What Happens When a Woman Gives Her Daughter Her Last Name

In an essay for The Hairpin yesterday, Molly Caro May wrote about giving her daughter her last name instead of her husband’s. “It didn’t feel revolutionary to us,” she said of her and her husband's decision. She hoped for no reaction, “...for our choice to be as common as saying, “I went with the mustard instead of the ketchup.” Instead, she was met with applause in some corners and surprising resistance from women and men who called themselves liberal. Both the praise and criticism confirmed that no matter how open-minded or feminist we believe ourselves to be, we still assume that children will take their father’s last name, or (if we’re really accepting) at least a hyphenated combination of the two parents.

May wrote, “Giving a child the father’s last name is still a given. And that given preserves the man’s place of power, from the Supreme Court on down to the everyday Joe. How can that still be the case? Why, I wonder, are we so slow on this one? It seems lazy of us.”

Robin Morgan, leader in the radical feminist movement of the 1960s, told MAKERS about her son taking her last name. Partially, she admits, it was a convenient choice: he’s a working musician and “Blake Morgan” is a great stage name. But the co-founder of the Women’s Media Center still danced around when he told her his decision, saying, “Yes yes yes, the matriarchal line!”


What do you think? Is it time we accepted mothers’ last names as the new norm? Tell us on Facebook.