8 In 10 Women Married To Men Still Take Husband's Last Name … – Forbes

wp header logo 781 scaled

More women are keeping their last names after they’re wed.
Almost four out of five women who marry men still adhere to tradition and adopt their husbands’ names, according to a new survey. The name-changing practice is deeply rooted in history, when women had few rights and were prohibited from owning property.
A Pew Research Center survey questioned women who were married to men and found that 79% changed their name to their husband’s. Of the remaining women, 14% kept their surname after saying “I do,” and an additional 5% hyphenated their name with their spouse’s name. The survey did not analyze the name-changing preferences of same-sex couples.
The researchers found that younger women, white women, and women with a post-graduate degree were the most likely to keep their last name after marriage. In addition, Democratic women were twice as likely as their Republican counterparts to stick with their names post-nuptials.
The Pew researchers also found evidence that, in the future, the number of women keeping their names may be increasing. When they asked single women about their post-wedding name plans, only 33% planned to take their spouse’s last name.
Among men in opposite-sex marriages, the vast majority kept their surname. Just 5% report they took their spouse’s last name, and less than 1% hyphenated.
In the United States, our traditions relating to marriage and surnames can be traced back to England. According to University of Illinois law professor Deborah Anthony, surnames were introduced to England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. In a history of marriage and surnames, she explained that surnames became hereditary from parent to child around the fifteenth century.
At that time, women sometimes retained their birth names at marriage, and men sometimes adopted their wives’ surnames. “Surnames became closely tied to the concept of property, such that the person with the property was the holder and creator of the family name. That person was more often the man, but not always. As women’s property ownership became more severely restricted over time, these diverse surname practices eventually disappeared,” Anthony wrote. After women no longer controlled any property, they took their husband’s surname after marriage.
Feminist Lucy Stone was the first U.S. woman to keep her surname when she married in 1855. “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost,” Stone wrote in a letter to her future husband. Although it was legal for Stone to marry without adopting her husband’s name, she was denied the right to vote because she refused to register under her husband’s name.
As recently as the 1970s, some state laws still required a woman to use her husband’s name to vote or obtain a passport. Hawaii was the last state to have a law requiring a woman to assume her husband’s name after marriage. The law was reversed in 1976.
Also, in the 1970s, the feminist movement was gaining momentum. The prefix “Ms.” became a popular way to recognize a woman independently of her marital status. And keeping one’s surname after marriage became a symbol of gender equality.
A New York Times NYT analysis found that about 17% of women who married in the 1970s kept their last names. In the conservative 1980s, the portion of married women keeping their names slightly declined, but since then, the number of women opting to keep their names has gradually increased each decade. Of women who married in the 2010s, 22% retained their name. This trend is consistent with the Pew study finding that younger married women were more likely to keep their names.
Although the Pew survey did not examine the motivations behind women’s decisions, prior research has found that, like Lucy Stone, many women choose to keep their names because they feel it’s linked to their identity. Other women wish to retain their names for professional reasons. Women who adopt their husbands’ names say they want to show love and commitment to their husbands, to become one family unit, and because they feel pressure to adhere to tradition.
Regardless of the reasons, Simon Duncan, a professor in family life at the University of Bradford, told the BBC the name-changing tradition is “quite dangerous.” He explained, “It perpetuates the idea that the husband’s in authority…reproducing the tradition that the man is the head of the household.”
In pursuit of gender equality, certain regions have prohibited women from adopting their husband’s names. As of 1981, provincial law in Quebec forbids a woman from taking her husband’s surname after marriage. Greece passed a similar law in 1983 requiring women to retain their maiden names after marriage. France, Belgium and the Netherlands all have laws on the books that require surnames to remain the same after marriage. In contrast, some countries, such as Korea, Malaysia, and Spain, lack legal mandates but follow a tradition where women tend to retain their own names after marriage.
Despite the laws and standard practices elsewhere, the tradition of adopting a married name remains robust in the United States. As more women recognize the significance of preserving their identities, societal norms may also evolve here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *