May 17, 2005
On Keeping One's Last Name
Posted by Christine Hurt

A post at VC asks a thorny question:  Why do women retain their last names when they get married?  My last name is my maiden name, so my husband and I have different last names.  We married when I was 28, so I had already used my last name to graduate a few times and pick up a few law licenses.  My clients knew my last name.  I remember it being very important to me at the time. 

Now, I've been married awhile and have two children with Paul's last name.  I can't get as excited about keeping my last name anymore, and sometimes I would like to buy a doormat or towels with a monogram.  We don't have a monogram.  I'd like to say "Season's Greetings from the ______ Family."  Not super reasons to change one's name, but reasons nonetheless.  I'm sure I would keep my name if I married Paul all over again, but there are some semi-substantial cons that I did not think through.

I think one of the pluses though is that my daughter notices.  She thinks that keeping one's name is the default, and is always amused when married folk have the same last name, as if by coincidence.  I think that makes some impression on her that I have a separate clan and a separate identity.  However, she often tries out her first name with the last names of boys she knows.  I think that's one reason why younger girls who marry change their names.  It seems fun to get a new name, like getting a new house or a new car; the name change signals to all the other girls out there that you are the lucky girl that nabbed the guy.  I hope she keeps her name, though.

However, mature women change their names, too.  I have noticed that at least among people I know, keeping your last name is waning.  Many of the women I graduated from law school with kept their names, but most of the women I see now getting married in law school are changing theirs.

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