What’s in a Name?

advertising plane, plane flying over seashoreAs I walked down the expansive beach to join my family sitting by the sea, a noisy small plane flew over us, swinging a banner that proclaimed loudly and happily: Congrats Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith.

I seethed and simmered and sank into a bit of a funk.

However, as I approached the females in the family – my daughter, niece, sister-in-law, and 20-something-babysitter – they all rejoiced out loud, exclaiming, “Did you see the banner? Isn’t that sweet?”

My thunderous expression shocked them.

Usually, I hold my tongue on these occasions.

But the soothing sounds of the ocean waves, the warmth of the hot sun on my back, and the week of solitary early morning walks loosened my reserves, and I shot out clearly, “Who the heck is Mrs. Michael Smith? Is she a person? What’s her real name? What happened with the strides we made in the ‘70s? WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO WOMEN IN THE PAST THREE DECADES????”

Four pairs of blue/green/brown eyes stared back at me as if I’d totally lost my mind.

Perhaps I had.

But their lack of understanding infuriated and frustrated me. I tried to explain:1950s women, feminism

“Back when I was a kid, women had few options besides staying at home with the kids, cooking dinner for the husband, and cleaning the house. Women were teachers, which was great, but few were professors. Women were nurses, fabulous, but few could be doctors.”

I paused. The expression on the female faces in front of me were straining to understand; clearly, they wondered what the heck anything I was saying had to do with Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith.

“A woman didn’t have her own identity,” I nearly screamed. “She wasn’t Joyce Smith. She was Mrs. Michael Smith.”

Again, no comprehension in those blue/green/brown eyes. In fact, one of my female relatives said, “just because you didn’t change your name doesn’t mean women who choose to take their husband’s last name are chattels…” or something like that.

I sputtered and stuttered to explain myself better: “I don’t care about Joyce Brown becoming Mrs. Joyce Smith and taking Michael’s last name. I care that she lost ‘Joyce.’ That she’s okay with being called ‘Mrs. Michael Smith.’”

feminism, feministShoulders shrugged, eyes rolled, someone whispered to another “Pam’s still a feminist.”

I sighed. I know females have made inroads in the past three decades. My daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and nieces are all proof of that.

Does a name change really not matter?what's in a name, feminism, name changing

143 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I so agree with you. I took my husband’s last name (now I only have to spell my first name for everyone) 🙂 but I will not give up my first name.

    The identity also applied to credit. Married women did not have separate credit identities/history. This made it very difficult for women who were divorced or separated.

    Under English common law that was brought over and became part of our legal system, married women were femes covert–their identities “covered” by their husbands. Over the centuries, this idea has been challenged and changed through legislation. Marital rape was excluded from rape prosecutions until the it began to be challenged in the 1970s. I believe some states did not include marital rape as a crime until the 1990s!

    Of course you’re still a feminist. I am, too. Why wouldn’t we be? 🙂

    • I really appreciate the little history lesson here too, Merril. Brought me back to a time when I was first married (to my first husband) and we tried to get a car loan. The bank would not include my name (and my work salary! [After all, they said, I might get pregnant and then I’d stop working and have no job]). I had not changed my name, and they said that only ‘the proper husband and wife’s name can be used, or better, just the husband’s name.” Perhaps this is why the younger women are blasé about name changes, and being “Mrs. Michael Smith” – they never had to fight to be recognized as a viable, important part of a couple….?

  2. I with you sister! I was raised to make my own way in the world and not to depend on a man. Don’t get me wrong, I love my guy, but I could survive without him…not that I’d want too. 🙂 Happy Weekend, Pam! xo

  3. Very well timed post for Women’s Equality Day, Pam 🙂

    I might be unpopular in my response – especially since I’m on the other side of the gender fence – but, it’s good to have healthy discussions, right? 🙂

    Do I think that women taking a man’s name after marriage is wrong? No. Do I think it is right? Again, no. I think it is an individual choice for the person and couple involved. There are so many cultures and opinions in this world on so many different topics. And, if I had to make one overarching statement about how those opinions should be handled, it would be that everyone should be granted a choice to make the decisions that resonate and are meaningful to them (legality and safety concerns accounted for, of course!)

    I’ve seen women take a man’s last name and have one of the unhealthiest marriages imaginable. And, I’ve seen women keep their own name and nurture marriages that endure longer than a lifetime. And that, to me, is the important part. Whether you take a new name or keep your existing one, it’s what you do with the opportunity to partner with another individual, it’s how you interact and what you create together that is going to leave a lasting impact on your family – both in the present and for many generations to come.

    So, does a name change really matter? Yes, and no. And, in my humble opinion, both answers are right.

    • I really appreciate your comments, Dave! Funny thing is that when I posted this, I had no idea it was Women’s Equality Day. Kismet.
      I agree with your assessment that whether or not a woman changes her name to be the same as the husband’s, or not, is not the reason a marriage does or does not make it. However, if a woman identifies herself as “Mrs. Michael Smith” instead of as Joyce Smith, I think that says a lot about the relationship. Also, I have not found a man who honestly says that he’d be willing to change his last name to his wife’s…. Just sayin’. 🙂

  4. My daughter and I had this discussion before she married. She didn’t want to give up her last name (but she did). We talked about hyphenating. But she is not a Mrs. Nathan, she is still Cameron. And we have a new family name that we use when we are talking about the two families (Granger and Aukerman): we are the Aukerangers.

    • I think the combined name of the families is spectacular. The Aukerangers, indeed! Yes, I think it’s great that our daughters at least have the choice now of whether or not to change their name with no stigma attached either way (I was a ‘bad girl’ for not changing my name back in the day.)

  5. I can remember when the woman golf champions at my parents golf club were announced (1970s): Mrs. Robert Johnson, Mrs. Henry Jones, etc….. Their husbands got the credit for their achievements! And yes, I ranted about that for years!! What the hell! So, I am with you sister!

    One of the reasons I chose my hyphenated name was because I would have my own entry in the phone book which seems like a small victory but it’s big in terms of maintaining my own identity. Why does it have to be so hard for woman to stand firm? And what are today’s woman so complacent about it?

  6. I’m with you. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t take a husband’s last name. I am very proud of my family name but at this point it’s a hassle to revert back. I comment the intent of the action. It is sweet even if the dolt didn’t get it right.

    • True – the romanticism of the plane bulletin was appreciated by many females (the males? not so much as far as I could tell). 🙂 But really, the ‘dolt’ better start using his wife’s first name after the honeymoon. :-0

  7. I always wonder why people say “feminist” like it’s not a good thing. Yes, I took my husband’s last name, but I changed my middle name to my maiden name. Now I have both, and happily. A nicer banner might have read “Michael and Ann Smith.”

  8. Totally get what you’re saying, but I think it does really depend on the person and their choice. And when you’re confident in who you are, a name doesn’t really matter, in my opinion. The fact that we can make that choice either way, and not have it looked at as “weird” or something if we choose to keep our own name, is what’s important. How archaic is that when you think about it?! But I wouldn’t not take on my husband’s name to prove a point either, because I do what I want without worrying about what someone else thinks! So there you have it! lol

  9. Yes, it matters! I would shoot darts if someone called me Mrs. Randy. Really??? I didn’t take my husband’s first or last name. Occasionally he is called Mr. Randy Peach. Ha ha. The shoe on the other foot. Hopefully, the Smiths are 95 years old when that was more acceptable.

    • Tee hee. Wouldn’t I be embarrassed if the banner had been for the 60+ anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Smith? But you know what? Naw. No matter how old/young we are, we should have the right to be called by our own name in a relationship. Yes, I offered to have my name hyphenated with my last name and my husband’s last name, if he then changed his name to do the same hyphenation. Guess what his answer was?????

  10. Had I been on the beach and wanted to bellyache about something, I’d wonder why someone would spend money for the banner in the first place. And secondly, why did they think this was so interesting that they would cloud everyone else’s summer beach sky with their expensive Hallmark card? Just let us enjoy the summer day, please. I would have gladly taken that grouchy role.

    Pamela, I’d let you take charge of discussion about surname conventions. It’s funny how we’re supposed to remember our mother’s maiden names for pedestrian security clearances. Even Mrs. Michael Smith’s kids have an answer to that question.

    • Bruce. You? Grouchy? Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard when I read the first paragraph of your comment here. You’re absolutely right – we’re all enjoying the sound of the waves on the beach, the caw of the sea gulls, and then our bliss is interrupted by the tut tut tutting of the plane and banner marking up the previously clear and happy sky.

  11. I haven´t heard anyone called Mrs Michael Smith for a very long time. I didn’t think that even happened anymore. I remember my mom getting mail addressed to Mrs. Herb Frisch and I thought that was weird. I am happy with my hubby´s last name (but that wasn´t the point was it?) because it is easy to spell and pronounce. Darlene Foster sounds nice for a writer´s name! But I simply wouldn´t even respond if someone called me Mrs. Paul Foster. My children and grandchildren´s friends all call me Darlene as that is my name! Mrs. Foster is my mother-in-law.

  12. Maybe “Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith” were celebrating their 75th Wedding Anniversary and “Priscilla” took his name when they wed because no other option was open to her back in the dark ages . . . 😀

    My SIL insists on addressing cards to us as “Mr. and Mrs. BFF” and on MY birthday she addresses the card to Mrs. BFF. I’ve pointed out that I am NOT Mrs. BFF because (1) I kept my maiden name, and (2) my first name is not the same as BFF’s.

    She doesn’t listen. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

    That said, I never let her her stupidity ruin my day. 😀

    • I’m not sure why I’m laughing as I read your comment about your SIL and how she addresses you in the mail, even if it’s just to YOU on YOUR birthday. Some people just want to stay in ruts long past need of smoothing out… xo

  13. Actually, I remember my mother once telling me that back in the 1960s, if she queried something with the bank, about their joint account, my father would be the one who received a follow-up letter saying,”with reference to your wife’s query of August 16th…” It used to infuriate her.

  14. I certainly remember when women had few rights and I felt like a second class citizen even in my own home where I had four brothers and a father. I took my husband’s name and was happy to do so. I was tired of being someone’s sister or someone’s daughter. But then I was often someone’s wife. In the seventies I rebelled like many women, never calling myself a feminist, but I certainly was one and I am still. I took a job in a man’s world and was treated rudely by many of the men on whom I called. I was 55 years old before I became known for myself and people know my name now, not sister to my brothers. I use my maiden name as my middle name. Finally I am me. I was taught that it was correct etiquette to address a married woman as Mrs. John Smith, and if her husband dies, she is addressed as Mrs. Mary Smith, but if she is single, she is Miss Mary Smith. That was proper etiquette and I still address envelopes to some women that way, but I want to be addressed as simply Glenda Beall. My sister kept her name when she married the second time, but it was very confusing when we wrote her obituary. To use her former name and say she was married to John Smith, was confusing for some people. I am sorry that younger women today have no idea what it took to gain the independence and respect for women that we have and it is slowly being eroded with no one taking up the cause. If we feminists don’t speak up, it will all slip away.

    • Isn’t it interesting how we were quiet about being a ‘feminist.’ Somehow in the ’60s and ’70s the media came up with the expression ‘bra-burning feminist’ which made no sense then (yet put the fear-of-God in many) and which younger women have never heard of. But still, there’s a stigma of saying out loud, “I’m a feminist.” Sigh.

  15. Great post — you really struck a nerve with older(?) fellow bloggers. That younger generation, caught up in romance instead of principle, all emotion and no thinking — while calmly observing your feminist outburst. So very ironically funny!

  16. I haven’t seen anything like that in donkeys’ years Pam. Granted there are bigger battles to be fought but it’s symptomatic of our patriarchal society and it needs to change.

    • Thanks for bringing that up, Roy. Yes, many will say, “what’s in a name? No biggie.” But that kind of naming (“Mrs. John Smith”) is exactly the example of a patriarchal society that should be long gone.

  17. here here to your post and all the wonderful comments to it!!!! think hard about this when it’s time
    to vote in November!!!!!! i’m just sayin’….

  18. I’m with you on this one Pam and story goes I am a man, though I wouldn’t put it to the vote with the three generations of women who share my genes, when I give in it’s for a quiet (well at least quieter) life, not because I’m weak! And back to the point, my wife took my surname, we gave to our children too, but she will be always be Jill, unique, not ever Mrs me!

  19. I have always detested that Mr and Mrs Joseph Smith business. As a rebel from birth I have always refused to address letters that way. I did however take my husband’s last name without a second thought 30 plus years ago. I didn’t even consider not taking it. I’m certain today I would think twice. 🙂

    • I know, Sue, many women now have to think hard in making that decision: to change their name, or not change. It was strange that for me, being raised in a conservative family, I didn’t have to think twice; the idea of changing my name made absolutely no sense to me. I still don’t get it, yet my daughter and daughter-in-law chose to change their names. Go figure…???

  20. In high school (!) I learned that feminism is simply the belief in equal rights between men and women… yet there is still a bra-burning stigma attached with the term.

    To each his or her own, as that is the point. Personally, the thought of my name being quietly absorbed into a partner’s = panic city right off the bat. The original design of that, uh, “tradition”, I believe, is borne out of oppression. So it does make me cringe to see it clinging to life now, in 2016. At least the beach is a good place to yell:)

  21. I once introduced myself to a gal by saying,”Hi, I’m Robin. Richard Coyle’s wife.” She blasted me! “What!? Don’t you have your own identity?” I said, “I was merely giving you a point of reference as to why I am at this business function. Yes, I do have my own identity,” and walked away. How rude!

    But I hear you!

    • Smile. I would NEVER approach a woman or berate her for the way she introduced herself. I promise! But my guess is that she was a woman 50 or older who had crossed barriers to gain her own identity.

      Thanks for ‘hearing me’ and commenting. Of course, the good news is that we have a choice now on how we name ourselves, and before, we didn’t.

  22. I was happy to exchange “Beaman” for “Longenecker” when I married. However, I have clung tenaciously to “Marian.” Many people, even friends, misspell or mispronounce my first name so often I’ve even written a blog post about it – ha!

    Now I’ve slipped the maiden name back into place as it’s become a way to identify myself as a former Lancaster County Mennonite – my brand some may say.

    Your topic has sparked a lot of feisty conversation here – love all of it!

    • Thanks for adding to the feisty conversation, Marian. I agree, the more we talk about it, the more we understand our reasons for fighting for an identity, whether through marriage or through our careers and authorship. Having a ‘brand’ is an important foundation for all.

  23. I so agree with you Pamela. For so long we were somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister and then somebody’s wife. I hate it when I’m introduced as ‘John’s wife’ NO – I’m Dianne! xxxx

    • You revived a memory, Dianne. When I decided to not change my name when I married, some of my colleagues and friends, upset at the idea, stated, “Well, what’s the difference? You’re using your dad’s last name now. Why not at least use your husband’s?” I was taken aback. True, I was somebody’s daughter, with his last name. B U T, that last name had been my identity since birth, so I owned it. xo

  24. Thank you for sharing this. As I like to say when anyone asks me why my good man and I have different surnames: “My husband didn’t care to take my name.”

    Did our generation of women do too good a job of making our daughters feel empowered as women? Or not good enough? Whatever the answer, I think we cannot take it for granted that we changed things forever. There’s so much our daughters and granddaughters didn’t experience – thank God – but that also means they may not realize why values such as keeping our names are important to us and other women.
    In organizations, they call it a loss of ‘organizational memory’. Perhaps, in trying to ‘mainstream’ our daughters’ experiences, we helped bring about the loss of gender experience memory.

    • Wow, you hit a chord, Cynthia. I think you’re right – a loss of gender experience memory has brought about my daughter and nieces totally not understanding why keeping my last name was important to me – and important to so many other women. I think further education is needed.

  25. Oh, don’t get me ranting about this subject!!! I so agree with you and it really makes my blood boil – it’s so antiquated and from another time BUT I receive letters in this format. Grrr…and one culprit is a close friend my own age!, what??!! I’ve told her how I feel and asked her why oh why she doesn’t just put Mr & Mrs plus surname or both our names – she had no answer but still continues. Then the arguments I’ve had with the utility companies!! Phone calls and letters to sort out, however a couple still failed to get it right. I just gave up as I had better things to spend my time on. Okay…rant over…great post for highlighting an issue which is uncomprehensibly still in existence in the 21st century.

    • I love and appreciate your rant, Annika. I rarely rant in my blog posts, but this one rattled me, because I couldn’t believe the lack of reaction from the women in my family to that banner. I thought we’d come so far from my mom’s time when women were discounted in so many ways. Well, at least many of us are still out there…ranting! I’m grateful for all the readers here who have ranted on and continued the discourse…

  26. I believe most of my friends have their Maiden name as their middle name. Since it is really unusual name, I take pride in people who ask me what Oldrieve stands for?
    My daughters both aren’t married; but my son is! 🙂 I have not met a more well rounded son, parent and husband than my own. We must be allowed to do what we want most, either as a woman or as a man! Names do make a difference!

    • Oldrieve is a really neat name – glad you still have it, now as a middle name. What DOES it come from?
      Congrats on raising a son who is a feminist. Mine is also, but of course, he’d deny the word ‘feminist,’ which unfortunately still has a stigma to it. As you say, names DO make a difference.

      • Thanks for asking, Pam! 🙂 Oldrieve is English, the “Driever” on a farm was a manager who ran it. So, we are “old” as well, I guess. There supposedly is an Oldrieve castle, but my brother and sister in law were there twice, neither time discovered it’s location. Silly family rumor!
        We’ve been here in America on my Dad’s side since the Revolution, but Mom’s side is 1/2 German and 1/2 Swedish immigrants. Her Mom and Dad met in NYC on a street corner. ❤
        I remember a movie about, "The Reivers." It was a magnificent road trip with Steve McQueen, across country roads. It was based on a William Faulkner novel. My mind wandered and not even spelled the same!

  27. I know a friend in Germany whose husband changed HIS name to her last name. I thought that was sort of neat. But I think it’s an individual choice. However, I’m never changing my last name again. I’ve done it three times and it’s a pain in the neck.

  28. That always drives me crazy when a woman is introduced that way. I also attended a baby shower for the first time last year (I live in the US now but am originally from France where they don’t have baby showers) and was surprised that the men are not part of the baby party. The men went to drink at the local pub!

    • I know, it is rather amazing, isn’t it, that only the women in this country have to sit through the ohhing and ahhing of a baby shower. 🙂 Actually, many of my daughter’s friends now have ‘dual baby showers’ where both mom and dad have to attend. It’s only fair!!

  29. People seem to forget that feminism means believing in equality for women. I don’t understand why it’s used as an insult. It should be said with a point of pride.

    I did not take my husband’s name (I’ve been married 33 years). I am not a Mrs anyone. As a matter of fact, my husband was much more often referred to as Mr Sisco. He always smiled and graciously responded.

    I had a great career – for a long time the only female in the classroom, in management, and later in the Boardroom. I was part of that growing wave of professional women and got to watch as more and more women filled the ranks with me.

    I’ve always maintained my own credit cards and my own banking.

    Am I feminist? You’re damn right I am … and so is my husband.

    • Your comment here lifted my heart…and my head. Y E S. Women should aspire to marry men who are feminists – that’s the same as being a humanist in many ways, as well as proclaiming the equality of the sexes. Jeez, it seems so simple, and logical, doesn’t it? I applaud your success in a “man’s world,” Joanne. I really thought by now women wouldn’t have to struggle with the issue, but obviously, they do.

  30. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, but I was an energetic volunteer, so much so that my hubby, who had a high position in his company, was known as Michelle’s husband – not George or Mr. James. Being a feminist means you have the right to choose your path and your name. I wore more hats than I can count and my husband accepted all of them. What still rankles me, is that when we got married, all accounts had to be in his name, even though I had held many of them for years before. That was in the sixties. Thank goodness things have marched forward.
    I did not have daughters, but I raised my son to respect the choices of their strong wives.

  31. Another great post Pam and it was interesting to read all the different comments. I took my husband’s last name because I liked it much better than my maiden name that would have been changed for sure if I had to come through Ellis Island. But I kept my first name and not change it to Linda which would have been so much easier. I remember my mother telling me that she would have kept her maiden name if had been possible when she got married. I had a choice , she didn’t, we can’t forget that.

    • I took my husband’s last name, too, because no one could pronounce my Ukrainian maiden name. My daughter kept her maiden name because she married a man with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. 🙂

    • Exaclty, Gerlinde. We women have the CHOICE now, and we need to make sure that continues! By the way, Gerlinde is such a beautiful name – so glad you didn’t “americanize’ it. ❤

  32. They don’t know because they haven’t experienced what it means. They think it’s cute. They don’t understand what lies beneath, the way we do. Thanks for speaking up!

  33. I’m with you, Pam.

    It made me sad when I saw my 4th-great-grandmother identified as “Relict of Robinson Hill” on her gravestone. She died in 1848. I know the meanings of words evolve over time but it really irked me – seems like an insulting, dismissive way to refer to a widow.

    We’ve come a long way but we still need to be careful to acknowledge the subtle power our choice of words and names has over us.

    • OMG – “Relict of Robinson Hill” !!! That is atrocious. These are the things we need to teach this next generation of women, who obviously weren’t taught in History (nor, I must admit, by their mothers) the struggles we fought to be freely ourselves.

  34. This is an interesting story since our daughter got married 2 weeks ago. She is vacillating back and forth about changing her name. She immediately changed it on Facebook but has done nothing legally to make it happen. Her argument? “I like my last name!” So she might hyphenate it or something. It really isn’t that she doesn’t want to take husband’s name, it’s that she does not want to be known at “Mrs (husband’s last name)” She changed it on Facebook out of respect to her in-laws because they are in their 70s and do not understand the whole concept of “keeping your name” thing and are not ones to embrace anything new or a change in thinking. She also doesn’t want to go through all of the hassles of changing her name legally right now.
    I have never called myself “Mrs (fill in husband’s name}” but I did go to a dinner party one night many years ago at friend’s home and told someone I was “husband’s wife” when I introduced myself. I was immediately chastised by the host! LOL! She said NEVER SAY THAT AGAIN! You are (my full name) and you are married to “that guy” pointing to said husband… ha ha! My husband is a physician and I have never been one to identify who I was by who I was married to. I’m SO NOT “Mrs Dr so-in-so” and I didn’t mean anything that night at the dinner party. But it has always stuck with me. I’m not your typical “Dr’s wife” either. I’m me! and proud of it.
    I may not have reacted quite as passionately as you did, but I certainly understand your opinion and I would have asked the same question… “Wonder what her first name is?” 🙂 ❤

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Courtney. I think you display what so many other women do – a questioning stance on what DO we call ourselves? is the name that important? We want to not hurt feelings (like the in-laws), yet do we need to feel selfish to claim our own name and stick with it, whichever it is? I guess nothing is simple (except knowing thyself…) 🙂

      • There are times that it is optimal to takes the spouses name like when you DON’T like your own! I rather like my married name and I was happy to change it, and after 30 years, I will always keep it unless I get married again (which I do not think will EVER happen) If I were to find myself single for some reason, I would not go back to my maiden name for anything! I have been this name for more years than I haven’t… 😀

  35. I kept my last name when I got married. And that’s saying something because my last name is Perciaccanto and my married name would have been Bennett. Do you know who often I have to pronounce and spell my name for people? A -lot! But I love it and it was worth it to me. Couldn’t fight the feeling I was losing a piece of my identity that I loved so much. So I made that big decision to keep it. have yet to regret it.

    • Thanks for sharing your last name decision here. I actually have the same difficulty with my last (and original name), but not quite as difficult as yours! Everyone wants to add an R in my name (Wright) or spell it a color (White). The other day I was talking to my brother and he wanted me to fill out a legal form for him over the phone, and I started with my name, spelling it out for him (W I G H T). He laughed. We’re both so used to having to spell it out every time, we even do it with each other. 🙂

  36. My mother is 80 and she doesn’t like being referred to as Mrs. It’s a choice. I don’t get referred to as Mrs. often but there was a time that I was happy about it as a matter of pride. It’s definitely old fashioned. I worked for a real asshole once who insisted on calling a bank employee Miss even though she preferred Ms. I couldn’t believe it! He would address letters to her as Miss and kept calling her Miss to her face even after she corrected him. I hate when people insist on calling me “Pat” even after I correct them. It’s personal for me.

    • Your comment here highlights the fact that names DO matter. Miss (gosh that seems ancient, doesn’t it?) Mrs. (in my mind, that’s ancient too…) and Ms. (which never got picked up by lots of ‘older’ people who didn’t get the point). I’m a rebel, never liked any of the appendages to our name (Mr., Mrs. Miss, Ms.); even as a young teen, I never quite got the point of it. However, when I was a child, our mom’s friends were Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Smith; once my generation became parents, our kids called our friends “Patricia” and “Susan.” Oh well, I’m blabbing. I understand many in my mom’s generation having a difficult time with change, somehow the message of equality never really got through to many. But now? There’s no excuse for it. :-0 Thanks so much for sharing here, Patricia!

  37. While everyone has to choose her own path, some of the recent “retro views”/sliding backwards drives me darn insane. Having fought through offices and male dominated career paths, I just shake my head at some of the young ones who have no idea how hard the fight to get to here.
    Not a feminist – just an individual – that’s what everyone should strive to be?

    • Yes, as stated earlier in comments, can’t we all just be humanists? But like you, I remember too clearly the battles I fought in the work office (pinches on my rear, comments about my looks, ‘the guys’ talking business at the golf club and not including the female staff, lesser pay for more work and a humdrum title, etc. etc.). Don’t get me started! But romance is always in our souls, I think young women think its true love to give up their name (identity?) for their love’s.

      • Sounds familiar. (If a girl grew up with brothers and in a family where mom also worked, I think she goes into the world better armed for reality.)
        It seems many go with tradition. Probably depends on family upbringing and the region they live in and the majority opinion there.
        All you can do is cross fingers that it works out for them. Rose colored glasses fogs reality sometimes.
        Names are really unimportant as long as they lose who they are. Some keep their original name for business. Helps to find one who is really an equal in most aspects and who is happy with being equal partners.
        I can be comfortable with that. In any case what works for one, may not work for others.

  38. I hear you Pam. Recently my niece got married and she asked my opinion about hyphenating her last name and her married name. I told her if I were to marry again, I’d definitely hyphenate. I wanted to when I married, but my husband (being 20 years my senior) was offended, and long before I became empowered I gave up my last name. 🙂

    • What an honor, to have your niece ask your advice. Such a difficult question to answer! I had considered hyphenation also, but then when we wondered what our future kids’ last names would be (hyphenation is a pain) and then when they married, how THEY’D figure it out (part hyphenation of their name and their spouse’s?) that I decided to stick with us both keeping our own names. Besides, no way my husband was going to hyphenate HIS name, that would just be me. ;-0

  39. I have so much to say on this topic! First, thanks for speaking up and exposing the epidemic of complacency that allows misogyny to thrive in 2016. You don’t need to look too far or scratch a surface too deeply to expose deep-rooted sexism in our social institutions, cultural practices, and language.

    If changing names or referring to a married person by the spouse’s name only is “no big deal,” then why not change it and have the man take on the woman’s name and call him Mr. Jane Smith? If that doesn’t sound right, then why should Mrs. Robert Smith sound any better?

    Younger generations think that sexism is over. Look! A woman is running for president! But also look closely to how that woman is described or the kinds of criticisms leveled at her that would never be leveled at a male candidate (her voice is screechy, she wears pantsuits, concerns about her weight or general appearance). Love her. Hate her. Doesn’t matter. She is a woman and the standard is not the same. Notice how the public uses her first name while her male opponent is referred to using his last name. It’s a sign of respect to use last names when talking about someone you don’t personally know.

  40. What Lorna said. Above. I cannot say it better. Hear, hear.

    However, I have another issue with that plane in addition to, the obvious one you are highlighting…..

    That is, environmental issues! Unnecessary pollution.

    • Another writer had a similar comment, Peta. Polluting with noise and gas and taking away the beauty of the sky. Ahhh, when will we ever learn. When will we eveeeerrrrr learn? (as Peter, Paul and Mary ask).

  41. I agree! As you know my daughter just changed her name. Funny they had the conversation because her new sis in law has the same first name. She did end up changing it. I am still getting used to seeing it when she posts something. But I actually am happy she did. Her husband loves her. But you are right. Lol. Why don’t they change THEIR names?
    However I think it is all in the approach. Back in the late seventies when I was 1st married & we didn’t have a lot of money. I bought a wedding gift for my new husband’s friends. Engraved champagne flutes. In “her” thank you note (all these years later I still remember word for word) it said: Thank you but you should know that I didn’t change “my” name.
    WHO says that in a thank you note? I obviously didn’t know her well enough to know that. While I respect her choice not to change her name. Her rude note kind of always made me have a bad taste in my mouth ever since then when I hear of someone not changing their name. Thank God we don’t show up at the door welcoming our husbands home dressed in Seran wrap any longer either! Lol.
    LOVE your writing!!!! So grateful for your sweet comment on my last post. Since it brought me here to read yours!

    • Well, that new bride was a bit self-righteous, wasn’t she? I’m going to be kind and suggest she was a bit edgy about the “name thing” because she’d been given flack about it.
      I’ve never made a big deal about my last name, but I have to laugh when my guy’s feathers get all ruffled if he gets a piece of (junk) mail that says “Mr. Wight.” And I sure understand how discomfiting that is!
      I think it’s great that most women have a choice now of whether to keep their given name or change to their husband’s when they get married. I don’t agree that’s it’s okay to use a husband’s full name, with a “Mrs” in front of it, to identify the wife. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. :-0
      Love that we’re reconnecting here – your blog is just wonderful. xo

  42. A lot actually. After my second divorce I kept my married last name for awhile until some property got sold. Then I took action to change my last name. Interesting part of that decision was that I did not want to go back to my family last name. Not that I didn’t love them, but because I was different. I called one of my cousins on my Dad’s side and asked what he thought about me changing my last name to something different, a name of my choosing. He said it didn’t matter, and “so what, if you got married again and wanted to take that man’s last name you will still be Ann to us.” So one morning as I sat daydreaming I came up with my new last name, which turned out to have the first 3 letters same as my original family name! Funny, but some time after I had legal changed my name one of my aunts on my Mother’s side was upset that I did not go back to my Dad’s last name!!!

    While going through the process of legally changing my last name and having to get it changed on everything in my life, I thought it ridiculous that it is always the woman who has to make that big change in her life, never the man!!!

  43. Wow, you got quite a response on this post, my dear!

    I cringe if I’m called Mrs. Johnston (which is my husband’s name). I tell people to call me Kate, even the friends of my kids. And in my after-school programs, I’m Ms. Kate to the students. I would have kept my maiden name, but I can’t stand it, and I like to tease my husband that I married him for his name. 🙂

    I have no problem with women taking the husband’s last name as part of a symbolic gesture, but it’s important to always refer to ourselves by our given first names, whenever appropriate.

    I wish I was there with you — I’d have nodded vehemently and stared at you with encouraging, supportive green eyes! 🙂

    • I wish you’d been with me on the beach, too, Kate. You and the dozens who all agreed that a woman can have any name she chooses – but don’t call her by her husband’s first and last name with a Mrs. in front!!! 🙂 Bet your students just love Ms. Kate. ❤

  44. I’m so with you on this one, and I don’t think there’s any room for complacency, no matter how far we’ve already come. Interestingly, in Rwanda, where I lived for three years, women don’t take the man’s name on marriage, although they don’t have a second/family name as such. That said, there are many issues of negative gender discrimination in that country, but when I told my friends there of our custom of taking our husband’s surname, they were very surprised. I think name’s are an important part of our identity… Thought provoking – thanks Pam 🙂 Hugs, Harula xx

    • No matter how much we try to act (or want to believe) that a “name” makes no difference, I think we all know instinctively that of course it does. So that means that those who think it makes sense for a woman to change her name to her spouse’s think it’s fine for a woman to be less than her own self. I’ve always been afraid to share my sentiments on this, but with all the comments here, I think I feel brave enough to say that now. THANK you for your words. xo

  45. Two things come to mind, Pam, as I read your post and all the marvelous heartfelt comments with it. 1( When I married did the second time, Woody and I talked about the last name issue. But because he was well known in his field, he opted to keep his last name. 🙂 and 2) even though I hung into my maiden name, it’s still a patriarchal system — it’s my father’s name. C’est la vie.

    Woody’s niece (who kept her maiden name) married a man whose parents had hyphenated theirs when they married. Baby came along. What to do! Did they want to saddle get with a three word hyphenated bane? No. They opted to give new baby my niece’s last name (same as Woody’s).

    Great topic. Good to think about all the ramifications. A rose by any other …

    • I appreciate all that you write here. The bottom line is that women in your family, including you, had a CHOICE about what you wanted your name to be….what you attach your identity to. That’s all I’m saying. We women should understand what that choice means to ourselves right at the moment, and years later when we look at ourselves in the mirror. :-0
      Thank you so much for adding to the conversation.

  46. Looks like your essay hit a nerve for many! I always wished I’d kept my maiden name. Or hyphenated it. Thank goodness we have/had a choice. What’s interesting is our level of awareness in choosing…

  47. Bravo! Ths is a conversation we must keep having. I have never regretted taking my husband’s last name when we married in 1972, but I kept my maiden name as my middle name, and when we get listed, such as for charitable donations, it’s always Dr. John and Elizabeth Cottrell. Too many women have fought too hard for the rights we women enjoy today — we musn’t take them for granted.

  48. These Days when you tell someone that you are a feminist, they frown at you in such a way that you feel lost.. A woman has lost her identity long ago and many more years will take to change it..

      • Great. I forgot to mention that viewers need a toluna account to view results. Its totally free to log in with Facebook or with an email and password. I can post to results in free form if you didn’t want to create an account. The results would mostly show if a person would change their given name, not necessarily their married name as with your post. (: As a man I would keep my name, wouldn’t change it.

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