Run, don’t walk, over to Flavia’s place to read about the data-crunching she’s done on surnames of married women whose wedding announcements appeared this summer in the New York Times:
So this weekend, my dears, I decided to do some valuable procrastination in the service of collecting cold hard marriage data. I skimmed the 500 most recent NYT wedding announcements, from May 1st until yesterday, and recorded how many women in heterosexual partnerships kept their last names, took their husbands’, or did something in between. I also recorded their ages.
. . . . . .
[A]rmed with a primitive spreadsheet, I decided to investigate. I can break the numbers down in detail in the comments if anyone cares, but the short version is this: of 450 heterosexual marriage announcements, 75% clearly indicated whether the bride was changing or keeping her name. Of that number, 30% kept their birth name outright, with an additional 10% “continu[ing] to use [their] name professionally”; hyphenating their last names with their husbands’; forming a new shared surname; or indicating that they would be using their maiden name as a middle name, à la Hillary Rodham Clinton. The remaining 60% took their husbands’ names.
Moreover, from this sample, there is not a strong correlation between the age of the bride and her decision to keep or change her name. Women who got married at age 26 and younger showed almost exactly the same 40/60 split as the data set as a whole.
Isn’t that a dedicated act of social history research, friends? Especially interesting are her thoughts about why this project made her think that the question of changing or not changing surnames just isn’t that important any longer. Hints: the internets, social media, and gay marriage. Go read the whole thing! Read the comments too–I think her project highlights the power of number-crunching while her commenters point to its limitations, which was a subset of our conversation last week about languages and the turn away from cliometrics. (Many of you regular readers and commenters found this post before I did–see the technical note below.)
I think Flavia makes a great point when she says that at least for women, for better or worse it’s rarely all or nothing, no matter which name we choose to use or whether we try to combine or use both alternately. I regularly get called Mrs. Fratguy, which I’ve decided not to mind, especially when people are just trying to be friendly and respectful. Interestingly, he also gets called Mr. Historiann (NOT Dr. Historiann), which I think he finds amusing because he never corrects people who call him that. I’ve noticed that they *do* apologize to him if they realize their error, which is something that rarely happens to me when I’m called Mrs. Fratguy. But, hey: we chose to get married, so we have to carry some of the luggage even if we didn’t pack it ourselves. Married heterosexuality is mostly about privilege, after all.
Technical note: For some reason, I’m not getting links and trackbacks to my posts, so if you are a blogger and you write a response to something I wrote, please shoot me an e-mail. I just discovered this post by Flavia today, 3 days later, and I would have liked to have seen and replied to it much sooner, since she linked to this post of mine from a few weeks back about surname tsuris in one family.
Also, yes: this blog was offline for most of yesterday, because of some server problems in Dallas. Sorry for the inconvenience–but this is a non-profit shop, so sometimes you get exactly what you pay for, friends!
17 Responses to “Surname follow-up: Flavia crunches the numbers and says “wev.””