Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Women Keeping their Natal Name

One non-traditional marital naming option is women keeping their natal last names. This option is the most popular in our collection of interviews. One woman, Dr. Gina Bamberger explains, “I had already graduated and had some of my professional credentials, my medical license, and all of my med school transcripts and all that official stuff was in my last name.” A woman who becomes a doctor, a professor who publishes, a businesswomen, etc. finds herself in a situation where she has already “made a name” for herself among friends and coworkers, and in the profession itself (Goldin and Shim 2004). Goldin and Shim (2004) also explain that women keep surname to protect value of contacts, publications, and professional goodwill. Many of the people interviewed in this project spoke about one, two, or all three of Goldin and Shim’s reasons for retaining a natal surname. Jill Teifenthaler, President of Colorado College, exclaims, “I already had published as an economist, and had a network in my profession, and was known by name.” The professor managing the Feminist Last Naming Project, Dr. Sarah Hautzinger, also explains, “I think I wanted to keep my name as an author and as my professional name.”

Other women also bring forth the idea that retaining their natal names aids in preserving their identities. Lisa Mueller describes, “There were multiple motivations [to keeping my last name]. I think I liked my name; I liked the link to my family… I knew at that time, which would have been the late seventies, early eighties, that it was a way of carving out an individual identity.” Most women that we interviewed explained more than one reason for maintaining their natal surname; it was rarely one steadfast reason. A few women spoke about their heritage as a reason for retaining their natal last names. Lilly Martin’s parents are from Spain, and she explains, “I really liked Martin… I had no problem honoring that part of my heritage, and it wasn’t a problem for my husband.” The support from friends, spouses, and other family members ranges from full encouragement, to incorrectly making a check out to someone, to complete disownment.

Click Here for interviews with women who have chosen to keep their maiden names.

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