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Monday
Nov072011

Should Law Require Brides to Take Grooms' Names?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Julia Levine Rogers thinks of herself as a "strong modern woman," who at 27 has worked in health clinics in Africa and started her own travel business for students. But when she married Tom Rogers last August in Stowe, Vt., she took his name, even though her own mother had refused to change hers in 1977.

"Choosing to take Tom's name was not a decision I came to lightly," said Rogers.  "I thought a lot about the implications of changing my name, especially since my mother chose to keep her maiden name.  I wondered for a while if I was wrongly giving up my identity for an archaic tradition."

According to a variety of surveys, more young women are agreeable to taking a new identity at the altar, though their reasons have nothing to do with subservience.

"In its purist form, marriage is about starting a family, and I wanted to start that family with the same name," she said.  "Eventually it came down to practicality and what felt right."

Like Rogers, an overwhelming majority of brides drop their surnames, according to the Lucy Stone League, named for a woman who refused to take her husband's name in 1855.

Another survey, published last spring in the journal Gender and Society, finds that at least half of those queried said they would agree that a name change should be a requirement for marriage.

"It absolutely shocked us," said co-author Brian Powell, who is a professor of sociology at Indiana University.

Powell surveyed 815 Americans of all genders, educational and economic backgrounds, asking them if they "agreed" or "did not agree" with certain statements on views of family.  More than 70 percent of women said they agreed that a woman should change her name at marriage.  And half said "yes" when asked whether making the name change a state law was a good idea.

In some ways women like Rogers have "reverted back" after their mothers' generation were pioneers who retained their own names.

"Baby boomers are more likely to define themselves as feminists than young adults, even if their children share more liberal views," said researcher Powell.

An examination of The New York Times wedding announcements from 1971 to 2005 revealed that about 18 percent of brides kept their own names.  Only 1 percent did in the 1980s, according to the 2009 study published in Social Behavior and Personality.

The ultimate decision is really tied to how women perceive their identity, researchers said.

"One woman said I did change my name when I married my husband and I was sorry, because I lost my original identity as a person," said Powell.  "But many focus on the collective identity of a family or their identity as the spouse of a husband."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio