Women’s History Month
In March we celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States, celebrating women’s contribution to history, culture, and society since 1978. Celebrations were around before that date, mostly in California in the late 1970s.
I think back to the 70s when I was in high school and college. I had no idea back then what I wanted to do for a career other than graduate and figure out my life. I graduated in 1978 and after a year of working in the travel industry (I was a Spanish major with a minor in Portuguese) I went to work for my dad in August of 1979 as an apprentice funeral director.
I find it rather ironic that it took until 1987 to celebrate women’s history and that same year, on April 11, 1987, my dad died. I found myself, at age 30, in a place I never imagined I would be—President/CEO of Baue Funeral Homes. Three months before my dad died, he bought out his partner in the cemetery, so I was newly in charge of an 80-acre cemetery, St. Charles Memorial Gardens. To say I was a bit scared, apprehensive, and worried if I could do the job is an understatement. My dad died suddenly at a funeral director meeting of a heart attack; he was only 53.
I was licensed as a funeral director for only 8 years, and I had no management experience, I had never seen a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, a financial audit, merchandising reports, etc. Nor did I have a clue how to manage people. I was a young mother of a 4-year-old boy and my husband and I were just beginning our lives as parents. I was not thinking about the many women in history that came before me and fought the battles of inequality, of the right to vote, of prejudice, gender respect, and wage disparity. I was feeling lost and very alone in those early months. I was a daughter who was grieving the loss of her dad, whom she idolized, looked up to, and who was the reason she became a funeral director.
As the women in U.S. history taught us many lessons and left us the gifts of their resilience, bravery, toughness, and persistence, I am grateful that my dad left me the gift of connections.
In 1983, my dad, David C Baue, was part of the board of directors of the National Foundation of Funeral Service (NFFS) now the Funeral Service Foundation. Dad was instrumental in creating a program for women in funeral service in our profession. I often wondered why he helped start this new course. Perhaps it was because he had a daughter in the business or perhaps, he wanted more for me and other women in our profession than what was being provided—which by the way was nothing back then. Regardless of the reasons, I will always be grateful to Dad for the experience he provided for me and other women professionals.
I attended the women’s courses over the years and found them to be wonderful learning experiences. I met women from many states and a variety of backgrounds. From the first women President of the International Order of the Golden Rule (OGR), Sandra Strong, to a Psychologist, Dr. Priscilla Leavitt, to the first State President of the New Jersey Funeral Directors, Ann Louise Papavero Bonjovi (yes, she is Jon Bon Jovi’s cousin)!
I learned so much from these early women teachers. I treasure the relationships that grew over the years, as these three women became strong role models for me and lifelong professional friends. You see, in the days after April 11, 1987, my phone rang three times from each of these three women from my history. Each conversation was kind, comforting, and inspiring! Each had a message of support and encouragement telling me that I could succeed and that I could fill not my dad’s shoes but my own “heels”. Each of them assured me that I was strong, that I could run a funeral and cemetery company, and that I would be successful. I am so grateful for the role modeling and support these three women and others gave to me back in the 1980s. They not only supported my professional life back then when I was full of self-doubts, but they also helped me grow and find my inner strength to carry on and become a successful businesswoman for the next 32 years. I honor them this month on the 35th Anniversary of Women’s History Month.
If you have role models in funeral service that you would like to remember and honor, please share them with me and others on Your Funeral Coach’s LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! I would love to hear your stories and for you to share them to help inspire more women in our profession.
This month, I invite you to listen to my upcoming podcast Your Funeral Coach Talks will be live on International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8th, where I talk to Marguerite Ham of Igniting Success. When we recorded this podcast episode, it was International Day of the Girl Child. Marguerite, who is an incredible leadership trainer and one of Your Funeral Coach’s Collaborative Network Partners, and I talk about growing up as a girl and becoming businesswomen. I hope you will listen in!
For those of you that are in the funeral, cremation, and cemetery service profession, I want to extend a special invitation to attend NFDA’s Professional Women’s Conference this coming Spring. There are 20 full tuition and travel scholarships available to all female and nonbinary funeral service professionals and student applicants by my family’s charitable fund that is established in memory of my Dad, David C. Baue, to honor his contributions to women in our profession.
As always, blessings on your week and your month.
My best to you always,