Sunday, August 21, 2011

Should Women Take Husband’s Last Name OR Not?

The great debate of whether or not a woman should take her husband’s last name or not continues. Traditionally, of course, there is no question, the answer is yes. But, the women’s movement have women questioning whether or not they want to change their names. My own daughter, who was raised with traditional values but has a mind of her own, thinks she should keep her maiden name after marriage. I don’t agree, but what else is new?

The trends towards taking the name and not taking it changes over time. There are other options of course. A woman can take the husband’s last name for her personal life and keep her maiden name for her professional life, like Carrie Underwood did last year when she got married. Or, another option is to hyphen the last names, making the maiden name the middle name. The keeping of the maiden name surged in popularity from the 70’s to the 90’s, when it reached it’s highest peak at 23%. In the 2000s it dropped to 18% and now only 8% are keeping their maiden names. It seems to me this was in response to the women’s movement as a way of expressing their independence and a sign of equality.

A lot of thought still goes into making the decision for many women. I suppose the divorce rate being so high might make one think that keeping their maiden name would save a ton of paperwork should their marriage become another statistic. But, a survey done by Indiana University showed that 71% of women believe that women should change their last name when they marry. So the trend towards traditional thinking may be coming back in style.

One couple suggested another alternative that worked for them. They combined parts of their last names to make one new last name. Eric Jankowsky and Laura Lindstrom invented the name Jankstrom for their union. Now, while I’ll admit that is a creative solution, I don’t like it. There is a family history that goes with each last name. Roots that go back for generations along with stories, tradition and culture. Even when immigrants came to our country years ago, simple misspellings made them harder to track down if you are trying to find your ancestors. This creative process will surely destroy any chance for future generations of these families to trace their genealogical roots.

My big argument for the wife either hyphenating or changing her name has to do with the children. I really feel it’s important for the whole family to share the same name. This is not a good way for women to take a stand on equality. Having a different name than one’s children will also cause all kinds of issues at school, for medical insurance and many things you can’t even anticipate. Being a family means sharing your lives, being a unit, sharing genes, memories, history…why not a name? I am very happy to see this trend going back to the way it was.

There are other ways for women to assert themselves besides refusing to take on their husband’s last name. They should look into some of them. Preserving tradition…there is a lot to be said for that.


  1. There is a lot to be said for preserving tradition, but there is also a lot to be said for preserving choice. I'm getting married in a few months and I'm keeping my last name because that means something to me. My to-be doesn't care either way and the fact that we respect one another's independence is more important than following some silly tradition based on silly beliefs.

  2. That's true Amy, but I have heard from a few women who did choose to keep their names and regretted it. Issues kept coming up when they had children with schools and health insurance. As for me, I am older, and like the old tradition where everyone in the family has the same last name. Congratulations on your wedding and I wish a long and happy marriage. :>)

  3. Why couldn't the man take the woman's last name? Traditions don't always make sense. I, for one, would never give up my name if I were to marry. The trouble that comes with family members all having different names is the price we pay for gender equality. It can be dealt with. Girls can keep their mother's name, for instance, while boys keep their father's names. The time where women became part of their husband's identity when they marry is over, or should be. Of course, every woman should have the choice to take whatever name she wishes.