In the 1970s, when women got married many of them chose not to take their spouse’s last name. This had long been a tradition for many cultures. That the wife’s maiden name or birth name would be no longer used. Women would of course adopt their husband’s name. The American suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818-1893) made it a national issue that women keep their own surname as part of her efforts for women’s rights in the United States.
For me, it was a feminist thing to do. My name reflected that I was of Irish descent. My husband was of Jewish descent. To take his name made no sense to me. I was not Jewish. My last name was given to me and reflected who I was. I wasn’t interested in joining my name to his. I just wanted to continue being the same individual person that I was christened.
In a recent Jezebel article, “Why Are We Still Taking Our Husbands Last Name?”, 50 % of Americans still believe that a woman should be legally required to take her husbands’ last name. Traditionally the last name was to help carry on the family tree, the man’s family tree. That is astonishing.
Recently, my son and his partner decided to give their daughter my son’s partner’s last name. It’s funny to realize that my husband’s name will not be carried on. And neither will mine.
My son’s partner is a feminist like myself. But her name is also her father’s last name. When I think that my last name was my father’s name, I can respect that. Anyway we look at it, the male’s name is still carried on. We’re caught in this quandary of carrying forward a father’s or grandfather’s name. I am trying to imagine how we can establish a name to carry on a woman’s identity. It is nice to think that the matriarchal names could be leading the way to a stronger family tree in the future.