At their afternoon meeting in a bare farmhouse room, in a circle with infants on their laps and toddlers tugging at their skirts, the women of this breakaway Amish settlement have some most un-Amish matters to discuss.

Who will make the weekly van ride to visit their nine menfolk in prison, awaiting sentencing for a series of beard- and hair-cutting attacks against other Amish last year? And who will mind all the children left motherless for the day?

Should the six mothers who were also convicted, but are home on bail, sign over legal guardianship of their combined 47 children to friends or relatives, in case both parents wind up in prison?

By kerosene light, the women pass around handwritten letters from their imprisoned bishop, Samuel Mullet Sr., offering reminders about farm chores and descriptions of prison food and chess games with his jailed sons.

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