Ladies and Their Last Names

Credits: Unsplash / @austinkirk

Is’t necessary for ladies to change their last name on marriage?

Credits: Unsplash / @beatriz_perez

First, what’s in a last name? Or, put another way, what’s in your last name? Some regions call it surname.

Your last name/surname is your legacy. Your DNA.

Traditions

In researching for this post, I found an article on the origin of last names. The article stated that

  1. People haven’t always had last names.
  2. China was one of the earliest civilizations to use surnames.
  3. For many years, surnames were passed down by mothers, and
  4. European last names had many sources which can be put into four groups: patronymic, locative, occupational or status, and nicknames.

Most cultures now take on their father’s last name. People change their first names all the time. I did legally from the long to the short form of my name. But it is rare to change one’s last name.

Marriage and Last Name

In several cultures, once married, ladies take on their husbands’ last name. But is’t necessary? When and where did it start? Does it have to continue unchanged forever? This is not about women’s lib. Let’s reason together. I think it is just a tradition that people are hard to let go of. Falls into the “it’s the way it’s done” and “we’ve always done it this way” kind. Read this article to find out more.

As I write this post, I remembered a guy who five years ago took on his new wife’s last name rather than follow tradition. Of course his family didn’t appreciate him doing that but … Initially, I also was apprehensive but later shrugged it off. Why not? Who says that it has to always be one way?

I recognize that some ladies will desire to change to their married name to showcase their new title/status. Society and sometimes the families (both the maiden and marital) insist that the lady change to her married name. If not, it is viewed as if the woman still wants to “roam the singles’ fields” and is not ready for marriage. That’s certainly not true. The change to marital name shouldn’t be mandated (or forced) for those who don’t desire it.

Divorce and Last Name

Noone married hopes for a divorce, but it happens. The after-divorce is one reason why some women retain their maiden name. Some might connote this as a self/fulfilling prophecy to which I disagree. On divorce, especially in a highly-contested one, the desire to continue to carry the name might not be present. Changing back the last name is easy, but it is a huge hassle to change one’s records (for example, career, academic, professional, credit, financial , etc.). It is not a one-time-take-care-of-it-all thing. You never know when you might have to prove your identity in the future because of the change. So what do ladies do? It’s the ladies’ choice. But if it causes disharmony, err on the side of peaceful agreement. An alternative is to use the maiden-married last name hopefully that soothes both parties,

Daughters of Daughters

Also, daughters easily lose their patronymic identity on marriage as a result of this tradition. What if those daughters bore more or only daughters? This might mean that the maiden last name might eventually be extinct. What do such daughters do? My suggestion is to include the mother’s maiden last name on their daughters (or even all children’s) birth certificates so the last name can continue and because it is an important part of their identity.

What are your thoughts on ladies maintaining their maiden last name, and continuing the legacy of the name, on marriage?

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for your contribution , Seankfletcher. You confirmed one of article’s group of last name origin.
    One of my daughters decided to take on my maiden last name as a compound name with her dad’s last name. She inspired the post. True, times are changing. Could a three-compound-last-name some day soon be the norm? Time will tell.
    Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have traditional thoughts on this in terms of myself. My surname is based on an occupation from medieval times. My wife considered it important to take on my surname. But she likes to be referred to by her first name rather than titles or other honourifics, even during official events (we are like that we I live). I don’t mind what our kids might do in future.

    Liked by 1 person

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