Conclusions: The Obituary's Role

The life of Judith Robinson was tumultuous, with valleys of scorn and mountains of praise which define her journey. From her being a nepotism child of her successful father to her entrepreneurial spirit bringing her new experiences. It was truly a legacy worth remembering.

Yet, her obituaries tell a different story. A story of humility, a woman who was kind, shy, quiet. For all the allies and enemies Robinson accrued over her life, her obituaries chose not to spotlight any of that. Not her specific achievements, nor her feuds.  As we see, the obituaries chose to spotlight Robinson herself, her personhood, with only some reference to NEWS, far from her other achievements. 

It is in this story can we see the true nature of an obituary. As a cultural phenomenon, obituaries are not supposed to be emotional reminiscences. They are not to be a roadmap of achievements and accolades or a history of fights and impacts. They serve to remember the person in question and who they were. A piece of remembrance and a conveyance of death. And to do this, obituary authors choose to neutralize language, both out of respect for the person and out of respect for a society which sees a good death as the peaceful end to a journey. Though why that is is another story.

For now, we remember a journalist, as said by her obituaries, as a kind and humble woman whose hand was quick and her mind quicker. We remember her contemporaries who spoke to her and about her, and we remember the platforms she gave to showcase these admirations and critiques. We remember Judith Robinson as an influential woman of her time, with no one to match her.

Prev Next