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Why Should A Woman Take Her Husband's Name

December 6, 2022

Where did life begin? Why am I here?

All timeless questions, but none of them inspire the same dread as this one: Should I take my husband's last name?

For centuries, women have wrestled with this problem. Read on to explore the pros and cons of taking your partner's name!

The History of Women Taking Their Husband’s Last Name

It's no secret that women have received the short end of the stick throughout history, and adopting their groom's surname is an offshoot of this trend. While some may argue that it's a sign of commitment, we must ask ourselves if this outdated tradition is really necessary. 

Is it worth sacrificing our identity for the sake of convention? First, it's essential to understand how this practice came to be and the reasons behind it. During the Dark Ages in Europe, people were so few and far between that they didn't need an extra name to get around. Populations weren't concentrated enough for surnames.

As societies' populations during the Middle Ages increased and became more organized, laws were needed to ensure things ran efficiently. Historian Catherine Allgor points out that before people had literacy skills, many regulations were based on custom rather than written down.

In the days of old, when common law was made, women were sadly overlooked and treated as second-class citizens. Laws were created in a male-dominated society that gave little to no recognition to their female counterparts.

This practice was known as coverture and meant that a woman had no identity and was seen as nothing more than an extension of her husband. She could not run a business, make money, own property, or make any legal decisions on her own. She was only recognized as an extension of her husband. We know; we’re cringing right along with you.

This practice made its way to the US and existed until women were granted the right to an identity with the Cable Act of 1922. However, many remnants of this unfair practice remained. Because of a legal system built with coverture as its foundation, inequality still existed.  

This is why it was perfectly legal to rape your wife until the 1970s and also why women couldn't do basic things like getting a driver’s license, passport, or even vote unless they took their husband's last name. Crazy right?

So, with all the advances in equality, why do some women continue to follow this outdated practice? Read on to find out.

Why Do Women Still Take Their Husband’s Last Names?

There are always two sides to every story, and while it’s tempting to relegate this once-standard practice to the trash heap, there there are a few reasons why this outdated custom is still sticking around:

  • Symbolism. Taking a husband's last name is seen as a symbol of commitment and unity, representing the two individuals' decision to join their lives together in marriage. 
  • Benefits of taking a husband's last name. Women may take their husband's surname for practical purposes such as easier identification or because they feel it has more social value than their family name. 
  • Having the same last name as future kids. By taking her partner’s last name, a woman can ensure that her children will have one consistent family name so there won't be any confusion when tracing family history and identity. 
  • Honoring a loved one’s wishes. For some women, taking her partner’s last name is a way to honor her husband and show that she is part of his family. This may be especially true for couples who have been together for a long time or those with strong ties to their partner’s family.

Now that you know some good reasons for keeping your husband’s last name, you might wonder if you’ll be in good company if you do so. The fact of the matter is many women are still adhering to this historical custom.

How Many Women Still Take Their Husband’s Last Name?

Though the trend of women keeping their given last name is steadily growing, many modern American women still take their husband's surnames. According to a Google survey, 70 percent of women surveyed decided to go this traditional route. 

An additional 20 percent of women chose to keep their own last name, and 10 percent opted for a unique option, such as hyphenating their surnames. No matter your path, it's your choice, so you do you.

But wait! You have some options to pick from if you’re still seeing a solution to your dilemma, so let’s examine your choices.

Alternatives to Taking Your Husband’s Last Name

If you still can’t decide whether to take your husband’s last name, just know it’s not a black-and-white problem. Indeed, there are many options to consider, each with varying levels of compromise between you and your honey, including:

Keep Your Given Name

Women can choose to keep their given name after marriage and not change any of their names. You might get a few side-eyes from conservative relatives, but that’s their problem.

Make Your Given Last Name Your New Middle Name

Women can also choose to take their current last name from before marriage (also known as their maiden name–yes, we know, even more outdated terminology– and make it into a middle name instead of a surname. 

Hyphenate Your Last Name

This option allows a woman to combine her husband’s and her surname, creating a new double-barreled last name with each partner's surname connected by a hyphen. This might be an excellent compromise for both you and your husband.

Have Your Husband Take Your Last Name

This alternative allows the bride to keep her last name without changing it while still sharing the same last name as her husband. Let’s be real; this is not likely to happen. Even though gender stereotypes are shifting, we still have a long way to go. 

Hopefully, these options will guide you if you’re about to walk down the aisle and still haven’t figured out which moniker to take. With any luck, you’ll find your perfect solution or even start your own new trend.

Is It Time to Start a New Trend With Last Names?

Choosing to take your husband's last name or not is ultimately a personal decision. Each option has pros and cons, but it is essential to remember that the choice should be yours alone. 

Whether you choose to keep your own surname, hyphenate both names, or take his name entirely, it should be a decision made out of love and respect for yourself and your partner. So go ahead and make the best decision for you!

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