Tribune Article Provides Food for Thought for Family Historians

I found an interesting editorial online at the Chicago Tribune website yesterday that I want to share with you. It cites the statistic that “…about 73 percent of the Tribune’s obituaries are about males.”  What creates this disproportionate representation?

The article goes on to give various possible reasons for the disparity, including the propensity to include “men of accomplishment” who are typically business executives, and also the cites the fact that women often live longer than men, and for this reason, at their death, the memory of many of their accomplishments may have faded.

Several obituary writers are quoted, and Trevor Jensen notes that obituaries should be “interesting stories that also reflect a part of society and the community.”

It struck me that we, as family historians, are in essence obituary writers too–and really good ones at that. As we pull together the pieces of our ancestors lives, we are preserving a record of their accomplishments and the impact their lives had, even generations later.

Hopefully, there is no gender disparity in our work, as the lives of our female ancestors can be just as fascinating, and sometimes more so than the males.

The obituary editor of the New York Times, Bill McDonald, is quoted as saying, “…the obit page is not a reflection of the times in which we live. It’s a mirror on the past that is slipping away.” As family historians, we are helping to ensure that, although a person’s life may slip away, their life story can live on. We should feel good about that.

You can read the entire article online on the Tribune website. 

Gender gap, even in death
By Timothy McNulty
Tribune public editor
November 13, 2006

Note: The Tribune requires a free registration to view most articles.

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