The University of Massachusetts Amherst
Robert S. Cox Special Collections & University Archives Research Center
CredoResearch digital collections in Credo

Collecting area: Alternative medicine

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts

Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts Records

1959-2020 Bulk: 1964-2020
10 boxes 2.09 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1133

Logo of the Funeral Consumers Alliance

Funerals in the U.S. are an expensive business, and grieving families will often accept what is called “traditional” rather than try to fight for services tailored to their budgets and beliefs. The first memorial societies were founded to combat the often predatory practices of the funeral industry after embalming prices skyrocketed in the 1930s, but the movement didn’t fully catch on until 1958 when investigative journalist Jessica Mitford brought the issue to greater public attention. Her article “Saint Peter Don’t Call On Me,” television appearances, and subsequent book “The American Way of Death” broke taboos surrounding the discussion of burial and sparked the founding of watchdog and consumer advocacy organizations across the country. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Mass (FCAWM), initially known as the Springfield Memorial Society, was founded in 1959, incorporated in March 1962, and by 1963 had federated with other similar organizations to create the Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies (CAFMS). When Canadian groups separated from CAFMS, the federation name changed to Funeral and Memorial Societies of America (FAMSA), and later (2000) the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA).

The bulk of the FCAWM records contain organizational records such as correspondence, minutes and agendas for public and private meetings, and financial records. There is also a selection of informational pamphlets and leaflets generated by the FCAWM, other FCAs, and the funeral industry. Additionally, there are several pages from a set of scrapbooks maintained by former members between 1964 and 1978 which contain newspaper and magazine clippings on death, dying, and the funeral industry at large. The collection was acquired from Sandra Ward in 2021, a board member and former president of the FCAWM, and includes material collected both by herself and previous presidents.

Gift of Sandra Ward, 2021


Burial insurance--MassachusettsConsumer Protection--MassachusettsDeath care industry--MassachusettsFuneral Homes--Berkshire County (Mass.)Funeral Homes--Franklin County (Mass.)Funeral Homes--Hampden County (Mass.)Funeral Homes--Hampshire County (Mass.)Funeral consultants--MassachusettsFuneral service--MassachusettsFuneral supplies industry--MassachusettsUndertakers and undertaking--MassachusettsWake services--Massachusetts


Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western MassachusettsWard, Sandra Nichols, 1943-

Types of material

Agendas (administrative records)Articles of incorporationAudiocassettesBookletsBrochuresBylawsCorrespondenceFliersInstructional materialsLeaflets (printed works)Legal correspondenceMailing listsMembership applicationsMembership listsMinutes (administrative records)NewslettersNewspaper clippingsPrice listsSubscription lists
Restrictions: none none
Kerewsky-Halpern, Barbara

Barbara Kerewsky-Halpern Papers

ca. 1942-2000
8 boxes 12 linear feet
Call no.: MS 1067
Depiction of Kerewsky-Halpern teaching ca. 1980
Kerewsky-Halpern teaching ca. 1980

Barbara Kerewsky Halpern was an adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts. She was also a prodigious writer, researcher, and lecturer. After earning a bachelors in geography from Barnard College (1953), she accompanied her new husband, Joel M. Halpern, to Serbia, helping him with his field project which would later result in his Ph.D. thesis and book, A Serbian Village (1958). She continued to work with her husband on numerous projects. After her youngest daughter was school age, she went back to college, earning a Master of Arts degree in Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, followed by a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1979. In 1983, she published a book entitled “These Are Your Neighbors” published by the Cambridge Book Company. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in the mid-1970’s, which motivated her to investigate various medical issues within Anthropology, eventually becoming a medical anthropologist. She became a certified practitioner of the Feldenkrais method, establishing her own practice under the name, “Mind Over Movement”. She gave presentations throughout her life, lecturing on various topics. In 1992, she served as an expert witness in the trial of Sadri Krasniqi, an Albanian man falsely accused of sexually molesting his daughter. In 1995, she was interviewed on the television program 20/20 by Hugh Downs about the case.

The Barbara Halpern Papers consists of many letters received from her childhood pen pals, college friends and family members. Documents from her early schooling as well as those of college and professional work as a lecturer and Feldenkrais practitioner form the bulk of the collection. Correspondence with Ethel (nee Russell) Breen, a young British girl, began in 1942 and continued to Breen’s death in 1996. The bulk of these letters, dated from 1942 to 1952, mention World War II, and other elements of daily life at that period.


Feldenkrais methodMedical anthropologyMultiple sclerosisWorld War, 1939-1945--Children