One of the things I recall learning somewhere (yeah, that’s not a good source) is that in academia, women tend to not change their names upon marriage because of the difficulty of having publications under two names because readers fail to recognize that you are the same person. Is this a real phenomenon, and is this the real reason, or is there another reason or a set of reasons? I can think of the following obvious reasons:
- It’s literally difficult to get along in academia if you have publications under different names. I was under the impression that one of the functions of professional librarians is to collate publications under a single author record, even if one went to the printing press with “John P. McDonald” as the author and another went to press as “J. Percival McDonald, Sr.”. The librarian is supposed to figure out that they are the same person and formally catalog the publications under one author record. Is this not the case? Are librarians as a profession actually unable to deal with substantive name changes such as establishing an Author Record that says, “Johnson, Mary Ann - SEE Smith, (Mrs.) Mary Johnson” that points to the Mrs. Mary Johnson Smith record that contains references to all of her works published under either name? Do any academic departments actually have policies or practices that academic publications published under a name other than your current one cannot be considered as your own? E.g. “Sorry, Mrs. Mary Smith, your past publications on quadratic hypotenuses were published under the name Mary Johnson and cannot therefore fulfill the requirements for an appointment to a professorship under your current legal name. Good luck for the future, the door is over there.”
- It’s actually a matter of most women in academia being liberal types who think that keeping their maiden name is the right thing to do for a proper feminist because taking a husband’s name means you “submit to the Patriarchy”, and name changes for other reasons, such as religious conversion, are considered more favorably. For example, if Ali Muhammad Akbar, a published academic, converts to Christianity and takes the name Timothy John Peter, does he literally forfeit his academic record and wipe his CV clean, or is it a matter of following up to make sure that libraries don’t goof up the name matching process?
- It’s just a social tradition that may have had valid practical reasons in the past, but now it’s “just the way it’s done here, you should do it too if you want to make it in academia and have the respect of your peers.”.