Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Keeping Birth Names Grows

The patriarchal practice of changing women's surnames to match their husbands is shrinking as of 2015.

"Roughly 20 percent of women married in recent years have kept their names" in the US, according to a report in the New York Times this week.

Thank you to Claire Cain Miller and Derek Willis of the NYT for their analysis of data since 1970.


But let's not call women's original names their "maiden" names.  That's sexist in itself.

Do we talk about men keeping their virgin names or boyhood names?  No.  

I kept my birth name after my marriage in 1972, much to the dismay of my father-in-law and one uncle.

My husband John Arthur and I gave our daughters both surnames: Rosamond Arthur Eggebroten, Ellen Arthur Eggebroten, and Marie Arthur Eggebroten.

On our block in Santa Monica, there are 7-8 households where the parents each keep their own birth names.

When my daughter Ellen married in 2012, however, she took her husband's surname and became Ellen Arthur Michel.  I get it--Eggebroten is not the most euphonic name to be known by.

My third daughter, Marie, has so far solved the name issue by avoiding marriage.

"I don't believe in marriage," she says, informing us that we are to refer to her male friend of four years as her partner--not her boyfriend.

A friend of Ellen's marrying this summer chose to hyphenate her name with her husband: Erin and Cary Neff-Morgan.

Women keeping our birth names is just one aspect of the age-old battle for equality in cultures dominated by men.  

It's good to have choice in naming ourselves, whether we follow Lucy Stone or Starhawk (who creatively chose her own name) or tradition.

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