Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Wife Takes Husband’s Surname

Some feminists will claim that patrilineal naming always contributes to the oppression of women.  However, women who actively choose to take their husband’s name can be considered feminists. As political scientist, Charlotte Ridge argues, a choice influenced by feminist thought can be pro, anti, and slightly feminist. What is important is that this choice is voluntary, as when an “empowered woman ha[s] the support of the people and culture around her” (2003, 19).

As in the case of Colorado College Professor Heidi Lewis, gender is only one variable within naming practices. Her choice was to make a statement about race, instead.

One disadvantage is that patrilineal practices prevents the woman’s name from being passed onto the next generation.  On the other hand, the family may prefer to have one family name—something impossible when the wife keeps her maiden name, the husband does not take hers, and they choose not to hyphenate.

Click Here to read interviews of women who have taken their husbands’ names.

Ridge, C. (2008). Voluntary Choices and Feminism: Names, Naming and Community. Conference Papers — Midwestern Political Science Association, 1-27.


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