Pall bearing and women

(34 Posts)
kim147 Fri 27-Sep-13 21:36:57

We had a family funeral today. My grandma passed away and the family were responsible for carrying the coffin into the church. My dad said that he wanted the male bloodline to carry the coffin.

It then occurred to me that it is unusual to see women carrying a coffin. There are female members of the family who are the right height and probably strong enough to have helped. But it does seem traditional that men do the carrying. There was a female undertaker who led the pall bearing and was in charge.

I know this is an upsetting area and probably the last thing people want to do is to make a feminist point at such a sensitive time. But I was wondering if anyone had thoughs and experiences about this.

Bue Sat 28-Sep-13 19:26:36

Maybe this is only a Canadian thing but over there we tend not to carry coffins anymore, which eliminates the need for strength and similarly-sized people. You actually roll it in on a cloth-covered roller thingy. Certainly not as dramatic, but it makes it much easier for differently sized people to be involved. At my grandmother's funeral the female grandchildren escorted it in and the male grandchildren escorted it out. I loved that set up, it felt very special.

Bue Sat 28-Sep-13 19:28:57

Also I'm very sorry for all the losses expressed on this thread.

EduCated Sat 28-Sep-13 19:35:37

Wasn't it traditional in the (distant) past for women to not attend funerals at all? I may have imagined that.

WhentheRed Sat 28-Sep-13 20:03:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sat 28-Sep-13 20:15:42

My experience is similar to Bue's. I am in the US and I can't remember the last time I saw a coffin carried into a funeral. It is always on a rolling bier that is escorted by pall bearers, many of whom are now women.

My condolences, Kim, and to everyone else who has lost someone.

Sirzy Sat 28-Sep-13 20:19:08

I carried my Grandmothers coffin and was going to my Grandfather coffin but I had flu so was only just able to be at the service let alone anything else.

I couldn't carry my Nans coffin as her 6ft tall son was one of the pall bearers so me being just over 5 ft would have made it very difficult.

SockQueen Wed 02-Oct-13 00:09:47

I carried my Grandma's, together with my Grandpa, Dad and his two brothers, and my eldest male cousin. I am the eldest grandchild by several years, and I actually asked to do it; they were going to have one of the other younger male cousins but I argued that he was a)only 13 and b)considerably shorter than me, so I was allowed. We didn't carry it on our shoulders, just by our sides using the handles, and it worked well. I think even if we had gone for shoulders it wouldn't have been too bad as I'm 5'9 and could add a couple more inches with some sturdy heels. I was really glad I did it, felt very right at the time.

When Grandpa died 5 years later, the male cousins were all grown-up enough that I couldn't use that argument again so they did it. I hope I don't have to worry about this for my parents or anyone else for some years yet but it's certainly something I'd do again.

DrCoconut Sun 06-Oct-13 19:43:14

EduCated, my grandma didn't attend my grandad's funeral in 1995. She was from a very traditional and old fashioned way of thinking that lasted until her generation basically. She fretted about what to wear after too, was a particular thing ok for a widow of 8 months or whatever, it mattered in her day when mourning attire was strictly observed. She was also shocked that the couple next door weren't married when they first moved in.

PenguinsDontEatPancakes Sun 06-Oct-13 21:23:48

Kim - You do 'know' me, but I namechanged because I got accidentally outed (maybe I should PM you my old name).

I am so sorry to hear about your Grandma. I hope that things with your family went ok and that you are ok with your father's comments.

Going on to your actual question, I think it is traditional for men to carry the coffin in the same way many things were traditionally the realm of men in the past. Women were probably expected to be too small, too emotional and unsuitably dressed.

Why hasn't it changed - I would guess a combination of the fact that there are physical issues in total equality and, at a more feminist level, because the rituals and traditions around death are comforting and familiar. And the last thing one wants to do at a funeral is make things worse by making a political point. So no one questions the tradition and it continues.

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