Thursday, March 4, 2010

To change or not to change your surname?

Alyson Rosenberg took her husband's last name (photo credit: Agaton Strom)
Alyson Rosenberg took her husband's last name (photo credit: Agaton Strom)
By Lauren Elkies

For some women, getting hitched means saying "I do" to a new last name. For others, the decision to change, or not to change, a surname requires consideration of personal and professional identity, family allegiance, lineage, future children, feminist principles, convenience and aesthetics.

At the end of the day, three million women take their husband's last name on an annual basis, representing 90 percent of all married couples, according to the Lucy Stone League, a woman's rights organization seeking equal rights for men and women to retain, modify and create their names.

To get a sense of why women retain or change their last name, asked several married women about their choice.
Here is what six of them they had to say, in their own words:

Alyson Rosenberg
I just always assumed that when I got married, I would change it. So, right after my wedding, I did. Honestly, I didn't put any thought into it, which is unusual for me. I guess I was just programmed at a very young age that when I get married, I will change my name. I never felt particularly "married" to my maiden name anyway.

Tiffany Derby Kallhovd
I changed my name after we married mostly because I want to have the same last name as our future children. With the last name Kallhovd, I feel it is an act of love for our future children. I didn't really give changing my last name that much thought until I was on line at the social security office. I remember thinking "this is it, I'm really not going to be Tiffany Marie Derby anymore," and part of me got really sad. When you first get married, it is a strange feeling [to figure out] where your "loyalties" lie as far as family goes. There is definitely a transition period. Now I am really happy I decided to change my last name because I feel like it is a first step to making my husband my "number one" and that we are now officially family.

Samantha Meltzer Joseloff
I kept my maiden name as my middle name but I legally added my married name. So I am Samantha Meltzer Joseloff legally and Samantha Meltzer professionally. I did this because of my line of work -- to remain more anonymous. I also didn't want to drop my maiden name as I am the last "Meltzer" in my family. The name will die with me!

Cami Michelle Burgess became Cami Burgess Dreyer upon marriage
Cami Michelle Burgess became Cami Burgess Dreyer upon marriage
Cami Burgess Dreyer
I changed my name because I knew I wanted kids and I wanted us all to have the same name. At the same time, I wanted to keep my maiden name somewhere so I got rid of my middle name that I never really liked and took my maiden name as my middle name. An added bonus of this is that when I show my ID my old name is still there so there is less confusion or questioning of my name change. If I had to do it again, however, I would keep my maiden name because I had never read much feminist literature prior and now I have.

Melissa Broder
I never considered changing my name. It seems more natural to me to keep it. Even in elementary school when teachers changed their name, I'd think: Yeah, but you're still Miss. Armstrong. When friends change their names, in this day and age, it always surprises me. It wasn't until I read "The Conscious Bride," and saw that some women change their names to feel more united/like family with their husband that I even considered why a woman might do it.

Christine (who asked that her last name not be used)
I didn't change my name -- too much hassle with my job which had lots of travel and a million things to change (passport, id cards, credit cards, social security, etc.). I simply didn't have the time to deal. I love his last name and have no problem when people call us by Mr. and Mrs. (his name), it's just a pain to bother changing. Our kids use his last name.

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