In her indictment of the American funeral industry, Mitford argued that death had become too commercial and that undertakers — now billing themselves as “funeral directors” — were ripping off the bereaved. The industry had, in her words, perpetrated “a huge, macabre and expensive practical joke on the American public.” She compared morticians to unscrupulous salesmen and dissected the utility of the products and services they pushed in front of those in mourning. (Does a corpse really need to rest on an extra-soft mattress inside a casket?) Through this muckraking piece of journalism, Mitford sparked numerous legislative reforms. And at the end of her life, she proved that she believed in what she had written: following her wishes, her family cremated her for $475.
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