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I Kept My Maiden Name and Never Heard the End of It....Keeping Your Surname

Updated on July 9, 2014

Growing up "Harris"

Growing up I was always proud to be a “Harris”. My family made me feel proud about my surname and my past. My father is an incredibly hard worker, who worked three jobs to keep a roof over our heads and my mother may be disabled but she is the best mom and friend anyone could ask for. My family is resilient, hardworking, funny, smart, strong, and small but I wouldn’t have it any other way. So I always knew I was going to remain a Harris for the rest of my life. I never doubted it. Even in high school I knew I was proud of who I was and where I came from. My father has one brother and one sister, and both have no children with the surname of Harris. My brother has two girls and they do have Harris as their last name but I knew the chances of one of them standing up to societal norms would be slim to none, so I felt like it was my duty to keep the Harris name going. In my opinion, my Harris surname branch was going to die if I didn’t keep the surname going, so there was no way I was giving up my name when I got married. Little did I know that this decision would be forever thrown into my face by co-workers, family, friends, and even strangers!

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Taking your Husband's Surname

Over 3 million women are married each year and of those 3 million women 90% of the women take their husband’s surname. Women do not take their husband’s surname because it is legally binding that they must take their husband’s surname; they simply do it because they have grown up in a society where it is the norm or tradition to take your husband’s surname. However, did anyone ever actually sit down and think about why women have to do this. Why do women suddenly have lose their identities and their names when they marry? Why is it the female who must give up her old identity in order to start her new life with her husband? Why doesn’t the husband give up his name instead? What makes a male’s surname so much more important than a female’s surname, especially in 2014? No one knows the answers to these questions, the only response I ever receive when asking these questions is simply… women are supposed to take their husbands surname. However, I feel like each of these women are singly handily taking the women’s movement 20 steps backwards in the wrong direction each time they take their husband’s surname just because. I don’t mind if women take their husband’s surname. I just don’t like being called out for keeping my surname. I don’t make it a habit to go around asking newlywed individuals if they are keeping their surname or taking their husband’s, so why do people make it their business to question why I kept my surname instead of taking my husband’s surname.

Maiden Name Facts

  • 3 million women marry each year. Out of the 3 million women who marry 90% of them take their husband's surname.
  • 63% of married women in their 20s changed their surname to their husband's surname
  • 80% of married women in their 30s changed their surname to their husband's surname
  • 91% of married women in their 60s changed their surname to their husband's surname

Who am I?

I am a 30 year old woman and I married my high school sweetheart. He always knew what my intentions were but I wanted to go further than most women go when keeping their surnames, I wanted my children to have my surname too. Like I said early I am very proud of where I come from and yes I know my husband is too, but my husband’s family had plenty of boys to continue on the family name, mine did not. So when we had three boys I gave each of our boys my surname. So instead of me being the odd one out, it has been my husband who is the odd one out. Some may say this is very disrespectful to my husband, but I then put a twist on it, would it be disrespectful to me if my children had my husband’s last name? It makes no sense to compare it to respect. I respect my husband with my whole being especially because he was willing enough to go against tradition with me and allowed his children to have my surname because he knew how much it meant to me. However, by giving my children my surname and by keeping my surname we have caused quite a stir in our little country town. I am an elementary teacher and when I kept my last name everyone was suddenly unsure what to call me. Co-workers and friends assumed that since I kept my last name that I didn’t want to be known as married, so instead of being a “Mrs.”, I was instead called Ms. Harris. I quickly let everyone know that I am indeed a proud “Mrs.” I am just a proud “Mrs.” that kept her surname. After the gossip stopped spreading about my surname, I soon became pregnant with my first child, a boy. Suddenly when we handed out the birth announcements for my new son, the focus wasn’t on my beautiful baby it was on his surname. I heard things such as “No matter what surname you gave your son, he is your husband’s surname in god’s eyes”, or “How could you do such a horrific thing to your husband?”, and lastly “Wow, you must really have a lot of control over your husband for him to let you give the baby your surname?” I was disgusted, was I in the twilight zone, was a woman keeping her surname and giving her surname to her children really the end of the world as we know it. My husband’s family stopped talking to him and to this day will not talk to me or acknowledge my children by their respective surname. We haven’t seen my husband’s family since this happened because they were so hurt by the fact that my children have my surname. Even when we went out together and we would introduce ourselves to people, we would always get asked the same question over and over again. I thought you said you were married? How do you have different last names? It seemed like such an alien concept to so many people that we met. I found myself having to go into a detailed explanation about why I kept my name. In fact I had to tell the story so much that it became robotic. I couldn’t understand why everyone was taking it so hard. It’s a choice made between two loving adults. I love my husband with all of my heart but he knew that no matter what my surname was or what our children surname was that we were a family unit and a surname wouldn’t change that.

Should a woman take a man's surname?

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Surnames in the Past


In medieval times it was tradition for the spouse of the lower status to take the spouse of the higher status’s surname. So if a woman was of a higher status the man would take her name. I’m not saying that just because a male/female makes more money then that’s the surname to go with, I am simply stating that in the past the tradition was much different. It wasn’t always the male’s surname that was automatically taken. In fact in 1855 a woman name Lucy Stone was the first American woman to publicly insist on retaining her maiden name upon marriage. Stone kept being stone after marrying social reformer Henry Browne Blackwell. If a man named Henry Browne Blackwell can handle his wife keeping her surname in 1855, why is it so difficult for it to be accepted in 2014?

Women Who Kept Their Surnames

Some say that having the same surname makes you closer as a family unit and it shows that you are committed to each other on a more permanent basis. I would say to those people that my husband and I are in a very committed partnership together and that we are very much committed to our children. We love them with all of our hearts and we would love them even if they didn’t have either one of our surnames. The other thing I would say is that I have seen lots of people who have taken their husband’s surname get a divorce, so there is nothing permanent about taking your husband’s surname.


In closing if you every meet a woman who has kept her maiden name…PLEASE DO NOT ask or say the following things:

  • Don’t you respect your husband (Yes, we do respect our husbands but we also respect our identities and if our husbands are man enough to deal with it, you should be too!)

  • Are you that work oriented that you couldn’t take your husband’s surname (No, I’m not. I’m just proud of where I came from.)

  • You will confuse your children (My children know that my husband and I both love them and if the most confusing thing they ever deal with in life is a surname than I’ve done a great job)

  • It’s tradition (UGHH!! Traditions are made to be broken, and they are not laws, rules, or regulations. It is just the norm, not the must.)

  • Wow, you must be a really controlling b*tch (No I’m not. I have open communication with my partner and we came to an understanding. Are you a b*tch because your wife took your surname?)


Comments

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    • Magen Morris profile image

      Magen Morris 

      4 years ago from Chicago

      I'll never change my name! I'm not even particularly attached to it. Don't have much family history and due to adoption down the line- it's not even my bloodline. But, I don't particularly think it's important. I actually always wished I had my mother's maiden name, as I was much closer with that side of the family. I am usually against the "norm" in my opinions, though. I'm not sure why that is, but it's how I am.

    • Levertis Steele profile image

      Levertis Steele 

      4 years ago from Southern Clime

      Well, if he wants a son to carry on his personal name, there are women out there who are more than willing to oblige. Of course, if he has no problem with it, that is your business. I just hope that he does not have hidden feelings. I sincerely wish you and family the best

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      4 years ago

      Voted up and interesting!

      However I suspect whenever someone does not "conform" to the norms of society they understand they'll be asked the same questions over and over again. All that matters in a marriage is the couple agree on the major things.

      Life is a (personal) journey!

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