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Zoar Village

Zoar Valley Trail

Migration & Immigration Religion Women's History
An old view from the street of Zoar Village.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Founded in 1817, Zoar Village served as a safe haven for more than 200 German Separatists from the Lutheran Church, the official church of the German state of Wurttemberg at that time. Rather than compromise their religious convictions, the separatists chose to immigrate to the United States, leaving behind friends, family members and homes. [1]

Zoar Village is considered one the longest-lasting communal settlements in U.S. history, as well as one of the most successful. Though the “Zoarites” fled their German state, many aspects of their heritage remained in the village—including both religious and cultural traditions. [2]

In this very communal atmosphere, the villagers worked, played, lived, ate and worshipped together. At the end of the day, a member from each family unit would meet at the Assembly House and be given food for their family’s labor. Children ages 3–14 spent their days in the village school while the older villagers would receive weekly tasks that varied from working in the fields to baking bread. All assigned work was to benefit the community as a whole.

The people of Zoar Village were ahead of their time with respect to women’s rights. Zoarite society treated women as equals, and women were expected to do the same work as men. Some outsiders even criticized the women of Zoar for having large arm muscles from heavy labor. Roughly 75 years before the United States granted women the right to vote, Zoar Village had twice the number of women than men. [3]

This National Historic Landmark has retained many of its original historic structures and buildings, including their stunning Zoar Garden.

 

  • [1] Zoar Community Association, “Welcome to Historic Zoar Village,” Zoar Historic Village, accessed July 17, 2020.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] “Historic Zoar Village,” Smithsonian Magazine, accessed July 17, 2020.
References

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