The care of the sick has historically fallen to women, but care of the dead up until recently has largely been the domain of men. Not anymore.
Funeral-related businesses employ more than 440,000 people and bring in $16 billion a year in the U.S. While in the 1970s, 95 percent of funeral-related jobs were held by men, now the split is closer to 50/50 and 57 percent of U.S. mortuary science students are women. Chances are your funeral will probably be run by a woman.
In modern history the field has been dominated by men, so it may seem surprising that so many women are entering the trade, but what’s really surprising is that it’s only happening now: Looking further back into history women played a major role in funerals. In ancient Greece women washed and anointed the bodies; Christian and Hebrew women were largely responsible for preparing and dressing the dead.
In the 1800s, nurses and midwives prepared the dead and newspaper ads referred to both males and female tradesmen. Sometime after the Civil War, trade journals began to run editorials that argued that women were unfit for the industry because they couldn’t deal with the emotional aspects of death and didn’t have the physical strength necessary. So the absence of women in the funeral profession is a relatively modern phenomenon.
Here at Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, four of our 10 licensed funeral directors and apprentices are women. Our intern, soon to be an apprentice, is a woman. Over the last year, one of our directors retired and another moved to Arizona, both of them women.
We welcome women in the funeral industry. The bottom line is, however, that male or female, the most important thing about a funeral director is that he or she is competent and capable of meeting the needs, whether physical, psychological or sociological, of their clients and that he or she treats the dead with the dignity they deserve and the family with the compassion they should expect.
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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been serving the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.