General Question

girlofscience's avatar

How do you feel about a wife taking a husband's last name?

Asked by girlofscience (7532points) September 6th, 2008

Since I was a child, I’ve always imagined I would take my husband’s last name if/when I marry. I’m one of those gals who prefers to not be overtly “feminist.” I like the idea of showing my equality while staying relatively within social norms. My intelligence, ambition, and internal strength are sufficient enough to contribute to the advancement of women, and so I’ve never felt the need to sacrifice my femininity or defy any typically feminine roles. In line with that thinking, it’d be natural for me to take my husband’s last name.

Recently, however, it’s become hard for me to not see the practice of taking a husband’s last name as incredibly outdated. I know a lot of married women, but I hardly know any who have taken their husband’s names! (No, I don’t travel with hairy-armpit group. I travel with career women.)

If you were to ask any of these women why they didn’t take their husband’s name, most would likely respond, “I was already known in my field with my last name.” Outside of the circle of academia, though, this may be more rare.

I’d still kind of like to take my husband’s last name, but I do think it would create confusion in my career, as my first publications will be under my last name. I’m not so into hyphenation, either. I think I may end up changing my last name legally, but keeping my own last name professionally.

How do you feel about this concept in general? What do you think are the implications of a wife taking a husband’s last name? Based on those implications, do you think the practice is outdated? If children come from the marriage, what should their last name be?

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19 Answers

sarapnsc's avatar

I understand where you are coming from….I write my name Palein-Sutton. aka

Take your maiden name hypen it with your married name :)

I don’t see any implications from it. It’s a matter of choice. I have noticed many women come in, when I worked at the hospital and when we called them, they would have it hypened…we would call them Mrs. Smith-Green. My sister who is a child psychologist, kept her maiden name, because that is what she started with in her practice, she has never put on her married name. But, her checking, mortgage things like that she hyphens it.

BronxLens's avatar

A couple friends of mine were going to get married (this was about 20 yrs. ago). He asked her if she was going to take his last name. She replied “Sure, if you change yours and take mine.” They ended both getting married and keeping their single’s name.

sarapnsc's avatar

As for the children having the mother’s last name (maiden), that is a tough one. You would want to keep it for ancestry reasons. Especially, if you had nothing but girls running in your family and then all of a sudden a boy. That’s a tough call. If I was a single mother, with a boy…I’d seriously think about not changing my last name to my husbands, for the purpose of school and medical records. I would have to really give this some thought.

This is a wonderful question by the way!

jca's avatar

i think some women continue to use their maiden name for professional reasons (by the way, it’s ironic that it’s called a maiden name and very rarely is a woman a maiden when she gets married!) but as far as taking the husband’s name totally, i think it’s a personal decision that the woman has to consider. i think i would probably take my husband’s name, but that’s just me. i’m not old fashioned or anything, actually it’s a topic i haven’t given much thought to (maybe because i’m not married).

marissa's avatar

I kept my full name and just added my married name to the end, I didn’t hyphenate, my last name is still there legally and I kept my middle name (I know some women who have dropped their middle name and put their maiden name where there middle name was). However, I use my married name in day to day stuff and our children have my husband’s last name. For me having my husband’s last name is a matter of convience, there is less confusion for others, etc. Plus, I know that he liked me having his last name, but if I had wanted to keep my maiden name, he would have been okay with that too. I don’t think it should be a big issue for a couple whether the woman keeps her maiden name or not, if it is, I’d say they have some other issues they need to address before getting married. In your circumstance, if you do what I did, your work would still be found under your maiden name, so you would not lose name recognition.

scamp's avatar

No offense intended to those who do it, but hyphenated names annoy me. It can cause confusion when you have a not-so-swift person working in your records department, and they don’t know which name to file under.

When I worked at the podiatrist office, the hyphenated names were always the charts that got misfiled because the file clerk had no idea whether to file under the first half of the name or the second. Also the identifying letter sticker for the chart was often a mistake.

A friend of mine didn’t want to lose her maiden name, so she made it her middle name with no hyphen. That would be another idea for you.

The wife of one of my doctors was also a podiatrist, and she used her maiden name for work and her husbands name for everything else.

marinelife's avatar

I kept my own name. Many women around my age did. It saddens me a little that the trend has now gone back the other way.

I did it for several reasons. One was that I was established in my profession, but that was not the primary reason, because I later legally changed my first name.

I did it because I don’t believe that there is any special value attached to men’s last names or any more value than attaches to mine.

I know people who have done all sorts of variations. I know a couple who each uses their own name, but gave their child both their last names.’

I know a couple where the wife kept her name, but the children have their father’s name.

I also know people who elected to both change their surnames into a new name representing themselves and their marriage, which I actually think is the most wonderful choice.

Whatever choice you make, I think it is fantastic that you have such a range of choices.

Until men are just as willing to change their last names, I am afraid that it will be a feminist issue. I also do not think that holding our for and believing in equal rights is something that should have negative connotations.

SeekerSeekiing's avatar

Maybe your husband could take your last name..

jca's avatar

the confusion that i think might occur with hyphenated last names is when the son has a hyphenated last name, and he eventually may marry, if he marries a woman (or a man) who also has a hyphenated last name, how will that work? they will have four potential names to play with.

i also agree that it may cause confusion with records filing at doctor’s and other places.

let me add that i am not saying i’m against hyphenated names. just playing devil’s advocate.

rss's avatar

My mother did not change her name when she got married, and my name is hyphenated. Despite a couple of annoyances (doesn’t fit on documents or gets misfiled) I love it because I get to represent both of my parents, whom I love equally.

I don’t think there is any situation where I would change my name because it is so unique to me, and I want to respect the women in my family who kept their names when it was considered inappropriate to do so. No idea how this will work when naming children, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

On the other hand, I have no problem when women (or men!) DO decide to change their names – I think having the option is what matters most of all.

Bri_L's avatar

Total choice

As the man, I wanted my wife to be comfortable. I just offered my opinion once. That was that our names not be hyphenated because they sounded bad together.

She took my last name. I don’t really know why, I don’t think she felt it was an issue.

Now a days I think people are further into their careers so they have an established reputation with their names.

I would, were I in that situation, take my husbands name, and keep my last name for professional use.

scamp's avatar

I like your last name Bri. It has a sexy ring to it!!

Bri_L's avatar

hehehe thanks

SuperMouse's avatar

I took my husband’s name when we got married. I was young (21) and I did it mostly because I thought it was cool to change identities. I didn’t consider hyphenating because I didn’t want to have to turn checks over to finish signing my name (long maiden name, even longer married name). If I were to remarry I would probably take my new husband’s name (rather than going back to my maiden name). This is because my children would of course keep their father’s name, and I think it would get extremely confusing have three different surnames in one household!

Knotmyday's avatar

Do what makes you feel happy. If you want to change your name, change it. If you don’t, don’t. I f you like the idea of the hyphenated add-on, do it.

When I was a kid, I wanted to change my name to something that was, in retrospect, completely silly (although “Karkash the Mighty, Conquerer of Nations” would have looked cool on a driver’s license). Would have still been my personal choice.

flameboi's avatar

I disagree

KayMay's avatar

I was born Kay May Smith who became Kay May Jones upon marriage. I later divorced him and went back to being Kay May Smith again, because my children named Jones were now grown. So legally I changed my name twice.

There is still a paper trail of documentation that I have to have handy to show who I was at any particular time of my life. The truth is, it was really nice getting back to having my birth family name after having had it changed for 29 years.

However I have now just remarried…. this time to Mr. Gray. I now face an entire new project to change all my credit cards, bank accounts, insurances, my social security, my will, driver’s license, resumes, my property, etc. I know it will be a major project because I have had my name changed twice before!!

Do I want to be Mrs. Gray? Of course I do. Do I want to stop being who I was born? No I do not. The truth is, I am entitled to be called Mrs. Gray by virtue of marrying Mr. Gray, and I don’t have to stop legally being Smith to have that honor.

But here is something else to consider that hasn’t come up in this blog. Five years ago, I set out to have my high school’s 30th reunion. We had never had one before, and after 29 years it was next to impossible to find the majority of my female classmates. Unless I happened to find their brother who of course kept his name, Or if for some reason that particular classmate had never changed her name. As a result I wasn’t able to locate the majority of our female classmates to let them know about our reunion.

The way to eliminate this name problem for all future generations is for it to become custom for the new bride to take her husband’s name…. but not as a surname, but as her middle name.

Thus I would have been born Kay May Smith…. married and become Kay Jones Smith….. divorced and went back to being Kay May Smith….. remarried and become Kay Gray Smith. I would always and forever be Smith. But my middle name would always represent the marriage to my husband for any and all future records. You could also keep an exhusband’s last name as your middle name for the sake of your children if you desire. Kay Jones Smith, and then upon remarriage Kay Jones Gray Smith.

At least then your last name would always be yours, legally, professionally and genealogically.

Nimis's avatar

I think whoever has the better name should win!

shf84's avatar

Sacrifice your “femininity” ? One thing about what society calls “femininity” is it ‘s NOT REAL it’ a dehumanizing mind fuck to keep women down. All that sissified frilly silly stuff is not how women really are it’s a stupid babyish stereotype to make women look like helpless children so childish men won’t be afraid of them. The whole thing about women taking mens last names make me SICK every time I see an intelligent accomplished woman like Hillary Clinton with some guys last name hung on her as if he marked his property. If I get married I would NEVER want the woman I mary to do such a degrading thing! EVER

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