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University of Oviedo, Asturias, Spain


The naming convention in English-speaking countries (e.g., USA and UK), and several others in the Western culture, where women traditionally have adopted their husbands’ surnames, is compared with the naming convention in Spain and Latin America, where women do not relinquish their maiden surnames. From a cross-cultural perspective spanning over three centuries, from Madame de Staël and Virginia Woolf to Hillary Clinton, this essay renders instances of women who took on the surname of their spouse upon marriage. It  appears that even nowadays many women, including feminists, choose to comply with this patriarchal habit. Entanglements arising upon divorce or remarriage, such as traceability and perception of selfhood, especially    for women with academic and professional profiles, are discussed here. Samples collected from life and   literature across a fairly representative cultural range and diverse moments in history help to reach conclusions and come up with a consistent argument. Winds of change seem to be blowing with Vice President Kamala Harris, whose case is mentioned at the end of this essay. To circumvent the confusion for individuals and families (especially “blended” ones) that could result in the discrimination between males and females, on the one hand, and on the other hand, between married and unmarried women, the Spanish naming convention is proposed as a perfect compromise. This consists in every person bearing two surnames from birth and for good: one of each parent. Thus, women would keep their name(s), and along with them their perception of their self and their social and professional identity.


naming conventions, surnames, cross-cultural approach, women, feminism, career, literature, politics, Spain and Latin America, USA and UK, Europe

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