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HUSBAND AND MAIDEN NAMES: HOW WE GOT HERE!

I think I am a little too curious about things that one might even dismiss. I remember a certain middle-aged lady who bear the name Elizabeth Moore, a Nigerian of the Igbo descent. I was so curious why she decided to bear two English names, more over, I felt pity for her because I had thought she was single and unhappy. Relief came my way when I had met her in church and grew a more familiar relationship with her.

I had taken it upon myself to visit her and help her with chores as a little girl. Then on a certain day I stumbled on a document with the inscription Mrs Elizabeth Moore- Muodebelu. Then it dawned on me that I was wrong the whole time. She had gotten married in her prime but was widowed  and had three children who had all left home. Her father was an Ghanaian who had come to work with the John Holt company in the eighteenth centuries. Being a teacher, she decided to keep her maiden name due to documentation and added her husband’s name with an hyphen.

This had occurred a couple of years ago but  curiosity still lead me to dig into how women began to to take up their husband’s name.

In the first place, it isn’t followed across the world, and second of all, it wasn’t there in the first place.

This was common practice until the 1970s, and even then, purists insisted upon it.

This was because it was assumed that the husband would buy or build the house, and the wife would come and live in it.  So his last name was the name of the house.  With royalty, “house” became a lot bigger and involved several houses.  (With commoners, the last name was often the trade or profession of the husband or some sort of weird “son of” thing.)  So Prince Charles, if he had a last name, it would be Tudor, but one of the privileges of being royalty is that you don’t have to use your last name.

However, women in English-speaking cultures found this troublesome and got upset about it around 50 to 90 years ago.

So they kept their first name but used the last name of their husband, which was a good idea when the husband was the one with the credit rating, but is totally obsolete now.  Now, of course, marriage in most states doesn’t involve a name change for the wife.  You have to pay extra to get a name change.

With Africa having been colonised by the British. It is no surprise that women take up their husband’s names but this may also vary in cases where the woman in question could have done previous documentation with her maiden names, therefore the husband’s name tends to be for social purposes while her maiden name is rather used for formal purposes. So far so good, its different strokes for different folks.




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