I Changed My Name When I Got Married, and I’ve Felt Weird About It Ever Since by Mirel Zaman
Two years ago, I got married and took my husband’s last name, adopting my original surname as my middle name and dropping my birth-given middle name altogether. My husband seemed mostly apathetic about me doing this.
…As I filled out the paperwork required to get a new Social Security card, I felt my first pangs of misgivings.
Why was I doing this? Was it anti-feminist? The feeling my imminent name change suddenly gave me was not one of joining, but instead of shrinking.
I felt like I was burying a part of my own identity — and for what? To adopt a surname that was laden with a history to which I had no connection?
…But my discomfort has persisted. I like having the same last name as my husband. I just miss my original name, too.
….The modern American tradition of marital name changes is a holdover of Anglo-American coverture laws, which dictated that in marriage, a woman’s rights were subsumed by her husband.
The suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone is typically credited for being one of the first to publicly and vocally push back against the tradition of married women changing their names in the United States.
She kept her name when she married in 1855. Even so, in 1879, she was denied the right to vote in a school election unless she added her husband’s name to her signature.
Over the next 100-ish years, state governments continued to rule on the question of whether women should be forced to change their last name in order to vote, open a bank account, and even secure their own passport.
By around 1975, though, every state law that had required a woman take her husband’s last name after marriage had been eliminated.
This was thanks to the women’s rights movement, in which marital names became a core issue insofar as they pertained to a woman’s personal liberty.