Ready to enter the Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Ready to enter the Blue Mosque, Istanbul

All this week I’ve had coverings on my mind. Yesterday, as I was doing research about plain dress among the Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonites, I was joined at the library computer table by a Muslim woman in full head veiling.

Yes, it’s true. There are more Muslim head veilings at Eastern Mennonite University these days than there are Mennonite ones.

And the last time I veiled my own head, it was to enter a mosque.

So, as I prepare to speak on the subject of Coverings: Amish and Mennonite Stories next Tuesday, February 25, at Mount Joy Mennonite Church, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, I recognize the complexities of this subject.

In my own case, the story I have to tell is one of both attraction and rejection. I wore a Mennonite prayer veiling 1960-1966 every day all day. My memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World tells the story of how hard it was for me to choose between the loving faith community that surrounded me and the glittering world that attracted me.

I was saved from the hardest choice by the fact that the church itself was changing. Conservatives would say that the Lancaster Conference gave way to the pressures of the world. Liberals would say that the church had been placing an unfair burden on women to maintain religious and ethnic boundaries for the whole community. The old visible symbols gave way to more abstract and historical theological identities.

Thousands of Mennonite women living today at one time wore a covering on their heads and no longer do so. Thousands of Mennonite women living today still wear coverings on their heads.

It seems only fair that both should speak.

my last two coverings and my Grandmother Hess's last two bonnets

my last two coverings and my Grandmother Hess's last two bonnets

I asked my Facebook friends, many of whom belong to the category of formerly-covered Mennonites, for their stories.

I can’t include all of them here, but you may be interested in this summary:

  • 21 people responded with stories
  • two people suggested scholarly articles to consult
  • most of the stories were from women. Most of them had either humorous or rebellious themes. All of them showed evidence of the strain of carrying the weight of communal identity.

Here are just two of the stories representing the latter theme. Since I didn’t ask permission for attribution, the actors in the stories are anonymous:

I love these stories because they show how boundaries beg for creative responses, which women supplied many times.  The last story shows how complicated the issue becomes when there can be a profit motive for  using the symbol without its religious base:

The president at Hesston called me to his office one day to tell me he noticed I wasn’t wearing my covering to chapel and that my parents wouldn’t appreciate that. In protest, I dyed the rim a pale pink!

Ditched it by college, but kept one folded up in a drawer for years. Found it last week. My now 35-year-old daughter played nurse with it when she was little.

I stared wearing a “covering” when I was baptized at age 9. I never minded as all my friends wore one too. Then in college I stopped wearing it and still remember how upset my mother was. She kept a drawer full of coverings by the kitchen table and would slap one on my head at meal time.

I remember when I had to start wearing a covering to school. I was so embarrassed. I had always been embarrassed when my mother came, and my peers saw her covering. Now, I had to wear it, too. We still wore strings, untied. So, what happens the first day I wear it in 7th grade? The young man who sat behind me pulled on the strings that were hanging down the inside of my dress, anchored by a large safety pin. And he pulled up the safety pin. He was surprised, and I was embarrassed even more than I already was.

It was a cold, snow covered December Sunday. She arrived at church to lead singing — but forgot her covering. When she told the worship leader, assuming they could improvise somehow, he said she wouldn’t be able to lead singing without her covering. So someone else took her place. When she got home, she quietly gathered up all the coverings in the house, took them out into a snow drift and lit them on fire.

The last time I put the covering back on was in the mid-eighties when I began waitressing part-time at the local Mennonite restaurant. Waitresses were required to wear a small, white-net covering. When I was hired and was asked if I would agree to wear it, I agreed. I also said, however, that it was difficult to put it back on because my mother and my grandmother wore it for religious reasons. And I was wearing it so that they would make a profit. It seemed disrespectful to me. He agreed, but he said his father-in-law insisted on the practice.

These are real stories from real women. It’s quite clear that most women who no longer had to wear the covering felt liberated when the change came.

The blush imagery I chose for my memoir has resonated with women like those above. They even use the same pink-red themes!

Below, I’d love to hear from you whether or not you ever wore a covering. I’d love to know your questions about the practice if you are viewing these stories from outside your own experience. Was there any symbol in your life you were happy to leave or any that you endured through creative positioning? Next time, in Part Two, I will try to represent the choices of women who still wear the veil.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on February 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Shirley – I love that you’re doing a two part series, giving equal, creative space to both perspectives: to wear, or not to wear a head covering. And perhaps even more important, the WHY aspect.

    I’m always interested in WHY people (myself included), do or refrain from doing things. I enjoy trying to wrap my head and heart around my own motives. I view it somewhat as a compass to gauge whether I’m heading True North, or not.

    I’ve never been requested or required to wear any type of head covering. I have, however, been “shunned” for my choice of hair length (super short).

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Laurie, thanks for the feedback on breaking this conversation into two parts. That was helpful.

      I love the image of True North. I’ll bet you have read this book?

      I got my grandson a compass to go along with the Einstein book that I found on your page.

      And I love your haircut. Another way to live simply.

  2. Elfrieda Schroeder on February 19, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    My grandmother didn’t wear a covering, but she had a large black bow that she always pinned on top of her braided bun at the back of her head. For her it was all about the length of hair and the style of hair. It had to be long and braided. When a girl reached her teens then the braids had to go on top of the head or behind the head. When we came to Canada my sister and I had long hair down to our waists (we were 7 and 9 years old). Our mom, expecting her seventh child, rebelled and cut our hair. She sent us to grandma’s place with our hair chopped off and grandma cried. It was a “thing” between them and we were in the middle of it. But mom insisted and we kept our hair short. Wearing pants was another battle. We won it by insisting it was too cold outside without them, so were told to wear ski pants over our dresses. Later we wore nylons without pants even walking to school in winter! That was our choice. They were also frowned upon at first. Our parents and grandparents had a steep learning curve adapting to Canadian culture!

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      I am so glad you can describe the Mennonite Canadian immigrant experience, Elfrieda. You too were being asked to conform to expectations of female-centered identity. (Or did men in your community also dress differently from other men?)

      You raise so many other interesting questions. How mothers and daughters either enforced or broke the chain of nonconformed difference, for one. For another, how “solutions” to practical issues like how many braidings can get done every day, or how to deal with cold, created little openings for change. That’s all it took, a little opening.

      Finally, you hit the nail on the head: Acculturation. Assimilation. The church tried to use folkways and mores to keep us inside the boundaries. The larger culture ( “the world”) pulled us the opposite direction.

  3. Marian Beaman on February 19, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I (blush to ) tell the story of my own narrow escape from a potentially compromising situation in a recent post:
    Of course, it involved my wearing a prayer covering.

    Because I was already a post-graduate student, I inwardly rebelled at wearing that covering on a big city campus, but I did so to please my Aunt Ruthie, who was my partner on the long ride to and from Philly from Lancaster County, PA. When I stupidly asked her if she was going to wear her covering to classes, she said, “Why, of course.” I knew her answer before I asked the loaded question, but I asked it anyway. On the verge of creative positioning? You be the judge.

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Marian, I was hoping you would provide a link to this amazing blog post. One of the functions the prayer covering is supposed to play is protection. Thanks for sharing your own story of contrary results and for using your own zany humor to connect watermelon seeds, a Bible, a sexual predator, and your own creativity.

      My hat, so to speak, is off to you.

  4. Saloma Furlong on February 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I feel like a covering is a symbol. I don’t think we can analyze it separately from what it symbolizes… usually belonging and community. In a culture (mainstream America) in which hyperindividualism is the religion of the day, the meaning of the symbol of the covering is lost. There are basically two kinds of cultures — those based on the individual and those based on community. We can only view this question through the lens of the culture we are part of. Let’s face it… we have all coveted the sense of community that the Amish have. And yet we don’t want to make the sacrifices that it would take to become part of that community. There are days when I would gladly don my Amish covering to feel a part of an Amish quilting or community event. But being Amish and wearing the covering to show that you are, is not a part-time thing. The Amish preachers used to say, “You are either Amish or not… there is no in-between.” They have a point… you can have the freedom of an individual, or else you have to sacrifice your personal freedom to be part of the community. That usually involves some kind of symbol to show that you are part of the group.

    This is all to say that I think we have to ask ourselves, which is more important: our individual desires, or belonging to a community of people with a common history? Most of us have chosen our freedom, which means the covering has fallen by the wayside. But there are those who would pity us for that, because they cannot imagine themselves separate from their community.

    You are wise to look at this issue from the perspective of someone who chooses to belong to the group, and wears an outward symbol of that. I look forward to reading what you have to say.

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Thank you, Saloma. You have earned the right to speak on this topic through your own memoirs, Why I Left the Amish and Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman’s Ties to Two Worlds. Better than most of us, you understand the powerful symbolism of coverings and bonnets.

      I look forward to speaking with you about this subject next Tuesday night at Mount Joy Mennonite Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. 7 p.m. Hope some of our blog readers will find us there!

  5. Laurie Buchanan on February 19, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Shirley – I’m not familiar with the book you linked to. Thank you so much for pointing int out, I’ve just added it to my list. I’m tickled pink you got the Einstein book for your grandson, and a compass, to boot!

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Oh good, I could return the favor. I’ve read all three of Conway’s memoirs. I think I like the first one best.


      I can hardly wait to give Owen his presents. I threw in a magnifying glass for fun. I think I’ll put the compass and the glass in a little bag called Owen the Explorer (he loves Dora).

  6. Marian Beaman on February 19, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    (This comment will appear non sequitur to Saloma and Laurie’s, but I don’t know how to “tag” to my original response.) I forgot to mention there’s another prayer covering story on my blog today, this one involving a car:

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      I hope everyone reading this post will click on the link above. Such a delightful story, proving once again that the best way to deal with a blush is to embrace it! And tell the story for the sake of a good laugh.

  7. | Speaking of Bonnets and Head CoveringsAbout Amish on February 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    […] friend, Shirley Hershey Showalter, has done a thought-provoking blog post called Mennonite Bonnet and Covering Stories in preparation of the joint talk she and I have scheduled for next Tuesday, February 25, […]

  8. Clif Hostetler on February 19, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    The spring of 1964 was a time when coverings were beginning to disappear. It was a dilemma for the Hesston College Choir tour. Should the women wear coverings? It was decided that the women would wear black mantias. However, for one performance at a church with the reputation of being especially conservative it was decided to wear the traditional Mennonite white coverings. All the women had the traditional white ones except for one woman of GC background, but some clever borrowing solved the problem.

    • shirleyhs on February 19, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thanks for sharing this story, Clif. It’s a nice companion to the one above — the pink edge of revenge. 🙂 I look forward to in-person conversation about this and other subjects soon.

  9. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on February 20, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I started wearing the covering at age 10, when baptized. However I only was expected to wear the covering at church and at home when we prayed at meals or at family worship.

    At age 16 I wrote a letter to the Mennonite youth magazine, With, posing as an outsider who visited Mennonite congregations often and who did not feel welcomed. In my letter I included an observation that Mennonite youth acted as though the covering was only a source of annoyance.

    My letter was printed in its entirety–spread across two pages with my handwriting, meant not to look like my own. I ended my letter like this: “With is a great magazine sent to a bunch of decaying kids in a decaying church.” Wow–was I embarrassed. But no one in my family or community ever noticed.

    I read and re-read the comments of both the editor and then of the readers in the next issue. Check this out in With archives, 1969, second half of the year.

    Then two years later I stopped wearing my covering after my first Sunday at Hesston College and Hesston Mennonite Church.

    I still have a covering folded up in the back of my underwear drawer.

    I sometimes wonder what it has done to me/us to have my culture and I discard a symbol belonging to a rite of passage.

  10. shirleyhs on February 20, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    What an amazing story, Dolores. I want to know more! Was your motive to make a joke? Did you want to wake up young people to be more serious about their faith? Were you a budding novelist using your imagination — trying to help others imagine the way they would look to strangers? I’d love to go find that magazine.

    You see the symbol as a rite of passage. Some of the comments I got on FB hinted at that. “You will get a boyfriend if you wear a covering,” for example.

    Next time I will explore reasons women still wear coverings. Then you can decide what to do with that one stuck in the back of your underwear drawer. I’ll bet there are thousands like yours and mine. Hidden away. Not sure why.

    • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on February 20, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Lots of factors led to my writing to With, including that I did wish to be a writer and I did wish to find more people my age who were serious about faith.

      Honestly, the biggest ‘oomph’ behind this writing was that my sister had mysteriously and unexpectedly killed herself in her senior year while at Eastern Mennonite College, and my family and I were devastated. I looked up to my older sister, who was a writer and an artist and an English major and aspiring teacher. Having her body shipped home and buried in our little cemetery was shocking. I can still picture her in the coffin, and she was wearing a covering. I was so angry, and especially, probably, with the church, even though I would not have been able to tell you that then.

      Actually, today is the anniversary of my sister’s death, and March 1st would be her 67th birthday. I try to remember Vivian during the whole week of her death date and birth date. During the week this year I am getting the EMC memorial service transferred from magnetic tape to something digital. Also, I shared some of her senior in high school journal quotes with a person who is writing an article about the high school English teacher who inspired a ‘walk out.’

      Shirley, this is more than you need to know, but it’s all still right there when I look at the date of when I wrote that letter to With.

  11. shirleyhs on February 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    Oh my, Dolores. This is not more than I needed to know, but it is more than a sister should have to carry alone. Let me walk beside you.

    I was on campus when this terrible news about Vivian’s death was shared with the students. I had one class with her. She was two years older than I. I don’t remember any conversations with her.

    Dates have a way of acquiring meaning, sometimes before, sometimes after some cataclysmic event. I have dates like this in my life but none so searing as a sister who died with her covering on.

    Thank you for sharing this story here. I would never have imagined such a profound connection. I hope to do some archival research at EMU this spring. I will look for Vivian, and I will do so as your friend.

    • Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on February 20, 2014 at 7:41 pm

      Shirley, your response brought me to tears, which is always helpful. Thank you.

  12. Janetlynn Boo Graham on February 20, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I’m delighted to see the issue of coverings raised for discussion by women, even men, of various backgrounds, I come to the issue from a very odd, even eclectic background, being raised Lutheran, married in a Methodist church, having attended Quaker meetings, living and working among Amish, Hutterite, and presently Mennonite communities. Yet my wearing a head covering didn’t start with my introduction into Anabaptist circles—it started with my high school experience of work and pleasure. Instead of pursuing the latest fashions, I filled my teenage days with art and volunteering as a candy striper, either wearing my Red Cross striped cap, a hippie-style denim hat or bandana to keep my hair out of paint, clay, or whatever else I was working in. In college I had friends who were Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and secular; many who supposed my chosen head covering was worn as a religious marker. When I later married and worked with a midwife among the Amish, my head covering became a symbol of kinship, and in our year of living with the Canadian Hutterites, the change from colored to black scarf was an easy adjustment to make. Yes, there were times when I witnessed an attitude of judgement among communal Christians, people saying “you can’t have your heart in the (right) place as ours’ is, if you don’t dress like us”, but far more often I met people merely dressing as they had always done, with no question or desire to do differently. I wanted neither to symbolize an attitude of righteous judgement, nor a meaningless conformity. Yet my covering is far more than a symbol of female submission, too…it symbolizes a heritage of Anabaptist believers with whom I now fellowship, (even though I may be the only one in our Mennonite congregation to wear a covering now), and my firm conviction that fashion and worldly beauty will not determine my worth as an individual. I’m quite happy to wear something that symbolizes my faith, and it’s led to many interesting conversations with people who seem to feel able to approach and talk with me, just because of what I’m wearing. Our daughters and sons stopped wearing bonnets and suspenders to fit in with their peers, but the most important thing for us has not been how they look, but that they know they are loved–the heart of our faith that never changes.

    • shirleyhs on February 20, 2014 at 8:20 pm

      I love your story, Janetlynn. Have you written a memoir??!!

      So much to think about here. I think you must have had amazing parents to show so much inner strength in high school

      Please come back again for Part Two. Yours is a private symbol, freely chosen, to identify with other Christians, but not as conformity to a certain discipline or submission to a hierarchy. If I read you rightly. Very interesting indeed.

      I’ve always been attracted to those who march by a different drummer. And I want to know more. I’m sure other readers here will be interested in your story also.

  13. Marceil Yoder on February 21, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I grew up in Illinois and joined the Willow Springs Mennonite Church when I was nine years old. In our congregation we carried our coverings in our Bibles and wore them for church services. There was no question about it being worn over cut hair. When I was sixteen ( 1952 ) I went to Hesston Academy. My world changed as I then felt I had to try to braid that short hair and wear the covering all day. My mother said when I came home on vacations “You can look like that at home but when we are out in public you will curl your hair and not wear the covering”. My dad who had been raised in Ohio liked the idea of long hair. I graduated from Goshen College in 1958 and during that time I did the covering in the Bible and wore it to church services. Later on living in South Bend, In. and attending Kern Road Mennonite Church most of us young mothers and professional women gave up wearing the covering totally. For myself I came to the belief that what was in my heart and how I treated others was more important then the symbol on my head. I also want to say I have respect for those who feel the symbol must be worn.

  14. shirleyhs on February 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Marceil, Thank you for sharing this story. We in the east called people in Kansas, Indiana, and Illinois “western” Mennonites. Isn’t that funny? And you folks were wildly liberal in our minds. 🙂

    My last coverings were folded in three and fit inside my Bible also. You might wonder how I got them to perk up for the picture above. I turned them inside out!

    Be sure to come back next week and see the reasons why our more conservative sisters continue to wear the prayer veiling.

    I always love welcoming new readers. Thank you for the visit.

  15. Teresa Good on February 22, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    I have been apart of a Mennonite Church for 3 years now. I wear a scarf covering most of the time or a small black round one only in Church. I will not say that I haven’t had question for myself. I have come to realize one thing, that it is” a heart issue and not a head issue.” Many women wear a covering, know matter what size and have bitterness and ill feeling in their hearts. The covering doesn’t make you holy. I still have many question and mix feeling about the covering.

    • Shirley Hershey Showalter on February 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Teresa, thank you for adding your voice to this conversation. It takes an honest heart to admit uncertainty. In the next posts (I’ve actually decided to do Part III), you will meet two current wearers of coverings, one for reasons much like ones that prevailed in the church of my youth, and another for quite different, more individual, reasons. I hope that these authentic voices will help you develop your own position. Sometimes when people tell their stories (yes, this is a heart decision), we hear the ring of truth for our own lives. Sending you wishes for strength on your journey.

  16. Eva Beidler on February 23, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Shirley, I recently wrote an essay on my experiences with wearing a covering–age 10 – 20. I stored my last covering in a drawer for many decades. The story is seven pages so I am not sure whether that is too long to be of use to you. I am presently trying to write other pieces about my conservative childhood in Franconia Conference, southeastern Pa. My Dad was a bishop so that complicated things for me. I enjoyed your book and can say that I share many experiences in common with you.

  17. […] my last post I described stories of women who left the practice of plain dress, including the head covering. I […]

  18. Warm Ginger on February 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    I live in a land where the cultural norm is for women to cover – their hair, their bodies, even their faces. The more they cover, the more ‘pious’ they are perceived to be. In my three years here, I have seen a real increase in the number of complete coverings, particularly among the Muslim expat population.
    I of course can’t help but rebel. To me, the skinny jeans and red lipstick are small tokens of my resistance against a belief that how modestly a woman dresses is an indication of her “worth”.

    • shirleyhs on February 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Warm Ginger, often we westerners assume that there is only one direction for change to take — from conservative to liberal — on the question of women’s dress and coverings. Thanks for pointing out that as cultures shift emphasis in their values, it can become advantageous for women to move back to more covering up, not less.

      The position of women within a culture, and the limits to the freedoms they have over their bodies, depends a great deal upon what the men of that culture are doing and deciding.

      Love that defiant splash of red on your gravatar!

  19. Christine on February 28, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I am not Amish or Mennonite (I would be if there was a congregation or community near where I live), but I wear a covering because of the reasons given in 1 Corinthians 11 – nature, creation, submission, angels, etc. I was not brought up to wear one, but over the years have come to the conviction that it is the right thing to do, so I wear a snood type of covering.

    It always saddens me when Scriptural reasons for doing something are overshadowed by cuture or ‘conformity’ to a particular style or community. For years I have wondered why, when people leave the Amish, one of the first things they do is stop covering. Your article has helped me understand why!

    I understand that the Amish have different coverings depending where they are from, or which community they belong to, so I can well understand them not wanting to wear something that would identify them with a specific group or community. But somehow, not covering at all seems like throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    • kate gold on March 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      How interestinc, Christine, that we both find this page within days of each other…. I was about to comment with a very similar message, too:
      I would love to be a Mennonite… if only my parents would accept my faith.

    • shirleyhs on March 4, 2014 at 9:24 pm

      Christine, I wrote a comment that has not shown up here. Not sure why. Can you explain what a snood is? I’m not familiar with the term. I had read that Christian women in some denominations other than Mennonite and Amish are individually adopting head coverings. So I am glad you have spoken for your choice and am interested in learning more about the type of covering and when and how you wear it. I am sure you will enjoy the next two posts –Kathy Wenger’s story now online. And Charlene and Eileen’s coming tomorrow. Thank you for sharing your beliefs and practices and come back again.

    • Mackenzie on July 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      A snood can refer either to a hair net (think of a crocheted one that’s visible, unlike the thin plastic ones) or a loose covering that is sort of bag-shaped in the back, so that loose hair or a ponytail or braid is cradled in the back of it.

    • Mackenzie on July 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hmm meant to say soft covering that’s bag-shaped in the back. I have one of linen that has the bag part attached to a brim that becomes ties, and it ties under the nape of the neck.

  20. shirleyhs on March 4, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Kate, I sense real sadness and struggle in your comment to Christine. I too hope that your parents can come to accept your faith. And that you can love and respect them at the same time. Perhaps when you can make your own decisions freely, you will become Mennonite. In the meantime, I hope you can find your own visible and invisible ways to live your faith.

  21. Christy on March 10, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I was raised in central Illinois in an Anabaptist church called the Apostolic Christian church. It is much like the “conservative” Mennonite churches. Once we joined the church we all wore headcoverings and veils during church; however, depending on one’s conviction depended on whether they wore the headcovering all the time or not. My mother did not wear it all the time and wore jeans…my husband’s mom wears a bun, skirt, and headcovering all the time. I was a member and left the church, but I still struggle with the head covering “debate”. I think when worn by choice b/c of a conviction from the 1 Cor scripture it’s a good thing; however, my personal opinion is it’s often worn for acceptance and community unity instead. Just a sidenote…my head coverings, too, are stored away safely in a drawer 🙂

    • shirleyhs on March 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Christy, isn’t it interesting how many of us who wore coverings could not bring ourselves to throw away the last ones we wore? Lots of dresser drawers with coverings at the back, I gather. I hope this series (there are now three parts available in the column on the right hand side above) helps you to sort out your own decision with the help of your own conscience and the Holy Spirit.

      Thanks for your comment. Blessings in your life.

  22. Scarlett Heise on August 20, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Have really enjoyed reading this. I attend a Mennonite and an Independent Baptist church both. The second one is the church which brought the importance of wearing the covering to me. I have worn mine for a year now. At times I keep debating whether I should or shouldn’t. Then I pray about it and God seems to direct me to keep wearing it. What a better way to witness your faith in our Lord? After all, it is such a simple thing to do compared to all He went through for us. My covering helps to remind me to be kind, honest, meet and loving to those around me. It is very precious.

    • shirleyhs on August 20, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Scarlett, I loved this sentence: “My covering helps to remind me to be kind, honest, meet and loving to those around me. It is very precious.” Thank you for finding this post. That was the thing I valued most about wearing a covering also. Many blessings.

  23. Amy Unruh on November 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    I realize I’m a bit late to this discussion. I’m researching Mennonite prayer coverings for a book I’m writing. I live in a city with a Mennonite church and while we don’t have horse and buggy Mennonites, we do have those who dress more like the Amish and those who dress in long jean skirts and t-shirts that work at a local thrift store. One wore one with a slit in the skirt and one wore a knee-length skirt, so that is confusing to me. I was dressing only in skirts for awhile, and I felt I was more modest, in dress at least. 🙂 I’ve often wondered why, if it is commanded in the Bible, we got away from wearing head coverings in the Christian church. I think it may have started by misinterpreting the passage in reference to a woman’s hair being her covering. I wore one for awhile, but it didn’t last.

    But I digress. I felt it interesting that you spoke of the pressure on the women to uphold the religious and ethnic bounderies of the whole community. I often wonder why that is. After all, the women are the ones who dress the closest to the robed Israelites and Samaritans of the Bible. Those who dress in such a way speak of not being conformed to the world, and yet the men dress no differently or not much differently than the rest of the world. It feels hypocritical, to me. In fact, if I were to be snarky in conversation with one, I could tell him that he’s being very immodest by wearing his underwear for all to see. After all, are not pants simply a modern mutation of the underwear that priests used to wear under their robes for the sake of modesty? And if we are worried about not being conformed to the world, in the area of our clothing, would we not go back to wearing robes?

    That is exactly why I went back to wearing pants. If men can wear their underwear in public, so can I. 🙂 I pulled off my covering because others in the church either made fun of me or told me I was being legalistic. Besides, my hair is short, so I really didn’t have a “glory” to cover in the presence of the Lord.

    I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts. I love the idea of being Amish, of belonging to a community. I think the modern church has become too separate from our everyday lives, and a recent event where a church attender was not able to get a single man to stay overnight with him at his house (he was having some health problems), shamed me. Is this not part of what we are to do in service to our fellow man? If we had been part of an Amish community, I feel like he would have had several volunteers at the very least.

    • shirleyhs on November 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Hi Amy,
      It’s fine to arrive late. You aren’t the only one. Apparently people are searching on this subject. I value very much the sense of community I feel as a member of a Mennonite congregation. In my book BLUSH I included a short essay “Why I am still Mennonite” to answer this question. All best with your book!

  24. Ben Weaver on February 16, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Sorry! I am a Great Grandfather of Mennonite background. My Bible truth pursuits have exposed several flaws in the traditional interpretation of 1 Cor. 11. Paul is answering their religious questions of ch.7:1.He seems to support that a shame covering is appropriate for the descendants of Adam, but at vs. 10-11, he addresses Christian women and concludes, “We have no such custom neither the churches of God. “Head” means source or supply @ “power” means authority with no indication to symbol.

  25. Ben Weaver on February 16, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Sorry! I am a Great Grandfather of Mennonite background. My Bible truth pursuits have exposed several flaws in the traditional interpretation of 1 Cor. 11. Paul is answering their religious questions of ch.7:1.He seems to support that a shame covering is appropriate for the descendants of Adam, but at vs. 10-11, he addresses Christian women and concludes, “We have no such custom neither the churches of God. “Head” means source or supply @ “power” means authority with no indication to symbol.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 16, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      Thank you, Ben, for offering this interpretation. It’s helpful to all who take the Bible seriously. Great grandfatherhood is a time of great wisdom. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

  26. brian aten on May 12, 2016 at 12:08 am

    I wanted to provide my daughter with a beautiful headcovering for her upcoming 14th birthday, even though we are labeled “baptist”. I was under the impression that the headcovering was a sign of spiritual significance , for her personal prayer life , like a man with his beard or a nazarite and his vow. I have also hoped that the gift offers her direction in a crooked world. are there any opinions out there either pro or con on the subject. I have seen women with the covering in public and noted men behave more respectful toward them and it certainly sparked my interest in the subject. thank you

    • Shirley Showalter on May 12, 2016 at 1:00 am

      Any gift given with love from a father and offered to a daughter with the freedom to help her use it in any way the Spirit speaks to her, will be received as a treasure. My only advice is tell stories about why you chose the gift and name all that you see in her that is beautiful.

      • Amy on May 25, 2016 at 10:21 pm

        Hi again. Well, it’s been awhile, and I’ve gone back to wearing skirts and dresses.I’ve also started to cover again. I’ve learned a few things since my last post, and I realized that just because I feel that men are not dressing modestly doesn’t mean I should conform. I came to this decision gradually for a few reasons, one being another woman’s comment on pants. They makes a perfect upside-down V that draws the eye straight to the crotch. I rrealized immediately that she was right. For both men and women, I seem to always be looking there, but it’s displayed so prominently, how can I avoid it? Also, I hate all of the tugging and pulling and adjusting that seems to go along with wearing modern clothing that our fashion dictates as normal. It made me realize that no matter what, we are conforming to something, even if we think we are being independent and individual. While I still think men need to cover their crotches like many Muslims do (for survivors of rape, visible outlines of a crotch can be traumatic), I heard from a woman who addressed the disparity issue of why women seemed to carry the burden of conformity to the community standards of dress. I asked why the men all looked like modern men and the women looked old-fashioned. She said that menswear hasn’t changed all that much whereas women’s clothing has changed in order to show off the body, conforming to fashion dictates. Professional men dress conservatively, and so they look just like Mennonite men and not very different from Amish men. Well, that made me rebel against the fashion world even more. I’m not going to wear their idea of acceptable clothing when it’s objectifying. I was always buying camis to try to be more modest, which really didn’t work. Any guy taller than me could still see my cleavage. And the fashion industry made more money because I had to do this because of their low-cut tops. I think that, no matter what, we tend to rebel against our parents idea of right, but in the end, we always conform to somebody else’s idea of right. Can we really be individual in this world? I wear headcovers now, and my mother hates it. But I do it because of 1 Corinthians 11 (lots of great studies at The Head Covering Movements site ), because I want to grow my hair long for my husband (it’s thin and fine, so I can’t have it long and do styles with it), and because I like it. I feel more protected and I’m treated better by strangers. But no one is forcing me to do it. Just as God likes a cheerful giver, he likes a cheerful coverer. And I feel safer and protected with a cover. I think it is sad that putting an emphasis on the wrong reasons for covering have turned so many against it. I still struggle, because people in my church don’t understand. I can’t just join a conservative Mennonite church because my husband is an associate pastor in the church of the Nazarene. Anyway, I just wanted to pass that along.

  27. […] Source: Shirley Showalter Mennonite Bonnet and Covering Stories, Part 1 […]

  28. Amy on May 23, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    Does anyone make these anymore? I want to learn how but it’s difficult.

    • Shirley Showalter on May 24, 2019 at 7:35 pm

      You can buy these in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia, and Ohio. Anywhere the plain people live there are stores serving them. You can also find some on

  29. Cynthia Johnson on January 27, 2020 at 3:37 pm

    I have it on now, under my scrub cap in the hospital. I attend Columbus Mennonite Church(ultra liberal) and Alum Creek Mennonite(Eastern Mennonite ultra conservative) and I bridge these worlds as born and raised Catholic converted to Protestant. I am also divorced and remarried and mostly shunned by the conservative church. We all must make our way thru customs and traditions that uplift and protect us. The head covering as a Catholic was meant to emulate the Virgin Mary and as a Mennonite for modesty. Both are still true for me now.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 27, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      Cynthia, you sound like a person who has thought long and hard about the meaning of the symbols you choose. Congratulations on being able to bridge worlds by taking what you need from each and knowing how to protect your integrity in the process. Hats off to you!

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