Raised Quiverfull: “Typical” and “Atypical”

In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?


We were “typical” insomuch as we attended a conservative church, made decisions only from the Bible, appeared completely normal on the outside, and claimed that our lives would be lived out as was set forth in all patriarchal/Quiverfull beliefs.  We believed doctors were beyond evil and everything could be cured with a clove of garlic or drinking apple cider vinegar.

Our lives were “atypical” insomuch as we lived with our single mother, Mama.  We had no father figure.  Sure, we saw him on the weekends every so often but we were brainwashed by my mother to think that he was as evil as the second cousin of Lucifer himself.  We also did not homeschool.  According to my mother, the only “blessed by God” homeschool program was Billy Boy G’s ATI.  ATI refused to allow us to homeschool because my dad would not sign on the dotted line.  Thus, from start to finish, we attended public school.


In some ways we were very typical: homeschooled, not allowed to date or spend time with the opposite sex, not allowed to attend church youth group, and extremely restricted in our music/movie/book options.  However, I never felt like we were really strongly connected to the CP/Q community because my dad had issues with his faith and with accepting his leadership role in our family.  We also stood out because my sister and I didn’t wear dresses all the time, and my parents thought it was irresponsible to have more children than you could financially provide for.

Libby Anne:

My family was typical in that my parents had an extremely large number of children and in that my father worked, my mother homeschooled us, and both believed that women must always be under male authority, first that of their father and then that of their husband, and that that included submission and obedience. We were also typical in that we ascribed to the movement’s purity and courtship teachings. My family was atypical, though, in that there was always a tremendous emphasis put on education, for the girls as well as for the boys. Because of this, I was sent away to college after high school, as were my siblings as they came of age. Oh, and we were required to wear long jean skirts or grow our hair out.


My parents believed that contraception was a sin, that the man is the head of the house and the woman must be in absolute submission, that he is the authority for his daughters until they get married or he dies. We were home schooled, believed in modesty and only wearing skirts.

We were atypical in a sense that my mother never quite let go of her Catholic roots. We did some things Catholic such as Catholic Easter traditions. My mother spoke German with us kids and my Dad couldn’t understand much at all. This kind of enabled my mother to say things to us that my Dad wouldn’t understand, and if he did, he’d tell us how wrong they were. For example, whenever us kids made a mess or someone got hurt, she would exclaim “Holy Virgin Mary help us.” It’s a very Catholic thing to say and my mother always spoke about Mary with great admiration. I think she could never quite let go of her belief in Mary as a living saint.

Due to our language, a lot of P/QF people considered us Amish. This didn’t really mean that they didn’t accept us – they did, they just thought we did things differently. We never had any connections with the Amish though and us kids had to do a lot of explaining. I remember being asked if my family would support the tradition of “rumspringa” (“running around” as in living in the real world to decide if you want to stay with the Amish). We had a lot of explaining to do!


We were “typical” in that we homeschooled and there are nine of us kids. We did a lot of crafts and unit studies on gardening and wilderness survival and various homemaking activities. My dad was suspicious of ATI, so we avoided that quagmire, thankfully.

We were atypical in that we listened to popular (Christian) music, my dad played electric guitar, and the girls were allowed to wear pants. Another atypical element of our family culture was the unstated assumption that all of us would attend college. Education and culture were values in my dad’s family, and they got passed on. We were frequently broke or living frugally out of necessity, but we were raised to appreciate other cultures and the arts. My parents also believed in cultivating a good work ethic from an early age, and we were encouraged to get summer jobs and work in high school. This is rare for most CP/QF families, as girls are usually very sheltered and protected from having to go into the world for employment. As soon as we could prove we could manage our time well and get schoolwork done well and on time, we were encouraged to use our free time to earn a little money to save up for travel or college.


We were typical in the religious views of the movement, the clothes we wore, the gender roles, the discipline procedures, the beliefs in gender roles and spiritual hierarchy in the family, etc. We were atypical in that we were never wholehearted followers of any one group or leader. I remember my Dad criticizing ATI as an organization that was too focused on outward appearances instead of the heart. He usually had something he did not like about each of the big preachers/leaders popular in the homeschool patriarchy movement, but despite this we did purchase products and books from many of them, including Vision Forum. I read almost everything we had around, and I feel that most of what my dad taught was very similar to these leaders, so I am still somewhat confused as to why we never fully subscribed to any of them.


My dad has always been fiercely independent, so we didn’t follow any one specific leader or teaching completely. To this day he claims that he was never really “quiverfull” or “patriarchal,” he was just following what he thought was God’s leading. I think that was a part of the problem. My father did not recognize any authority except the Holy Spirit; which basically meant that he did whatever he wanted, and subscribed to the teachings of people who said exactly what he wanted to hear. My dad always scoffed at ATI people because he said they were “respecters of men.” He could never find a church that was godly enough for him, so we just never went to church. We tried a few Sunday services now and then, but they were never good enough. We had no community. Other than the neighbor kids and my mom’s nearby friend, we did not interact with other people for the first 12-13 years of life.


My family was solidly atypical for Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull. I was an only child. My father was an unbeliever. My mother was the tie that bound me to fundamentalism. It proved to be quite a strong one, as my father’s unbelief unfortunately coincided with a controlling, abusive personality who lived up to all the stereotypes of what “worldly” men were like. I clung to my mother and fell down the hole with her.


In terms of family dynamics, beliefs about what said Scripture taught about gender and family, and overall lifestyles and goals, we were a fairly typical example of the CP/QF trend.

On the atypical side, however, my mother had a huge appreciation for liberal arts of all kinds, so my reading was not restricted in anywhere near the same way as is typical in many CP/QF homes. This proved to be a tremendous benefit to me personally, as I read widely and it helped to keep my mind open and gave me the tools I needed to eventually think through and discard much of what I learned from the world of quiverfull and patriarchy. My siblings and I also had friends and relatives that were secular or existed in the mainstream Christian world that we were permitted to interact with freely, and although that was sometimes awkward because I was so different, I think those influences and relationships helped to provide some grounding and balance to my growing up experience, because the outside world didn’t seem as strange or alien as it otherwise may have.

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Raised Quiverfull Introduction — Introductory Questions Summary

Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
Stop Stressing Out and Give Your Kid a Snuggle
Red Town, Blue Town
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://enigmamyjourneyofselfdiscovery.blogspot.com Sarah Enigma

    “We believed doctors were beyond evil and everything could be cured with a clove of garlic or drinking apple cider vinegar.”
    ^This may sound like a funny joke, but it’s actually 100% accurate. I literally ate raw garlic, apple cider vinegar, and juiced carrots for every type of illness. Last week was the first time in my life that i ever remember going to a real Dr.

  • Rebecca Newman

    Haha, for us it was activated charcoal. My stepfather was convinced it was a cure-all and would mix it with water and make us kids drink it if we so much as had stomach or head ache!

    • http://enigmamyjourneyofselfdiscovery.blogspot.com Sarah Enigma

      oohh me too! except it always made me puke. Which mom said was good. haha. yuck.

  • Karen

    A question and a comment from someone not raised in a particularly patriarchical home. Why the emphasis on jean skirts and long hair? Both are murder in the summer — and if you’re unlucky like me, and have naturally oily hair, long hair is murder all year round.

    I just (Dec 2011) graduated with an MS from a local teaching-oriented state school. I still visit from time to time to lunch with my thesis advisor. On a recent visit I beheld a Muslim young woman wearing hijab (head and neck covering), the tightest sweater I’ve ever seen, and jeans that could have been painted on. I thought, “you go girl, you’ve got the rebellion thing worked out! True ‘modesty’ be damned.” I suppose, at heart, I’m an agitator against the patriarchy.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lobejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Jean skirts – They don’t show your legs or your hips or anything that’s under them at all and are therefore the epitome of modest.

      Long hair – There is a verse in the New Testament that says long hair is a woman’s glory, and when you combine that with feminists/lesbians/career women have short hair (not always, but you get the point) you get long hair as a sort of mandate.

  • http://phoenixandolivebranch.wordpress.com Sierra

    Jean skirts are also how fundie girls try to be “hip.” Normal girls wear blue jeans. Fundie girls wear jean skirts. It’s a “casual” statement.

  • http://nojesusnopeas.blogspot.com James Sweet

    I’m noticing a theme here on the atypical side: Valuing education, promoting a breadth of reading material, etc.

    Sounds like that’s a big mistake if you want to keep your kids in the Christian Patriarchy movement :D

  • ted

    I am seeing a pattern here also. There seems to be no real Bible teaching or understanding of salvation in any of these homes. Therefore these people are not from fundamental Bible believing families at all. More rather it would appear that the parents that raised these young people were terribly confused about what the Bible teaches about raising children.
    This entire project that purports to expose the fundies and their ignorant way of life is actually just another con job to turn people off to God’s Word.
    While it is true that the leaders of the homeschooling and other organizations mentioned here are to blamed for wrecking homes and lives, it is not true that they are the representatives of Jesus, God or the Bible. For the most part the organizations and the materials ie. Mary Pride, IBLP, etc.that were used to educate and indoctrinate these young people were not Bible based but man made.
    I would encourage every one of these young people to study the scriptures and learn the secret to eternal life. Jesus Christ the crucified is the way of life, nothing else can satisfy the thirsty soul.

    Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

  • http://christiancompletely.blogspot.com/ Skarlet

    In what ways was your family a “typical” Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull family? In what ways was it “atypical”?

    Well, we went to church every week, had “Bible time” every morning, and the curriculum that we used centered about the Scriptures. I have 10 brothers and sisters, (I’m the second oldest), and my parents homeschooled most of the children most of the time (I will expound on this point later). Growing up, the girls were only allowed to wear dresses, and none of us were permitted to listen to “rock music,” or date, or read books/watch movies that involved magic (IE Star Wars, Harry Potter, LOTR). Also, corporal punishment was the norm.

    Our family was atypical in a couple of ways, I think. First of all, after living under a tremendous amount of pressure from the church we were going to (still the one that was against my parents having kids… needless to say, we were the odd ones out, and experienced a lot of judgment and discrimination about that, and other “convictions,” like rock music) and pressure from my Dad, my Mom finally found that it was too much to handle, too much to try to live under all the “shoulds.” So after I was 12, the family dynamic shifted, because Mom would no longer go along with what Dad said, and there was a lot of bickering between them. Mom also experienced a lot of depression. This meant that I had to take a more primary role in holding the family together, and parenting the parents.

    The other way things were atypical is that my family did not homeschool all of the kids, all of the time. Before Mom’s meltdown, there was only homeschooling, but it’s been more flexible since then:
    My older brother spend a year at a private school after his graduation from the home highschool, just because he wanted to see what it was like. He became homecoming king that year. My little sister demanded to go to an outside school at age 13, and has been going to public school until now; she will graduate from high school in a couple of weeks. Two of my brothers spent one year in a Christian Private school at one point, and one of my brothers has spent the last couple of years at an alternative private school. My mother still homeschools the youngest three.

  • mae

    I can identify a bit with the previous commenter.

    I was allowed to wear pants, listen to “Christian” rock music etc. But we aren’t (and my younger siblings still at home are still not) allowed to watch or read Harry Potter. For a long time my mom didn’t allow us to read Madeleine L’Engle books or LOTR but later relented and allowed my brothers to read them.

    Really though, looking back, I see a lot of the “random rules” I lived under were just excuses for my parents mental and emotional unhealthiness. My mother was by far the more dominant member of the family, and she is extremely controlling, codependent and abusive. She changes her mind on a somewhat yearly basis about what is or is not acceptable (we also changed curriculums that often, from Christian Light, Rod & Staff, Bob Jones, Christian Liberty etc). Even on some things as minute as carpet vs hardwood floors. She still threw a fit when my older brother and I decided to send our children to the “Philistines” for their education (i.e. Public Schools, she never calls them that, since Ken Ham called it the “Philistines” in some talk that she had on cd that’s what she’s always called it).

    I’m actually happy my dad never fully bought into most of this stuff, I think that’s what saved me and my siblings from falling into completely as adults. I’ve seen my cousins take a much longer road to “normalness” and recovery than me and my older siblings, and I credit my dad. While he is very quiet and not outspoken and forever the doormat, he did quietly instill some common sense in us and put a lot of emphasis and value on our education.

    For 6/6 adult children, none of us are continuing to perpetuate the quiverfull lifestyle, although I have one brother who is still a more conservative Christian than the rest of us. However, I attribute the fact that we’re all still Christian to my Dad and his saving us from the absolute extremism (I believe the more extreme they are the more apt the children are to eschew religion as adults). My mom, being patriachal enough in her own upbringing, would never cross my dad. Which was a gift in the case of my family and held us back a little more in the sane world than a lot of my friends in the homeschool group and my cousins.