Till recently I might not have reacted as if I’d been stabbed in the heart on seeing my name styled thus, but since my identity has done a virtual “poof!” over the past year, this was one more cut among a thousand. I’m married to Mike Pierce, but that doesn’t make me Mrs. Mike Pierce. It makes me Linda Erdely Pierce. I certainly accept “Pierce” as my chosen surname, but who robbed me of my first name?
I chucked the offending envelope in the trash and half-heartedly propped the card on a cabinet. But I kept thinking about it.
So, trying to soothe my emotional boo-boo, I did a little reading about combining names in marriage. There was little soothing to be found.
It turns out we’re hanging on in the U.S. to a tradition from at least the 19th century when women’s property ownership rights and ability to enter into a contract were subjugated to her husband. Even her name became his property. As women gained more legal rights into the 20th century there was a rise in maiden surname retention, but at its high point in the 1990s that percentage was still under 25%. It is now declining.
Since the advent of the internet in particular, there’s been a great deal of emphasis on how to prevent identity theft. If our name is not our identity, what is? Are women handing over their identity for the sake of an antiquated tradition? An entire name, not just the surname?
I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist, but I do support equality among all people. I also support thoughtfulness, taking out the trash, and individuality. I think it’s time we tossed out this quaint habit of stealing a woman’s identity.
So, happy birthday, Linda.