To Ms or Not to Ms?

Even after all these years giving your title as Ms can still raise a few eyebrows.

I’ve been Ms since I discovered the term, way back in the seventies. I could never understand why only women had to publicly declare their marital status, although clearly the answer is tied up with women becoming their husband’s property on marriage etc. Along with so many things I assumed it would be in standard use by now and forms, documents etc, would just be Mr or Ms but of course that’s not the case, and many women fiercely defend the title of Mrs. It is beyond my ken as to why women would want to lose their identity in this way, even more so when addressed by their husband’s full name losing all of their own, but each to their own. When I ask why I’m usually told ‘I didn’t much like my own name anyway…’ I respect their views but I view it as one more way women are subtly discriminated against in the equality stakes. I have received much adverse comment over the 37 years of my marriage for not taking my husband’s name on marriage, let alone not being a Mrs!

According to Wikipedia the term Ms has been around since the 17th century and used when marital status was unknown, fell into disuse and was revived in 1901. It’s often credited with appearing in the late 1960s but its pedigree is much longer. Despite that some institutions will not use it as per this quote from Wikipedia:

Some etiquette writers and famous figures do not support the use of Ms., including Charles Kidd, the current editor of Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage, who claims the usage is “not very helpful” and that he had been “brought up to address a married woman as Mrs John Smith, for example”.  The former British Conservative Party MP Ann Widdecombe stated “I can’t see the point of Ms and I don’t see it as an issue”.

So it was refreshing to read that a female high court judge, traditionally called Mr Justice or Mrs Justice,  Alison Russell, has asked to be known as Ms Justice.

“This is now official nomenclature,” said the spokesperson. “On her appointment – 13 January 2014 – she asked the lord chief justice, with the support of the president of the Family Division, if she could use this title, and he approved her request.”

A very small but significant point. These changes take time but even the British Legal system is catching up.

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Posted on May 28th, 2014 by

4 Responses to “To Ms or Not to Ms?”

  1. Jayne Saul-Paterson says:

    It’s a good question and discussion Jane. I have to admit I have used both – pre-marriage I was always Ms and then because I was feeling great about being married – I used Mrs but it’s another reminder of inequality in how we present ourselves. Perhaps to follow on from that – I chose to keep part of my surname Saul as my married name and my husband also adopted it, so we are Saul-Paterson. Some women now keep their maiden names in marriage and my father-in-law recently changed his name to my mother-in-law’s maiden name now that’s progress for you !

    • Jane says:

      It’s a mine field. Even the term ‘maiden name’ is laden with connotations. My name ‘before I was deflowered?’ 🙂

  2. A good question. When I got married, relatively late in life, I was already established professionally so didn’t change my name. And I tend to stick to Ms as my title for most situations, such as financial and professional ones, as I’ve been using that all my adult life. But I also quite like being Mr and Mrs when we’re doing something like going on holiday as a family. I love being married to my husband, and marriage has added something rather than taken away anything from what I was before. So it’s quite nice to be able to use both Ms and Mrs, and to be able to select the title that feels right for the situation.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Felicity. Interesting point. I love my husband of 37 years too, but nothing on earth would voluntarily make me Mrs A.Dunlop! Although hearing it on the phone usually alerts me that’s it’s a cold caller…He occasionally gets called Mr Woods though.

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