For many, many years it has always been assumed that when a women gets married she will change both her title and surname to reflect her new status as a married woman.
13 years ago, this was something I struggled as my impending marriage drew closer. I had always been known as Laura Summers and always liked being Laura Summers. Even in 13 years times have changed and I know without a doubt if I was getting married today I wouldn’t change my name. But back then it was a bit of a bone of contention – instead I agreed to keeping Laura Summers as my professional name and for all other things change to my new married name. For both names I would change to become a Mrs.
In the past 13 years both my husband and I have changed. Recently he said to me you should change your title to Ms you know, no one has a right to know your marital status just by your name, they don’t for men. And it’s interesting I’m still listed in his phone contacts under my maiden name, in all of these years he has never changed it.
My married name has never truly felt like my name, when people say it, it feels like someone else. Which has recently got me wondering if I should change it. Why should my name change just because I am married?
Why Women are Called Miss, Mrs or Ms
A woman’s title is an interesting one steepled in the history of patriarchal rule and women’s rights. Her title quite simply denoted who owned her. The title of Miss told everyone she was unwed and therefore was the property of her father. The title of Mrs declared her a married woman and the property of her husband.
The title of Ms was brought in 1901 by a feminist woman – Sheila Michaels, although it was not popularly used for 25 years after that.
Why do Women Take their Husband’s Name when they Marry?
As well as changing her title to Mrs a woman was expected to take on the surname of her husband. This was part of them becoming one legal entity and the husband also took on ownership of all of a woman’s wealth and property at the time of marriage.
While this is not the case with money now, this is where the tradition came from. Children also took the father’s name, if a woman was unwed the children took on her name.
My Name Dilemma
Recently, I have been very seriously thinking about changing my name. I’m very happily married to my husband, this isn’t about the status of that at all, it’s about my personal identity as a woman. But at the same time I can’t quite make my mind up.
Even to this day there are connotations about a woman not changing her name. I remember at work, when I was planning my wedding and chatting about whether I was going to change my name or not, a colleague said to me – I used to think that about my ex-fiancé, but with my new one, who I know is the one I have no reservations at all. The implication being that I wasn’t really happy to get married if I didn’t want to change my name.
Stylist recently wrote an article with people sharing their views on the psychology and politics of marriages of people that don’t change their name after marriage. Which is an interesting read.
One of the dilemmas for me now is that I would have a different surname to my children. Which is the real stumbling block for me, if this wasn’t the case I think perhaps I would have changed my name already. I like having the same name as them. There are also practical implications such as travelling with children with a different name too. Every time I travel with them I will need to take additional evidence with me to prove that I am their mother. But this isn’t just a practical consideration, it feels like one of the heart too.
The compromise could be to double-barrel my name. Which is actually what I have done on my Facebook page, as some people know me by my maiden and some by my married name.
There needs to be a modern solution to this, as I know double barrelling can be clumsy. Maybe girls could take their mothers name and boys their fathers? My husband said if we were getting married now the solution would be that we would be that we chose our own surname for our family. But it is not something he wants to do now down the line.
To change my name now I would need to do so by deed poll, which would cost around £36, then I would need to change my driver’s licence and passport which would cost around £72.50. Of course there is the work of changing my name on everything and all documentation too, which is a task.
So, here I am. I’m not sure I ever really wanted to change to my married name and for a lot of my married life have used two different names for different things. As a feminist I particularly dislike the reasons why women change their name and title. If we want to achieve gender equality I think this is something we should move away from. If it wasn’t for my children I would probably have reverted back to it a while ago. But I do like having the same name as them. So what do I do, stay as I am? Change or go double-barrelled?
What did you do? Did you change your name when you got married?