There were a few other comments after that (post #105) about the practice, but it got me thinking. I knew (probably from books) this was an old-timey custom, but I’d never seen it in practice. But I do remember being weirded out by a scene in the movie The Wedding Singer, which was made in the '90s but set in the '80s, in which a woman about to be married plays out introducing herself as Mrs. Husband’s full name in front of a mirror (along with her first name and his last name.) Was this a thing women still did in the '80s? Maybe just in certain classes/regions/subcultures? When and where have you seen it done?
I worked with the elderly for many years and saw / heard this ad nauseum from my clients. However, I have never heard this used from anyone a baby boomer or younger. Of course now I work with teenagers so take my data point with whatever size grain of salt necessary.
I remember getting told off by my grandma (the crazy one) for calling her by her own actual name, not her husband’s name. I thought it was weird AF at the time. Other grandma (the sane one) always used her real actual name, as did my otherwise-hyper-proper aunt.
The only other time I recall seeing a “Mrs John Smith” situation in the wild was giving out name tags at a rather formal event in college in the late '80s. And that was just a couple of them, and they were probably old (well, I was a teenager - they ALL looked old).
In 1998, I attended a graduation at a High School sponsored by the DAR. The DAR ladies were introduced with their husband’s full names. It was the only time I had seen that in the wild, and you don’t get more old-fashioned and formal than DAR ladies at a ceremony. So there is a datapoint for 1998, but it was really weird, even then.
My aunt left a garden club in the 1980s because they insisted on the practice. Again, very old fashioned even then.
So I would say the practice really died out all but completely by the late 70s, but lingered in patches another 20 years. I don’t know when it started to go–I would assume the early 60s, but I don’t know.
I was married in the 80s and have been fighting the practice ever since. My grandmother used to write checks to me made out to “Mrs. His Name.” And I still occasionally get a piece of mail addressed that way. Well…hmm… I have in the past decade, for sure, although it’s become rare. I give those to my husband, saying, “they got your gender wrong”.
I haven’t heard of this being used except in jest by generations born since the 60’s. Only place I really hear it anymore is when someone recently gets married, as in “Congratulations Mrs John Smith!”. Its old terminology, like calling a grown woman a girl.
It was an old fashioned convention. It wasn’t a married woman’s legal name, when women didn’t want to be referred to that way anymore it disappeared rapidly. It was one of those cases, rare cases I suppose where traditional behavior disappeared without great opposition. So many more aspects of the cultural treatment of women did not change so easily.
“Mrs. John Smith” is definitely generational. In my work, I interact semi-regularly with setua- and octagenerians, and it’s certainly not absolute, but it’s not uncommon.
“Mrs. Jane Smith” (wife changes surname to husband’s) is still quite common, though, at least in this part of the country. I’ve been married twice (once in 1990 and once in 2013), and both of my wives took my surname. The first one gave it back, FWIW. A co-worker got married a year ago September, and she took her husband’s surname.
FWIW, the wedding I told about was in 1988. Wife’s Mom would have been about age 65 then.
Today in 2020 my wife is a member of the local Episcopal church. I am a devout heathen, participating in exactly zero of that stuff.
Every bit of mail the church sends is addressed to
Mr. & Mrs. HusbandFirstName SharedLastNameThatWasOriginallyHusband’s
So compared to Mom who reduced her daughter’s identity to an “s”, the church 30+ years later has upgraded her all the way to an “Mrs.” She’s gained 3 whole letters and a dot, none of them specific to her.
Perhaps in another thousand years she’ll get her own name. One can hope.
These days I see a lot of “The SharedLastName Family” or “The Combined LastName-OtherLastName Family”. Just makes everything simpler. The last name issue is separate, plenty of couples will choose one of their last names to share, but it’s really silly in the modern world to refer to a woman using her husband’s first name.
Yes, I agree, and I’d relate it to practices like “Miss Smith and her sister Miss Susan”. The point of it is to locate the woman within a family structure, because it’s assumed that her primary life is lived within the family unit - certainly not out at a workplace or anything unladylike like that - and also that most of the people she interacts with know enough about her married family that “this is Mrs John, not Mrs Edward” gives them useful information about her.
It became irrelevant and useless when women started living lives where lots of their contacts wouldn’t know her husband if they tripped over him, and certainly not whether he had any brothers (or she had any sisters)
I should have mentioned that the church mail here in 2020 stands out precisely because it’s the one and only such example we still receive. Everybody else from marketers to personal correspondents to bills has managed to catch up to the modern usage.
I kept my last name, but we sometimes get mail addressed to Mr. and Mrs. HisFirstName HisLastName. I don’t mind - especially if its something like Christmas cards from his coworkers, who have no clue what my last name is, and probably would have to dig deep to come up with my first name.
I do remember Mrs. John Smith being preferred by a few older women in the 1980s. But you had to be at least 50 (or a stick in the mud) to want to be called that even then. I suspect it hung around in some circles (i.e. the DAR) and regions (i.e. the South more than California) for longer than in other places.