The decision to marry Aaron was an easy one. The idea of getting old together was a natural and comforting thought. So I was a little surprised at how anxious I felt when the conversation came up to change my name. I’ve always loved my independence, but I also love the idea of a name unifying a family. After doing a little research I found that the practice of women keeping their last names was first introduced in the US by suffragette Lucy Stone in the 1850s. That trend toward women keeping their maiden names after marriage peaked in the 1990s, when about 23% of women did so. Nowadays, although the decision continues to spark some debate, research shows more women are taking their new husbands’ names. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality, by the 2000s only 18 percent of women were keeping their names. Among the many factors that guide the decision, one study reported that women who married when they were 35-39 years old were 6.4 times more likely to keep their names than women who married between the ages of 20-24.
In the end I decided to, like Hillary Rodham Clinton, take Aaron’s last name and make my maiden name my middle name. I’m Bernice Huang Wolen - and although it may not be the easiest name to roll off the tongue, it feels right and I feel happy.