-and-white pictures radiate the Hutterites' modesty and candor, and also, in their soft grain and broad palette of grays, [Wilson's] affection and respect. Gaze thoughtfully, for this is what one genuinely egalitarian society looks like.

Related Articles:

Review of the book by Beverly H. Wigley


Hutterites of Montana

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