From Parlor Tricks to Primetime: Fame, Gender, and the History of Ghost Hunting

When you read the words ghost hunter, what kind of person springs to mind? I’ll wager many of you picture what I do: someone between the ages of 21 and 35, probably white, lit by the eerie glow of a night vision camera asking, “Did you guys hear that?”
Oh yeah, the ghost hunter is always a guy.  Sam Wall asks why?

Saving Face: Death, Necropolitics and the Hiroshima Maidens

Dr Becky Alexis-Martin introduces the Hiroshima Maidens. Their happiness was fundamental to state in diverting attention from the harm caused by the American attack upon Hiroshima. They were given a Western “rebirth” in the USA, their otherness neutralised by reconstructing them socially, culturally, and to some extent even physically in the image of the American woman. Colonialist discourse positioned Western fashion as liberating or superior to Asian styles.

Bluebeard & the Final Girl: Feminist Retellings of Perrault’s Classic

Sonya Vatomsky is here to examine the myth of Bluebeard, Perrault’s text as a canonical work, is in dire need of retelling. Culturally, Bluebeard has found itself linked more to temptation/knowledge narratives like the Garden of Eden and Pandora’s Box than to narratives of heroic escape from monstrous kings and ogres. This in itself isContinue reading “Bluebeard & the Final Girl: Feminist Retellings of Perrault’s Classic”

Little Miss Funeral

Lauren LeRoy is a funeral director from New York State. Entering mortuary school at nineteen, she had no idea what she was in for. Lauren reflects on her experiences in a male dominated industry and on why her job is so important. This beautiful dedication to her Grandfather’s memory takes us back to a snowyContinue reading “Little Miss Funeral”

Death & the Maidens: Why Women Are Working With Death

Death & the Maiden’s co-founder, Sarah Chavez, delves into the reasons underlying the current interest many women seem to have with death, and the rise of the Death Positive movement. Exploring a question persistently asked and rooted at the very core of Death & the Maiden: Why are so many women currently interested in death andContinue reading “Death & the Maidens: Why Women Are Working With Death”

Silent Sisters: Caring for the dead in gendered religious space

Nuri McBride is a Metaheret, which means washing and ritually preparing the dead in the Jewish traditions, as well as assisting in funeral preparation and bereavement. As a member of  a Chevras you provide kosher body preparation, funeral services, bereavement support, and palliative care, free of charge as a community service. With women outnumbering men in ChevrasContinue reading “Silent Sisters: Caring for the dead in gendered religious space”

The Female in Mourning Jewels

Hayden Peters, founder and creative director of Art of Mourning gives us an illustrated tour of female mourning jewellery. Exploring the mourning industry of the 16th-19th centuries we learn about different trends in design and how this reflects cultural attitudes and social norms of the time. From memento mori to locks of hair and cutting diamondsContinue reading “The Female in Mourning Jewels”

Rest In Pieces

To celebrate the paperback release of Rest in Pieces: The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses, author Bess Lovejoy is giving away a signed copy of her book. Rest in Pieces catalogs stories from the age of antiquity to today, tracing the evolution of cultural attitudes toward death and connecting the lives of the famous deceasedContinue reading “Rest In Pieces”

Widows and Virgins: The Curse of Being a Single Woman

Contrary to many death rituals I’ve read about previously, the widow bore the burden of “exaggerated observance of mourning customs” not out of respect for her deceased husband, but so that she did not become “infected” by the dead and his ghost, for it was the widow who was “especially liable to death infections.” One of these mourning customs,Continue reading “Widows and Virgins: The Curse of Being a Single Woman”

Monsters

“Be home when the street lights come on!” Was a common directive during many of our childhoods, as we anxiously ran out into the world to play. However, in my neighborhood and for many of us who lived out our childhoods on the East Side of Los Angeles that directive also came with a sinisterContinue reading “Monsters”

Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?

I get called a lot of things by taxidermy enthusiasts, animal-rights activists, and the media. I’m apparently an instructor, an expert, a hipster, an animal hater, a sicko, a stuffer…but one of the most puzzling things I have been called recently is a “woman taxidermist” and I get asked the same question time and timeContinue reading “Is Taxidermy a “Girl Thing”?”

Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole

Patricia Lundy explores the relationship between women and death by reflecting on two books. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, Caitlin Doughty’s memoir on her experience (past and current) in the death industry and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with specific focus on Lady Pole. In this post Patricia entertains theContinue reading “Midwives, Layers-Out, and Lady Pole”

Female Professional Embalmer, 1900

Miss Katie Smith, daughter of the late Gran W. Smith, the only lady embalmer in the South, has made a long and successful study of the subject of embalming, and today she is recognized as one of the most proficient practicing that art. There has been a growing demand for her services recently, her reputationContinue reading “Female Professional Embalmer, 1900”

The Winter of Our Lives

Death & the Maidens’ own Lucy Talbot talks with Dr Monica Williams-Murphy about her role as Emergency Medicine Physician, the experiences that led her to write the wonderful It’s OK to Die and travel across America educating and advocating for a better approach to death and dying. Explaining why we all need to prepare for theContinue reading “The Winter of Our Lives”

Murder She Crafted

Dolly Stolze introduces Frances Glessner Lee, a pop culture inspiration who many believe was the inspiration for Jessica Fletcher, the crime-solving mystery novel author in Murder She Wrote. Lee’s Nutshell Studies also inspired an episode of CSI where miniature crime scenes were left behind by a serial killer as clues. Lee is known as theContinue reading “Murder She Crafted”

Tears Become Ideas

In some places, the ability to sing or recite ritual laments became part of a feminine portfolio of skills, along with cooking, spinning, mending and cleaning. Here, author Sarah Murray shares an adaptation from her wonderful book Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre, How We Dignify the Dead to give us insightContinue reading “Tears Become Ideas”

Sewing Shrouds: 19th-century Burial Clothing

Chris Woodyard has always been interested in what the well-dressed corpse is wearing: a netted beadwork shroud, as worn by an Egyptian mummy; the beautiful brocades found in the royal tombs at Las Huelgas; a plain wool shroud tied at the head and foot, as modeled by John Donne in his funerary monument; or the frilled-frontContinue reading “Sewing Shrouds: 19th-century Burial Clothing”

The Corpse Brides

If death is most often anthropomorphised into a foreboding, grinning male does it not make sense that his companion is female? The current ‘trend’ for women in the death industry is not a trend, then, but merely an influx of women taking their rightful place back at death’s side and, once again, becoming the guardians of the dead.

Women in the Mourning

Author of The Undertaker’s Daughter, Kate Mayfield is here to take us back in time. A time when women were not public figures in the funeral industry but played important roles ‘behind the scenes’ at her father’s funeral home, Kate’s childhood home.