Dawn Johnson, the director of the Spring Grove Library, visits with author Emma Gingerich after the book signing at the Spring Grove Public Library. PHOTO: DAVID STOEGER BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
Dawn Johnson, the director of the Spring Grove Library, visits with author Emma Gingerich after the book signing at the Spring Grove Public Library. PHOTO: DAVID STOEGER BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP
"As I got older, I realized that Amish life was not for me...(I) realized there was more out there, and I wanted to leave," said Emma Gingerich. This was just the beginning of her journey into the modern world.

Gingerich spoke to a crowd of about 80 Spring Grove residents and others from the surrounding communities on Thursday, April 23, during a question and answer session and book signing of her memoir, "Runaway Amish Girl: The Great Escape."

"I was mostly at home all the time; I didn't have the opportunity to get to know other people and branch myself out, so I worked on finding my way out (of the Amish community) for three years," Gingerich said.

She was finally able to escape her old order Amish community near Eagleville, in northern Missouri at the age of 18.

Gingerich said she hid a cell phone underneath her bed, and when her parents had left on a trip to a nearby town, she called a number a friend had given her.

"I prepared the last meal with my brothers and sisters that day, and after everything was done, I just went on the road for four miles and met this lady at a bank," Gingerich recalled. "I stayed with her for a couple weeks, and she helped transition to what I call 'the English world.'"

Since then, Gingerich has been living in Texas and has resided there for the past eight years. She was able to obtain her birth certificate, social security card, GED (General Educational Development) and has been attending college since leaving. She holds degrees in agriculture technology, crop science and is now working on her Master's Degree in business administration.

"It has been a wonderful journey and at the same time it's also been very hard. I didn't know much English and going to college I felt like a really small person walking alone. I didn't know what homework was but pretty soon learned what that was," Gingerich said as the crowd chuckled.

While Gingerich said she does not regret leaving the Amish, she said she misses the slow parts of Amish life. "Amish are very patient and very slow paced - and Texas is very fast paced...(but) other than that I don't miss the lifestyle."

Gingerich said her family has since moved from Missouri to Maine and that she still enjoys regular contact with them since she was never officially baptized into her old order Amish community and therefore was not "shunned."

"I think people will always be interested in the Amish people. Amish people make great furniture and all kinds of good stuff," Gingerich added. "I just want to get my story out there. I like to be an inspiration to other people."

"I'm so thrilled to see so many people read about the way I grew up (which is) Swartzentruber Amish," said Lizzie Hershberger, currently of Mabel who left an Amish community in Canton. "I am so happy she came to Spring Grove."

The Gingerich book can be purchased in print format online at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com and in Kindle format at Amazon.

Gingerich said she is currently working on a sequel to her first book, which will go deeper into her story.