Name of the game for brides these days is 'Anything Goes'

February 15, 1993|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Staff Writer

When the new first lady announced she would be known as Hillary Rodham Clinton, recognizing the maiden name she had retained long into her law career and marriage, many brides-to-be reviewed their reasons for changing -- or retaining -- their surnames.

"I'm keeping my name. I would never change it for anything," says Kate Masterton, a Washington attorney in her early 30s who will marry Baltimore engineer Jay Hergenroeder in May. "And I also think that all the commentary about Hillary's name has been ridiculous."

Ms. Masterton practices federal regulatory law for Donelan, Cleary, Wood and Maser. She graduated in 1987 from Washington College of Law at American University.

"I've been sorely disappointed that not one single woman who went to law school with me has kept her name when she married," she says. "I wish I could explain it. I would just think that professional women would want to keep their names -- the fact that you've got your name on so many degrees and certificates."

She says, however, that her decision to keep her name has raised a lot of eyebrows.

"Most people react negatively. My mother thinks it's an outrage. She thinks that if I loved my fiance enough I would take his name.

"But each of us was raised as an individual person. For one of us to give up our name and take the other's name is like erasing the past. Your name is the defining fact of your personhood. When people ask, 'Are you going to change your name?' I respond that my fiance and I have discussed it and that we've decided that neither one of us should change our names. That addresses the issue that only a woman loses her personhood when she gets married."

Mr. Hergenroeder points out that the debate about whether a married woman should keep her maiden name always concentrates on the names of any future children. "I think a woman should have a right to call herself by whatever name she chooses, it's her identity," he says. "On this issue, though, people don't think about the identity of the woman. They immediately think about how kids might be psychologically affected by parents with different last names."

More and more children are facing that situation: Ronnie Mens, operations manager for Downs Engravers and Stationers, says it has become common to print birth announcements for parents with different last names. She estimates that about 30 percent of the brides who register for stationery at Downs are keeping their maiden names.

lTC Like many professional married women, television anchorwoman Mary Jo Walsh will use two names when she marries her fiance Dr. Paul David Gilmore in May.

"As Mary Jo Gilmore, my private life really will be my private life," says Ms. Walsh, a graduate of Towson State University and the morning anchor at WHTM, the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg, Pa. "And I think my husband will be glad not to have his name on the air all the time; this decision gives him some anonymity too."

United States Department of Justice employee Jackie Wilson, on the other hand, has decided she will become Jackie Muldrow after her wedding to Carl Muldrow in May. But the 32-year-old Baltimore resident says the name Muldrow is taking a little time to get used to.

"I'm practicing writing it," she says. "I've seen it in print a couple of times and it doesn't look so bad. I figured that's the name that comes with the man, so I'll take it. . . . I don't think it changes my identity to change my name, I still feel I'm the person I've always been."

Whenever a client asks Baltimore native Lauren Abelson how to spell her current name, she advises them to write it in pencil. The 25-year-old account executive at Jonathan Martin Fashion Group in New York is very excited about becoming Mrs. Joseph Goldenberg this spring.

"Both myself and my fiance are a throwback to the past," she says. "We both had great childhoods growing up in loving families where the positions were clearly defined: The mother was motherly and the father was the head of the household. I want to take on that role that my mother had, and my fiance feels that it is his responsibility to be head of the household.

"Taking on those traditional roles includes my changing my name," she says. "And it doesn't mean that I'm any less of a career woman or any less independent. I know a lot of people who keep their maiden names and a lot of women who keep their maiden names professionally. And as far as I'm concerned, it's whatever suits you."

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