In my generation, it was a given that if you got married, you took on your husband’s name. If Mary Jones married John Smith, Mary Jones dropped her maiden name and took on her husband’s last name and Mary Jones became Mary Smith or Mrs. Mary Smith. Many of these women chose to omit their own name completely and took on the full name of their husband so that every legal document was signed Mrs. John Smith.
Then, for a long while, hyphenated names became popular. Mary Jones, after she was married, became Mary Jones-Smith letting the public know that she now had a husband. But, that was in the days when women didn’t change husbands as often as they changed underwear. With the divorce rate being so high, hyphenated names can get confusing. If a woman has been married four or five times, she can end up with a name like Mary Jones-Smith-Forrester-Thompson-Kelly-Griffin.
There are many reasons that women want to keep their own last name and it has nothing to do with feminism. In many cases, it has more to do with the fact that women are getting married later in life and they have spent more years as a single woman than a married woman and they want to keep their identity. Or it could be less complicated for the children with several stepfathers when they register for school.
In other cases, women have gone into careers and have built up a reputation under their maiden name and it’s too confusing to try to get the public to get accustomed to their new name. If an author has built up a solid reputation as Mary Jones, her readers will keep looking for her books under that name. It wouldn’t occur to the average reader to look her up under any other name so they wouldn’t be buying her newer books.
In the entertainment industry, Elizabeth Taylor remained Elizabeth Taylor no matter how many husbands she accumulated through the years. The men didn’t become Richard Taylor or Eddie Taylor and she didn’t become Elizabeth Burton or Elizabeth Fisher, and yet no one batted an eye, so why is it such an issue with couples who aren’t in the entertainment industry?
Then, there’s the matter of a credit history. If the woman has a great credit history and her husband does not, she could be denied credit based on her husband’s bad credit.
For whatever reason, it seems as though more women are opting to keep their maiden name than ever before and, in time to come, it may become the accepted norm.