Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Jessie Yancey-Siegel

Jessie Yancey-Siegel and her family value the importance of a name’s history. Her mother’s name, Yancey, is of Welsh heritage. Her father’s name, Siegel, is of Polish heritage.  In Yancey-Siegel’s words, “my dad comes from a Jewish family and my mom comes from a southern family, and both have very strong traditions of pride and passing names down.” She describes her parents as very liberal in regard to their marriage—in fact, they never became legally married.

Her parents’ motivation for passing down both of their names includes their liberal stance, their pride in their surnames as representations of their family history, and also the fear that their siblings would not pass their names down. The hyphen also reflects the “equal power dynamic in their marriage.”

As her parents, Yancey-Siegel acknowledges the importance of a name’s history. However, when asked about the future of her name in marriage and with children, she is unsure about how to preserve it. She would consider changing it during marriage. After all, she says, “I wouldn’t give my kids three hyphenated names..” When asked for alternative suggestions she posits that “[m]aybe couples can do a coin toss or something to see what last name or hyphenated name their kids get..” In conclusion, she states that hyphenation is “a forward-thinking idea, but it doesn’t really work long-term. I think there needs to be a whole other tradition created that doesn’t cause confusion but doesn’t give the man more of a priority in passing on a name.”

Interviewer: Sophia Carmen

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