My mother’s name was Carol Goldsmith Heines.

When I was growing up in the seventies, it was pretty unusual for a married woman to use her “maiden” name. I knew my mother had gone to court in Houston to get hers back, and I was proud of her for resisting the status quo. One result of coming up this way is that I am totally dogmatic about women taking their husbands’ names. I don’t get it, I don’t believe in it and I’m not tolerant about it. I also believe that children should have a combination of their parents’ last names and that civil marriage should run on a time-limited contract system, but that’s another day.

My mother died in 2004. The first thing I did with my inheritance was pay to have her name-change order framed. It reads, in part,

In re Change of Name of Carol Heines Jacobowitz

This, the 8th day of May, 1972, in the above entitled and numbered matter, came on to be heard the application of Carol Heines Jacobowitz to change the name of Carol Heines Jacobowitz to Carol Goldsmith Heines . . .

First, that her full name is Carol Heines Jacobowitz, and that she resides in said County of Harris.

Second, that she desires to change her name so that it shall hereafter be Carol Goldsmith Heines, and that the causes which induce her to desire a change of name and to adopt the name given to her at birth are: . . .

(b) That she was married on September 29, 1967 . . . and since that time has used the name Carol Heines Jacobowitz which has resulted in the loss of personal identity which she formerly had with her maiden name . . .

My mother kept this document for thirty-two years, long after there was any threat that the said County of Harris would force her to take back her married name. When I was going through her books, I found math texts from graduate school (she was ABD at CUNY when my parents moved to Texas) in which she had carefully crossed out the “Jacobowitz” written after “Carol” on the flyleaf and substituted “Heines.” And in a kitchen drawer I found a yellowed New Yorker cartoon showing an infant being christened, with the caption “Just a moment, please. I would like my mother’s maiden name included.”

Another thing I grew up hearing about was my own name change. Four years after she regained her birth name, my mother and father went to court to insert “Heines” after my existing middle name. Unfortunately, they got the same judge, who denied the petition and told my mother, “I let you ruin your life; I’m not going to let you ruin hers.” This story was so outrageous that I thought of it as a feminist fable, of a piece with Womenfolk and Fairy Tales, Penelope and the Mussels (scroll down), and “Stories for Free Children,” which were perforated so that you could neatly pull them out of your Ms. magazine. However, when I had to go searching for Mom’s social-security number recently, I came across the actual papers: an “Order Denying Change of Name of Minor” from May, 1976, followed by a “Decree Changing Name of Minor” in July from a different judge:

The Court finds that it has jurisdiction of the subject matter and parties to this cause and that the requested change of name would be in the best interest of the minor.


Along with these were two news clippings, undated but very yellow, which I reproduce in my mother’s honor and in memory of all those brave women who just didn’t see the point of submerging their own identity in their husbands’.


Lowell, Mass. (AP)—City Councilwoman Gail Dunfey, who married recently, has won a temporary restraining order from [sic] barring City Clerk William F. Busby from using her married name on roll calls.

Miss Dunfey, who uses her maiden name in politics, refused to respond nearly a hundred times recently when Busby addressed her as Mrs. Sinicki, her married name.


Nashville, Tenn. (AP)—A married woman has gotten her maiden name back because she wanted to maintain a legal identity separate from her husband.

Probate Judge Shelton Luton, who restored Victoria Moulton’s maiden name of Victoria Gits, said Friday it was the first such case he’s ever had.

Victoria, 24, said her married name “never really agreed with me from the very beginning.” She has been married for more than three years.

“I tried to adjust to it as the years went by, but it became less and less consistent with my beliefs,” she said.

Her husband’s reaction to the change, she said, was favorable.

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