This qualitative case study highlights the work of university students who participated in a service learning component of a sociological research methods course. Their complete documentation and analysis of all 477 gravestones in the abandoned Crooked Creek cemetery provide a cultural snapshot of life in the Western frontier in the 1800s. In contrast to existing literature on the analysis of gender indicators on gravestones, this study finds significant evidence that gender was related to social identity and that indicators of master status exist for both women and men. Furthermore, the significant role of women in the development of a pioneer village is represented in the epitaphs chosen by a woman’s surviving family members. The findings attempt to dispel assumptions that the use of terms such as “wife” and “mother” on gravestones of the period exemplified the lower status of women in relation to men. Implications for genealogical research include rethinking the way researchers consider the role of wife and mother to write more historically situated narratives of family and community histories.
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