Archive for September 15th, 2010


When walking around a cemetery, I often encounter the epitaph “she hath done what she could.” Now even without knowing any further context, the epitaph appears positive: a woman who strove within whatever particular limits her life held for her.

But, as with many epitaphs in the cemeteries I visit, the sentence is actually a biblical passage with deeper layers of meaning. The quote comes from the book of Mark, chapter 14. For those not familiar with the narrative, during the feast of Passover days before Jesus Christ was arrested, a woman came to him and poured expensive ointment over him, anointing him. The disciples criticized her for not making better use of the ointment, such as by selling it and using the money to help the poor. Chastising them, Christ admonished them not to be so hard on the woman because “she hath done what she could.”

Of course in researching the origins of the phrase for this post, I have discovered that the phrase has been used as a foundation for many sermons and discussions of the proper place of women in the church, making it even more understandable why a family might place such a testament to the devotion of a deceased pious woman on a tombstone.


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