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Half of Americans think wives should be REQUIRED to take husband's last name

What women's lib? 70 percent of Americans think women should take spouse's name after marriage

BY Rosemary Black
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Wednesday, August 12th 2009, 4:00 AM

With this name, I thee wed: The majority of Americans think women should take their husband's name after marriage - and half think it should be the law to do so.

Newly minted brides should do more than vow to love their hubbies for a lifetime, say the majority of Americans. Some 70 percent of the respondents in a new study feel they should also take their spouse’s surname - and 50 percent say that it should be a legal requirement for a woman to take her spouse’s last name.

The study, presented Tuesday at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, was done by the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University, as reported by USA Today.

Some 815 people were asked multiple choice and open-ended questions about a variety of family and gender issues. On the issue of marital name change, the majority of respondents weighed in with a fairly conservative answer, says Laura Hamilton, Indiana University associate professor and lead study author.

“The results were surprisingly conservative,” she says. “Even though there is a general movement toward neutral language, like saying chairperson instead of chairwoman, people seemed to feel it was better for a woman to change her last name to her husband’s.”

She said that the fact that half of American thought this should be a legal requirement was also surprising.

“Americans don’t want much government intervention in family life, so for 50 percent of Americans to feel this way was interesting,” she said.

Only 5 to 10 percent of women keep the name they were born with when they marry, Hamilton says. She notes that some studies show that younger women are more likely or as likely to change their name as baby boom brides. “It’s not a straight age trend,” she said, according to USA Today.

When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.”

Other respondents said they felt the marital name change was essential for religious reasons or as a practical matter.

“They said the mailman would get confused and that society wouldn’t function as well if women did not change their name,” Hamilton says.

Americans who feel that women should take their husband’s last name also tend to be conservative in other areas, according to Hamilton.

“Asked if they thought of a lesbian couple as a family, those who believe that women should take their husband’s name are less likely to say yes,” she says. “If you’re more liberal about the name change issue, you tend to include a larger population in the definition of family.”

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Tags: marriage, sexism, women
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