Funeral Divas Just Want To Have Fun
By Susan McNeal Velasquez
On March 27, my Aunt Marie died at age 89. She lived in New York City and had Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband was her sole caregiver. As death approached, many decisions had to be made, and I became his long-distance partner. It has been an intense experience of the serious kind. Therefore, when I heard about a social group named Funeral Divas Inc., it peaked my curiosity.
Guess what? The group’s mission is “to encourage and uplift every woman in the funeral service industry and have fun at the same time!” They are holding their first-ever retreat here in July at the Montage Resort.
Since the stereotype of undertakers and morticians as men, often old men, still applies, the idea of a bevy of beauties partying it up here in Laguna is hardly the image that comes to mind when thinking of funeral work.
Apparently, 57 percent of U.S. mortuary school graduates are women. Today’s women funeral workers aren’t moving into death care so much as they’re moving back into it.
Before the 1860s, caring for the dead was viewed as a woman’s role, because death care took place in the home. The perception of women as more intuitive and emotional made them an obvious choice. Women were the ones who helped deliver infants and infant mortality rate was high, so dealing with death was seen as part of the birthing process.
Women, known as “shrouding women,” collected and washed the body, rubbed it with herbs, dressed it, and posed it for the wake and burial. Men were usually responsible for coffin construction and grave digging.
All this changed during the Civil War. Thousands of American men died on the battlefields. Families began requesting that their loved ones be embalmed and shipped home. From that point on, undertaking slowly grew into a commercial enterprise. The funeral industry’s cornerstone was the science of embalming. The bias was that women don’t do science.
Things have improved, and since the 2000s the number of women graduates from U.S. mortuary schools has equaled that of men. Women are moving into the business because it is a stable, well-paying industry, and besides, there will never be a shortage of customers.
Susan Velasquez offers local seminars on emotional intelligence and is the author of: Beyond Intellect: Journey Into the Wisdom of Your Intuitive Mind. Contact her at www.susanvelasquez.com or (949) 494-7773.