Women in Cremation
WOMEN IN THE CREMATION MOVEMENT
Though the final disposition choice of these women demonstrated how the notion of cremation had taken hold, the movement still required living champions. Perhaps the most famous of these was Frances Willard. A noted suffragist and feminist, Willard was well known for her progressive stance in many areas, including the cremation movement. She described her thoughts on cremation and her involvement in the movement in a statement that has become one of the most well known in the history of cremation. When asked her opinion, she stated:
I choose the luminous path of light rather than the dark slow road of the valley of the shadow of death. Holding these opinions, I have the purpose to help forward progressive movements even in my latest hours, and hence hereby decree that the earthly mantle which I shall drop ere long – shall be swiftly enfolded in flames and rendered powerless to harmfully effect the health of the living.
This quotation proved so meaningful to the cremation movement that a plaque bearing these words hangs in nearly every historic columbarium in the country.
Willard was cremated in the Chicago Crematory in Graceland Cemetery upon her death in 1898. Her stance was so notorious that, even after Willard’s own death, a satirical obituary for her cat ran in The New York Times, under the title “To Cremate a Cat.”
Followers of the cremation movement increased as the century turned. Authors of the time penned essays informing the public about the cremation option. Sheba Hargreaves was among many who produced pamphlets urging cremation and inurnment. She painted cremation as a beautiful process to be supported and embraced by all who truly cared for their dead.