Funeral Gloves

It’s time once again for Friday Fictioneers! Each week about 100 writers compose 100-word stories in response to a photo prompt. This week, the prompt comes to us courtesy of Roger Butolt.

2016 05 06

Copyright Roger Butolt

Funeral Gloves

Boston, 1770

“Rev. Eliot!” Andrew’s wife stamped a dainty foot.

“Yes, Mrs. Eliot?” The reverend looked up from his sermon preparation.

“These gloves! You must have over 2,000 of them here.”

“Memories of the fallen, Mrs. Eliot. It would seem a traitorous act to rid myself of a single one.”

“Messengers of ill fate as I see them,” his wife insisted. “You may as well keep 2,000 dark-winged ravens in your bureau.”

“Ravens would make considerably more noise, don’t you think, dear?”

“And mess,” she conceded. “Honestly, Andrew!”

When the bell rang, the couple knew the collection was about to grow.


Actually, Rev. Andrew Eliot collected over 3,000 funeral gloves during a 32-year period. You can read more about death and funerals in the Colonies here and more about Andrew Eliot here.

31 thoughts on “Funeral Gloves

  1. Sandra says:

    Such a curious tradition. Rev Eliot seems such a mild-mannered individual.

    • storydivamg says:

      Indeed. He appears to have been exactly that. I fear many of my readers this week are bringing modern sensibilities to this story. I imagine that some people, much like Mrs. Eliot in my story, may have been a bit off-put by the sheer volume of the good reverend’s collection, but as a prominent pastor in Massachusetts, those gloves were no more than an indication that he did his job in the community. In reading, I found a curious similarity between the wealthy puritan observation of death and the wealthy modern American observation of nuptials.

  2. neilmacdon says:

    Deliciously macabre

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you, Neil. I find the Puritan fascination with funerals intriguing. Did you know that they didn’t spiritualize funerals at all? The occasions were quite lavish, and even young children apparently drank copious amounts of alcohol at funerals during colonial times. Originally, I wanted to write about a Puritan funeral from a child’s perspective, but putting that together for modern readers would require far more than 100 words. Maybe I’ll do a longer story on that later.

      All my best,

  3. draliman says:

    It almost seems like a serial killer keeping mementos of his kills! Nice dialogue.

    • storydivamg says:

      In 1770 Boston there was no need for killing. If you didn’t like someone, the chances were high that they would reach a natural end within the next five to 10 years. All one had to do is be patient and work to stay alive long enough to see the enemy’s demise.

  4. gahlearner says:

    I like his attitude, feeling treacherous if he lost even one. I feel similarly about mementos from family. The interaction of the spouses is great.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thank you. Those were certainly different times, and I believe that in a day when death was so common people needed those mementoes to ground them.

  5. Dear Marie Gail,

    I’m always happy to learn a bit of history I didn’t know before. Fascinating and a little macabre. But then what’s so civilized about using cosmetics on a corpse and having a viewing. In light of that I want to be decorated with my white mime face and have my gloved hands positioned against an imaginary wall. Might as well be entertaining, right? Of course, right!

    Good story.



  6. DalBeats says:

    Traditions through time are so interesting to me. It would seem Mrs. Eliot is lucky that the dear reverend wasn’t collecting death masks. 😉

    • storydivamg says:

      So true, Andrew! Thank for weighing in. Personally, I’m sure the real-life Mrs. Eliot was most frustrated about all the space those thousands of gloves were taking up in her home. Death masks would certainly be worse.

  7. Dale says:

    My first thought was each glove represented a fallen war hero and I thought nothing of it… definitely didn’t think it was macabre but quite a sweet thing to do. Maybe not a good idea to keep them in the house, though…

    • storydivamg says:

      Did you have a chance to follow the links? Funeral gloves were often used as death announcements in the Colonies. The reason Rev. Eliot ended up with so many is that he was a prominent minister in Boston during a time when there was a very high mortality rate among indiviuals of all ages.

  8. Mike says:

    Now If I see a cupboard full of white gloves should I be worried. Interesting.

    • storydivamg says:

      Why worried?

      Truly, the Puritan funeral tradition are a bit peculiar to our way of thinking. In modern times. if you stumble upon a cupboard of dress glove, you’re more likely to be encountering a marching band or a mime troupe than invites to a funeral. 🙂


  9. subroto says:

    Interesting dive into history. Nicely done.

  10. What an interesting tradition.. Not really the same as a keepsake, more as a respect I think, but it seem a bit macabre too.

    • storydivamg says:

      Macabre to our way of thinking, yes. Back then death was consider more a part of life. I suppose that’s exactly what it is, but I am grateful to live in a time when life is valued a bit more. It’s hard to value life when only about 50 percent of people live to adulthood.

  11. I really like this, as always. Having recently been defeated by Gilead, I can’t help thinking Marilynne Robinson could learn from you.

  12. How sad. But interesting.

    • storydivamg says:

      I’m glad you find it interesting, Dawn. I’m beginning to think that there may be a novella, or perhaps even a full novel, to write here. I wanted to explore Colonial funerals from the viewpoint of an 8-year-old, but there was no way to cram the details into a 100-word story for a modern audience. Given that child-labor laws had not yet been passed and most of those funeral gloves were made in the Colonies, I’m thinking there is a lot to explore here.

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