Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Mother’s Natal Name as Middle Name

One way a woman can preserve her natal last name, even if it is just for a generation, is by giving her child her natal surname as a middle name. Lilly Martin, although also retaining her natal last name upon marriage, gave her son the name Martin as a middle name. She discussed having strong ethnic and identity ties to her last name and she wanted the name to continue for the generation after her own.  Sarah Smith Han also describes, “ My last name is from my dad and my middle name is my mom’s maiden name which she kept.” Feminism is, similarly, an underlying motive in this non-traditional last naming practice as Sarah Smith Han explains, “My mom has a pretty common last name, her maiden name is Smith, so it’s not like she was trying to preserve the family name. There are lots of Smiths out there. Rather, she did not want to give up her own name for my dad’s name, which is a unique name, Han. So for her I definitely think it was a feminist choice.” Rarely did we find women who had one, steadfast reason for making the naming choice that she did. Many themes are laced through the interviews for natal name as a middle name such as feminism, culture, identity, and familial ties.

This naming practice can be used for a woman to maintain her identity while also taking her husband’s name; however, in the interviews conducted for this project, the mothers that gave their natal name as a middle name to a child also retained their own last name at marriage.

Click Here for interviews with women who have a maternal natal as a middle name or who have given their natal name to as a middle name.


One thought on “Mother’s Natal Name as Middle Name

  1. Hello.,

    My mother, who is 88 years old, has always used her Maiden name as her middle name. She was married in 1942. She dropped her first name, used her middle name as first and maiden as middle. I do not know why she did this, since she is not at all a feminist.

    I had thought that this was a “southern” practice since I know of many of my relatives who do not go by first names but do use their middle names instead. They are all southern women.

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