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National Women's History Month

Published: February 27, 2020

She Brought You into This World, and She Can Take You Out! – In Celebration of National Women’s History Month 

This title may for some bring to mind a number of African-American sitcoms where this comedic line was delivered by Bill Cosby to his TV character son, Theo Huxtable in the early 70’s when giving him a lecture on life’s lessons. Or perhaps for those younger, Chris Rock’s fictitious Mom, Rochelle in Everybody Hates Chris, when she, with hands on her hips, snapped this line at younger version of Chris, to chastise him for one of his many teenaged missteps. Or undoubtedly something that Tyler Perry’s, character Madea might say. It’s a classic line that we may have even heard from our own Mom’s to remind us that we had come too close to crossing that invisible line that bordered on disrespect for her authority. Though it was most times delivered sternly, it could also be delivered with much love and humor, depending on the tone of her voice and body language. It’s certain that few of us have ever really given much thought to its figurative or literal meaning, but as we kick off March 2020’s, National Women’s History Month we thought it might be an apt time to do so. Women, as in most things in life, have always played an important role in the funeral business so it can be easily said that they do indeed bring you into this world and yes, they can even help to take you out! 

A look back at ancient Egyptian and Grecian history, it is well documented that women were the first “layers-of-the dead.1” called upon to collect, wash and rub herbs on the deceased in preparation for shrouding them for their final resting place. This practice continued well up to the 19th century and was especially true before slavery was abolished when Black women served not only as caregivers for the sick and dying, but were also charged with preparing the remains for viewing by their own and their owners’ families. During the Victorian era women, the natural caregivers in the home, would, prior to the establishment of funeral homes, prepare the deceased to be laid out in the family parlor. It was also during this period where women were the only ones permitted to handle the remains of other women and children as it was deemed inappropriate for men to do so. As the funeral business moved out of the family home it became a much more lucrative business. This factor along with the practice of embalming human remains which became much more prevalent and viewed as a more science-based skilled, shifted the industry to become much more male-dominated. This was reinforced by trade journals, such as the Casket and Embalmers’ Monthly, that emphasized the science requisite and routinely discouraged female interest in the field. However, Spanish born, Lina D. Odou would not be deterred. As a former nurse of the Red Cross she was very familiar with the emotional side of caring for the sick and dying as well as the science of embalming. Upon leaving the Red Cross, she turned to private nursing for royal families where she cared for them up to their family members’ transitions. She recognized the added value that women could bring to the mortuary field and began to advocate for women embalmers. In 1901 she founded the Lina D. Odou Embalming Institute. An influx of more women in the funeral business was also bolstered by the fact that many funeral homes, like J.F. Goode Funeral Home, are family owned and daughters along with sons were called upon to help support the family business. Today the number of female Funeral Directors has surged with nearly 64.8% of mortuary science majors being women in 57 accredited schools across the United States. 2 Women comprised 16.5% of all members in the National Funeral Directors Association in 2014 as compared to 9.7% a decade earlier according to the Brookfield, Wisconsin based group.

Over its 65-year history in the community, J.F. Goode Funeral Home is proud to have supported and nurtured a long line of female Funeral Directors beginning with its co-founder, Anna M. Goode who attained her New York State funeral license in 1972 at the tender age of seventy. Her daughter, Marcella M. LaGonterie, served as the President of J.F. Goode Funeral Home until her death in 2018. Over the years we have been pleased to have supported the career path of two in-house residents, Carmen Williams and Diana Wilson both of whom learned and honed their mortuary skills and later became our full-time licensed Funeral Directors. We have also provided part-time employment to budding, female mortuary science majors with Eva Gallimore, the latest one to join our family. We continue to lift up and celebrate the important contributions that women in history have made in the funeral business and value the compassion and grace that they and all of our matriarchs have brought to the table from birth to eternal rest… 

 
1. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm

2. https://slate.com/human-interest/2011/03/women-funeral-directors-starting-to-dominate-the-death-care-industry.html

3. www.abfse.org/doc/absfsedirectory.pdf 

 
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