Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A "maiden name" is the family name previously carried by a woman who is now married and uses her husband's name. A maiden name may be indicated using the word "née" (pronounced as either "nay" or "nee"), from the French for "born", hence Margaret Hilda Thatcher née Roberts.
The term "maiden name" has been disliked by many American feminists since the 1970s. Some prefer the term "birth name", which may also be used for those who changed their name for other reasons. Those who find the traditional term offensive say it demeans woman by labeling them according to their sexual status, "maiden" (being a synonym for "virgin") and being construed as meaning the woman's father and then husband had control over her body and "branded" her with their names to signify that control.
It has become more common, especially for feminist-minded women, to take their husband's name but put it before their birth name—for example "Kate Luyten" marries "John Smith" and becomes "Kate Smith Luyten" or "Kate Smith-Luyten." Sometimes both husband and wife will adopt a hyphenated name consisting of both surnames; this can cause a further dilemma a generation later, when Jane Smith-Luyten marries John Brown-Clarke. Alternatively, some women choose to drop their middle names and shift their old surnames to the middle, then tack their husbands' surnames on the end. This practice is virtually unknown in the United Kingdom, however.
In many English-speaking countries, it was for a long time the usual practice for a woman to change her name upon marriage unless she was engaged in some profession under her own name, although that was never the law except in a couple of states in the U.S. The American suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone (1818–1893), wife of Henry Brown Blackwell , made a national issue of the practice as part of her efforts for women's rights in the U.S., and women who choose not to use their husbands' surnames have been called "Lucy Stoners" ever since.
Laws respecting married names vary. In areas whose legal systems derive from the English common law—such as the USA, much of Canada, and the UK—a name change usually does not require legal action, because a person can choose to be known by any name (except with intent to defraud); this is why authors, actors, and step-children, as well as married women, can adopt new names without taking any legal action. In many jurisdictions whose legal systems derive from the civil law—such as France, Spain, the province of Quebec, and the state of Louisiana—however, the default position is for a woman's "legal name" to remain the same throughout life: Women there who wish to change their names legally must usually apply to do so via the same formal procedure as any other citizen who wishes to change a name.
Legally and commonly, Chinese and Korean women do not, as a tradition, discard their maiden names after marriage. In modern day, some overseas Chinese women, join their husbands' surname, so Miss Huang who married Mr. Li may become Mrs. Li Huang. This double surname practice is not found in China and Korea.
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