Mrs. George Prior

jestcafe.com-benedict-cumberbatchWhat is your opinion on  being addressed by your husband’s name in letters or invitations? I understand that it is a tradition here in the US to do so and that people mean well, but, what if you didn’t change your last name? What if your name is completely different than your husband’s name? What is the right thing to do?

Part of the dilemma is that some women take offense about NOT being called Mrs. (husband’s name), while others take offense on being called so, which brings me to the question: if you are writing a letter to a couple, how should you address it? I think that if a woman has changed her last name to her husband’s last name, it’s OK to address the letter to the last name they have together, but it’s not necessarily OK to address the letter to the husband’s name, e.g., Mrs. George Prior.

Personally, I would like to be addressed by my name instead of Mrs. George Prior.  Some of my friends think I am overreacting because of where I come from. In Chile women don’t change their last names, but it is still a culture full of machismo.

Am I overreacting? Should people keep on addressing women as Mrs. (husband’s name) or is it time to change this tradition?  I would love to hear your opinions on this.
Finally, can we talk about how cute Benedict Cumberbatch looks in the picture above? It was taken more than a year ago but I still love it. I really liked this campaign Elle UK did in 2014. Check it out if you haven’t done it before.

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16 replies
  1. Arielle says:

    I didn’t change my last name when I got married, so I know that struggle. I don’t get offended when people assume I did, but it does irk me when people who know I didn’t still address me as Mrs Husband’s Last Name (hello, in laws!). People can also ask some insulting questions when they don’t understand the decision. That said, I don’t always help the confusion. I’ll sometimes just use his last name when we’re doing something together and it’s easier than giving two names. I guess it’s something I feel strongly about personally, but don’t feel the need to make a big deal about most of the time. Always love hearing from other women who kept their names – nice to feel you’re not alone!

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      My sister in-law didn’t change her last name, and that encouraged me to not change mine, so it is true! It is nice to feel you are not alone.

      Reply
      • Leslie says:

        It is preference of course and I support whatever anyone is comfortable with.

        But I think it is unreasonable to get offended if people follow tradition and call you by your husband’s last name. I live in the South and my kids go to a pretty conservative school. They are learning ‘proper’ manners that include greetings. At school the kids are trained to look people in the eye, shake hands and refer to adults as Mr. and Mrs. X. I think that is okay and a nice way of showing respect to adults. How is a kid supposed to know if the woman kept her own name or not?

        This summer when we were in Canada, a woman got extremely offended when our 16YO referred to her as ‘Ma’am’. I was very surprised at how offended she was actually and felt bad for our daughter who was just using the manners she had been taught. My husband and I had to explain to the woman that referring to adults as Sir and Ma’am is polite and expected where we live. I felt awful for our daughter who was extremely embarrassed and I couldn’t believe the woman made such a big deal about it.

        In some ways I think going with tradition is simpler for the kids and helps them know who belongs to what family. I use my husband’s name for that reason. If I had a career where I was identified by my last name I would have kept it for sure though. The reality is those definitions are changing and we all need to be flexible.

        Reply
        • Mila says:

          I totally agree that everybody should be patience and respond without anger. I am very sorry about what happened to Erin… that woman might have been angry at other things, not only Erin. What I do, when people call me Mrs. Prior or Mrs. George Prior, is to correct them. I don’t get mad, but I do always try to correct them in a respectful way.

          Reply
  2. Summer says:

    Okay… This is a sensitive topic for me. I want to be known as me. Not just as my husband’s wife. I have been married for almost 5 years and I still have not changed my name. I love my hubby. But, I am a free woman and have the rights that men do have. And that includes being my own person. I am okay with being called by his surname when doing some business etc. But really, I don’t think I will be doing a name change.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      It is a sensitive topic for me too. I also decided to keep my name and I don’t like to be addressed by my husband’s name.
      Now, the topic about changing your last name is very personal. Some of my most feminist friends have changed their last name, while other friends that do not care for feminism have not. Each of them have their personal reasons that rarely have to do with women’s rights, don’t you think?

      Reply
  3. Carina says:

    Hi Mila. This is an interesting post! I tried commenting on the day you posted this, but was interrupted and never published the comment! Ha! So, I am back. I wanted to share that here, in Canada, most people don’t use the husband’s first name to address a woman. It’s only happened once to me (in 19 years of marriage), and I was so surprised… Haha… for a brief moment I thought it was a type-o, thought that they had meant to address the letter to my husband (Mr…) and mistyped it. Then I realized it was intended for me! To each their own, but I like to be addressed by my own first name. When I married, I took my husband’s last name, but also kept my last name as a second middle name. Good for you for doing what felt right for you! Take care.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      That is interesting. I didn’t know Canada has a different tradition. The truth is that here is not that common anymore, and I do not like it when it happens to me.

      Reply
  4. Liz says:

    Hi! Nice to discover your blog. And I could not agree more!! I took my husband’s last name after a lot of soul searching and am happy with it, but still become so frustrated with “Mrs. Brian Scott.” I have my own name! I also don’t really like Mrs, just across the board. It bothers me that female pronouns depend upon their marital status while men always get to just be Mr. When planning my wedding this was the one big fight I had with my mother – how to address married couples, I refused to write Mrs. Hisname, but she knew some aunts and such would be offended. So odd. This is such a fraught topic and one with no real right answer it seems. I have realized taht every person has their own reasons for doing or not doing certain things so I try to just be open, listen and respect whatever it is they may have done!

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      I totally agree, we need to be respectful of the opinions of others. I also agree with your opinion about the use of Mrs. I do not like to be called that way. I only use Ms. I don’t know how is it relevant for others to know the marriage status of a woman and not a man. These are little details, true, but they are a symptom of a bigger problem. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  5. Liz (Montgomery, I see there is another Liz here) says:

    I think this is not simply an issue of taking a husbands name at marriage or not. There is a difference between being called Mrs. Prior and Mrs. *George* Prior. I find the latter offensive and backwards. A wife has her own first name, even if she chooses to take her husbands name in marriage. Mrs. George Prior gives you no personal recognition as an independent individual and implies you are a husbands property.

    Reply
    • Mila says:

      You are right! Big difference between Mrs Prior and Mrs George Prior. Some people might assume that you changed your last name, as so many women do, but that doesn’t mean that they should address you by your husband’s first name, too. On another note, after writing this post I found out that some of my friends’ mothers like to be called Mrs. husband’s first name – husband’s last name, so, this is also a generational thing.

      Reply

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