Feminist Last Naming Practices

Nontraditional Last Name Stories

Sarah Smith Han

Sarah Smith Han’s mother kept her maiden name and passed it on to her four daughters in the form of a middle name. Han says that her mother keeping her name shows that “she didn’t want to submit herself. I mean this is definitely a feminist statement of my moms, but it wasn’t about the name in particular.” However, Han dismisses that giving her children her natal name was a feminist statement.

Han gets some strange reactions from people who expect her to have a common middle name, such as Ann or Elizabeth. She invariably has to explain and finds it “funny that [she has] to justify it”. Her parents’ naming practice has at times led to legal and medical issues, however Han says they have been minor and she says she would do it again if she could.

While she acknowledges her feminism, Han says, “for me personally it’s not where I choose to make my stance.” To Han, ultimately, keeping one’s maiden name can prevent women’s last names from being erased, however, in terms of “erasing this patriarchal system…I think that’s a different question.”

Interviewed by Laura Atkins

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