John T. McMahon Vine Hill Cemetery,
He was a failure as a husband and father
He was insane 15 years because of liquor
But died sober
May Christ have mercy on his soul
He was no pilgrim.
Silver Lake Cemetery,
Here is where friend Starkwether lies,
Nobody laughs, nobody cries
Where he goes, how he fares
Nobody knows, nobody cares.
On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
On the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia
Mary Ann Weems
To the Young of both Sexes.
This Stone is erected by public Subscription over the remains of MARY ANN WEEMS, who at an early age became acquainted with THOMAS WEEMS formerly of this Parish. This connection terminating in a compulsory Marriage, occasioned him soon to desert her and wishing to be Married to another Woman he filled up the measure of his iniquity by resolving to murder his Wife. Which he barbarously perpetrated at Wendy on their Journey to London toward which place he had induced her to go under the mask of reconciliation, May the 7th 1819. He was taken within a few hours after the crime was committed, tried and subsequently executed at Cambridge on the 7th of August in the same Year.
On the grave of Phoebe Hessel
In memory of Phoebe Hessel who was born at Stepney in the year 1713. She served for many Years as a private soldier in the 5th Regt of foot in different parts of Europe and in the Year 1745 fought under the command of the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Fontenoy where she received a bayonet wound in her arm. Her long life which commenced in the time of Queen Anne extended to the reign of George IV, by whose munificence she received comfort and support in her latter Years. She died at Brighton where she had long resided on December 12th 1821 Aged 108 years.
. . .
I used to have a book of epitaphs, and as a teenager I had a fascination with reading these remarks about lives past; in quiet graveyards among tall grasses. Above are a few I have collected from the internet, some are funny, some sad, but all informative in one way or another about the lives of women.
The first one is, I am sure, written by a woman; it is a complaint about marriage carved in stone. You can feel the years of bitterness, the sense of entrapment, how this became focused on the behaviour of the husband, and the final relinquishing of the futile hope of changing him. A feminist dream of a free life and free motherhood, was simply beyond the writers imagination.
The second is just a description of an unmourned man it could have been written by anyone. I think the third is written by a man, it is funny with a sneer; in a couple of sentences it manages to evoke a life of drudgery, and how even in death, this woman’s pain was no more than a source of amusement.
The fourth is funny; another unmourned man who nevertheless survived to a considerable age.
The fifth is about the ubiquitous murder of wives, the exceptional part of the one described here, is that the husband was punished for it! Which maybe why the details are recorded on the gravestone, the propaganda of patriarchal justice parading on a monument. There was another epitaph, not included here, that advertised doctors and the details of their methods of treating dropsy, on the memorial of their dead female patient!
The sixth is about the life of a woman soldier, one of very many unsung women who ended up in the armed forces. She triumphs over the dangers of her occupation and manages to live to 108. More Stories about women who fought at the battle of Trafalgar can be found here, note they received no medals or recognition.
This is the epitaph of Aphra Behn.
“Here lies a Proof that Wit can
Defence enough against
This one by Dorothy Parker could only have been written by a woman
“Excuse my dust.”
I Don’t want an epitaph, but if I did, I think I would go for something funny like: There is only cake! Or, I recommend chocolate. What about, This is women’s land. What would your epitaph look like?