The Hard Truth of Why Women Take a Man’s Last Name After Marriage
There is nothing more daunting than the process of changing your last name after marriage. Trips to the Social Security office and the DMV are certainly not as magical as the wedding day may have been, but when a woman gets married to a man, most women begin the painfully annoying process of taking on their new last name.
But why? When did this all start, and why do we still do it? The origin story is a little darker than you might think.
Stephanie Reid of Seattle Bride explained how taking a husband’s surname “didn’t surface in English common law until the ninth century when lawmakers began to consider the legalities surrounding personhood, families, and marriage.”
The “Doctrine of coverture” emerged, where women had no independent legal identity apart from their spouse.
“It also prevented women from entering into contracts, engaging in litigation, participating in business, or exercising ownership over real estate or personal property,” Reid said.
That’s right, ladies. By taking your husband’s name, you became an irrelevant piece of property.
It’s safe to say that patriarchal history has continued to dwindle and women have much more freedoms as married women than they did in the ninth century, but why do we still feel the need to take on their name to solidify a union? Isn’t holy matrimony enough?
Don’t get me wrong, I took my husband’s name proudly. I come from a divorced family, and I grew up in a home where everyone had different last names. I always imagined getting married and taking my husband’s name as a romantic gesture of unity. Yet as I fill out my DMV forms to apply for a new license and run down the list of businesses I have to contact about my name change, I wonder if this tradition is necessary.
What do you think, brides-to-be? Will you take on your future husband’s last name to display your commitment to each other or will you take a more modern approach to partnership?
Friendly reminder, there is no right or wrong answer.