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Men Less Likely to Be Cremated

9 December 2011

An interesting shift seems to be afoot in funeral culture.  Men led the numbers of cremations as the practice gained popularity in the twentieth century.  Stephen R. Prothero notes that men made up the majority of cremations then, even 76% in one area.  Not that men were the only ones interested in the practice.  Lisa Kazmier found that The Cremation Society of Great Britain’s membership consisted of 60% women (“Her Final Performance,” Mortality 6:2 [2001]).  Prothero also writes about women’s role in cremation activism, though he notes that these vocal exponents tended to be college-educated women, and thus very much in the minority.   Anecdotal evidence from the time suggests that women were more likely to protest cremation.  Primarily, men’s bodies were put to the pyre.

That statistic has changed.   Women’s bodies made up 52% of all cremated in 1996-97, according to the Cremation Association of North America.   A demographic study in Great Britain found that women showed the greater preference for cremation over decomposition in the ground (Davies and Shaw, 1995).   Does this general trend have more to do with women’s changing conceptions about the body?  Or does it have to do more with finances, with women’s higher levels of poverty?

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