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Purified by FireA History of Cremation in America$
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Stephen Prothero

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780520208162

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520208162.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 24 June 2022

The Memorial Idea

The Memorial Idea

(p.127) 5 The Memorial Idea
Purified by Fire

Stephen Prothero

University of California Press

Many factors inhibited cremation's growth. Cultural practices are extraordinarily resistant to change. The most stubborn are religious rites, and of all these rites, the rites of death are the most entrenched. Successful innovations in American cemeteries inhibited cremation's growth. The vulgar utilitarianism of Sir Henry Thompson and others no doubt hurt the movement most in its infancy, but the effects lingered long into the twentieth century. Condescension tipped toward contempt when it came to attitudes toward African Americans. Cremation did survive largely because of a strategy of accommodation. The memorial idea was actually a cluster of ideas and ideals, or to be more precise, a rhetoric that supported a variety of practices. The story of cremation in America from 1896 to 1963 is a story of moderate success through accommodation. However, that accommodation did not go unchallenged.

Keywords:   memorial idea, cremation, death, utilitarianism, Sir Henry Thompson, America

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