In the 1960s, Second-Wave feminism sparked a large-scale experiment that sought to change the traditional naming practices in North America, in which wives and children adopt the husband’s surname. The general goal has been to intervene in women feeling erased as their names – and some would claim their identities – “disappear” through patrilineal (patronymic) naming practices.
In our interviews, we identified a variety of non-traditional or feminist-influenced naming practices, including women keeping their natal surname, families or children taking hyphenated names, families or individuals creating new surnames, queer naming practices, double surnames, wives taking their husbands’ names, natal names becoming middle names, and other international naming practices.
This project asks: Where is this experiment going? How satisfying and sustainable, or frustrating and short-term, have varied options proved to be? If a woman keeps her father’s father’s father’s name, or parents hyphenate their children’s names, do these pave the way to the emergence or long-term, systematic alternatives? Or, are they short-term solutions that may have value for the individuals, but will not alter traditional, patrilineal practices in the long run? This project explores the pros and cons of the alternatives we found.