A Record Number of Women are Becoming Funeral Directors

Thursday, November 29, 2018

It's hard to believe the year is almost over! We finished up our trade show travel for 2018 this month at the Mid-Atlantic Cemetery Conference - thanks to all who stopped by and visited with us. Dave also attended the NFDA show last month in Salt Lake City for our company's third year in a row. It's been great for us to be able to interface and learn from more funeral directors. Speaking of the NFDA, there was some nice coverage from the Salt Lake Tribune about one of the speakers who talked to attendees about helping families after a suicide

The bigger news that I have seen this month making the rounds has to do with the demographic shifts of funeral directors in training. The American Board of Funeral Education Service released their numbers for 2017, and they reported that 65% of graduates from funeral director schools in the U.S. were female. That's the most women graduates the organization has ever recorded. The Associated Press visited the State University of New York Canton program (where 60 of the 75 students are women) and interviewed the students about those changes, and the challenges they still face.

Even more writing was done by The Guardian, where they went to the oldest mortuary school in New York City - the American Academy McAllister Institute - and took a look at the next generation of funeral directors (again, lots of women). It is some excellent reporting that covers the increase of women funeral directors, the actual work done in mortuary school, the shift towards personalization in memorials, the rise of cremation, the challenges of servicing low-income families, and gender discrimination. I highly recommend spending some time with it.

Elsewhere in the news, I came across a review of a painting show in New York City that features several works depicting the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in Manhattan (the venue for a number of high-profile celebrity funerals). All the works depict the exterior of the funeral home in different seasons and angles. The review is casts a wide net, but I found it to be overall pretty thoughtful. At the very least, the painstakingly detailed pointillist paintings are nice to look at.

And finally, we wrote about the Urban Death Project (the composting burial ground) nearly three years ago, when it was in early concept and fundraising stages. There is an update on the efforts to make it a reality in the Seattle area. Now called Recompose, it is slowly clearing hurdles to becoming a sanctioned final disposition. The project faced a few major questions and chief among them was whether the resulting compostable material would meet local and federal standards for pathogens and harmful chemicals. They decided they needed to test the method and the resulting compost. Soil science professor Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, who led the research trial at Washington State University, was pleased with the results:

That material, she explained, passed — and sometimes exceeded — state and federal safety requirements for pathogens and metals that could be dangerous to humans and nearby plants. The key to its success: thermophilic microorganisms (“thermophilic” means “heat-loving”) that quickly raised the temperature of the process, efficiently decomposing the body in its bed of carefully calibrated plant matter.

“I was very happy we met all the safety requirements we were looking for in terms of high temperature, low bacteria, low metals content, low odor,” Carpenter-Boggs said. “The material itself was just very pleasant.”

The legality of it is still an open question, but so far there are 6 Democrat and Republicans in the state legislature who have co-signed a bill to expand the definition of final disposition. You can read the rest of the story at the Seattle Times

That's all for this month. Thanks for reading!