We’ve Come a Long Way Baby!

By Heather Faucher | Posted on September 1, 2009 | Filed Under Name Change 

We’ve come a long way since the days when society raised its collective eyebrows whenever women chose to keep their own last names after marriage. Nowadays, women who wish to hold on to the surnames they’ve had since birth don’t suffer nearly the stigma they did in the 1970’s and 1980’s. One might suppose, then, that the percentage of women declining to take their husband’s surnames has skyrocketed in the intervening years…Right?

But studies show that the vast majority of women are still choosing to take their husbands’ surnames after marriage, either completely or in part. Some choose to keep their maiden names as a middle name and tack on their husband’s name at the end. Others decide to drop their maiden names entirely, seeing it as a symbolic statement that they are declaring independence and setting out on the adventure of creating their own families.

One popular wedding website, theknot.com, ran a survey of 18,000 married couples in 2008. Rebecca Dolgin, Executive Editor, stated that 88 percent of women reported changing their names upon marriage. “I think that there was a point in time where women felt very strongly that they had to [keep their names] to assert their feminist leanings or to say that women are equal to men,” Dolgin said. “Now, women are a little more comfortable and it’s not as threatening to them.”

Family is a major motivation for many women to change their names after marriage. They often choose to make that change so that all members of their new family–including future children–share the cohesive bond of the same surname.

Prudence Moylan, who serves as the graduate program director for women’s studies and gender studies at Loyola University, points out that while it’s no longer a shock when women choose to keep their last names after marriage, the movement has lost a lot of its steam lately. She views modern brides’ decisions to take on their husbands’ names as indicative that they are choosing to keep with tradition, or, at the very least, that women are now acknowledging that making a stand over name change is perhaps not the best way to fight for equality.

Katie Kozak–now Katie Smith–perhaps puts this sentiment best: “I think we still have our independence, but we hold family values a lot higher than we used to,” said Smith, 30, of Aurora, Illinois. “I’m still a Kozak under it all.”

And thanks to those women who fought to establish a sense of feminine independence, we have indeed come a long way, baby!

Are you getting married soon and debating whether or not to change your name? Maybe you’ve decided to change your name. Find the information you’re looking for regarding a legal name change here!

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