How Will Women Ever Be Equal To Men If We Keep Taking Their Last Names?
In a world where we fight against men for jobs, equal wages, raises and promotions, it does not seem logical to me that we are complacent about taking on their last names in place of our own. Upon getting engaged, my fiancé and I didn’t even need to discuss whether or not I would change my last name after marriage. He knew that I was very passionate about keeping my name (which also happens to be my mothers birth name) and never hyphenating. His thoughts on the topic were “Your name, your identity, I don’t care.”
I’m lucky to be with someone as progressive as he is on the topic. After we were married, I quickly realized just how out of the norm my decision was. I find myself correcting people constantly that I am not a Mrs. I’m also not sure why it confuses people so much that they address mail to us in the exact same way they did before we were married -with both of our full names. I clearly underestimated how outdated and old fashioned our society still is today.
When doing some research, it frightened me to find out that HALF of Americans think a woman changing her name to her husband’s at marriage should be the LAW. This seems like patriarchal brain washing from the stone ages. It’s hard to believe that in 2018 anyone would believe this should be required. For years women fought for the right to maintain our names at marriage. We should use that right it far more often than we do, and be proud to not have our identity taken over by a man’s. The history of women fighting to keep their names goes back many years.
In 1856 Lucy Stone became the first women in history to legally maintain her name after marriage. In her era she quickly rose to fame, and became an icon for other women who wanted to buck the tradition of taking a man’s last name. For decades after this, women who followed in her footsteps and kept their last names were known as “Lucy Stoners”.
The Lucy Stone League was founded in 1921 with the motto stating “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers.” They were the first feminist group to arise from the suffrage movement, and became known for fighting for women’s own-name rights. Sadly, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that laws were lifted requiring a woman to use her husband’s last name to vote, do banking and even get a passport.
Women’s rights have come a long way since the 70’s, yet despite this we are seeing an increase in women changing their names rather than keeping them. It makes me sad to think that despite the struggle of the Lucy Stoners to form a movement that would help future generations, almost 80% of women today still choose to take their husband’s last name.
A Harvard University study found that among its alumni, each year that women delayed marriage or having children related to a 1 percentage point decline in the probability that they would change their names. An important factor was if the women had made a name for herself or not prior to getting married. Google studies show that women who come from wealthy backgrounds, and marry later in life are also less likely to change their names. The New York Times reports only 10% of women actually hyphenate their names. Women interviewed about why they changed their last name gave a variety of explanations. Most were things like: “Everyone else does” “I wanted to be a family unit”; “It’s easier when we have kids” or “It’s easier to make hotel reservations.”
Though many women prefer to take the easy route and not go against the grain of tradition, widespread change can only happen when we dare to be different. In the spirit of those early feminists who fought to keep their names, let’s make it a popular trend not to keep changing ours. It’s time we started re educating society to stop assuming being a Mrs is an accomplishment to strive for. It’s also time we started teaching and empowering little girls with the fact that their name is their name. Not just something they shed when they meet whomever they will marry. It’s time that women became proud to be Lucy Stoners again.