Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Monica Schoch-Spana

When her parents got married, her mother took her father’s last name Spana and kept her maiden name, Schoch as a middle name. In college, Monica decided to change her name to include her mother’s maiden name and so hyphenated it to Schoch-Spana.

It was my junior year in college and I had taken a number of anthropology classes including a kinship course. I also had a feminist awakening over the years at college and thought after learning about this kinship system that you could actually preserve knowledge of the mother’s line so, I thought, why didn’t I do that?

 She had to make a legal request to change her name and provide a reason to the judge. Although it was a personal decision about maintaining the matrilineal line, she saw it as public and teachable moment to let people know that there are alternate ways of representing identity, family, and history. When Monica united with her partner Donna Slaughter, Donna decided to legally take Monica’s hyphenated last name. Donna had no attachment to her last name, and because they were planning on having children Donna thought it was important that the family shared a last name.

We do have a son who’s twelve year old and in the state of Maryland there’s something called second parent adoption, which means that you can have two legal parents of the same sex. So I’m the bio-mother, Donna adopted Leo, so we all have the same last name. Donna wanted us to have the same last name as Leo because she didn’t want there ever to be any question raised that she wasn’t Leo’s mother. And having the same last name meant that people understood her to be his legal mother, his so-called real mother.

 They decided to give their son Donna’s mothers last name, Adams, as his middle name as a way of injecting Donna’s female line into their son’s name. Monica came up with a sustainable solution to last naming practices.

 Well I thought what you could do is if the child born was female then that child would take the two matrilineal names from the father and the mother and that would be her last name. And if the child was male he would take the patrilineal names. Everyone would have the same last names, but you would have the preservation of the male line and a female line. So ya, I had some system worked out.

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