C’mon back, Bessie

Have I put the cart before the horse with this blog?

I started wondering after reading about the recently-publicized study* on

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

American attitudes toward women keeping their name after marriage. With the blog, I’d hoped to, by example, advocate for women passing their names on to their children.

But that presumes women kept their name to begin with — something I knew was uncommon, but didn’t realize how very uncommon.

So while I still intend to plug that matrilineal matters, I’m going to also try and single out stories and trends where women’s simple autonomy gains ground. To that end, I was pleased to note that three out of five anniversary notices in my local newspaper this Sunday referred to the woman by her full name instead of vaporizing her at the altar.

Traditionally these announcements read: “Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Aug. 24. Joe Blow and the former Jane Doe were married…”

The former? Um…what happened to her? Where’d she go? Vanished under the veil? Used to be they’d use the word “nee” – French for “born as” – which at least translated sensibly.

It may seem picayune, but especially after reading the Indiana-Utah study*, I’m ever more firmly convinced of how integral and vital names are to our identity and of how powerful the cultural forces around them are.

So I keep plugging and posting. One day, ‘the former’ will be former practice, and we’ll get that old mare pointed to make forward progress.

* While co-author Laura Hamilton of Indiana University did share the study with me, I am unable to post it due to copyright restrictions.

One Comment to C’mon back, Bessie

  1. […] of infants all bearing their fathers’ names.  Lately I’ve found some consolation, as I’ve posted before, in the rare anniversary announcement in which the wife is not vaporized at the altar, i.e. […]

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