When I was married there really wasn’t much option for women in Ontario about changing their name to adopt their husband’s name. While it was certainly not law it was “expected” and apparently has been the practice for about 200 years in the English speaking world.
While some believe it is an honour to carry a husband’s name I personally believe it is more a badge of ownership and allowed men to treat women as their possessions rather than equals.
In my life, while I happily took my husband’s name, I also kept my maiden name as part of it because of my professional life as a writer. I wanted people to know who was writing an article if it managed to have a “by line” on it. Giving up my maiden name was also difficult because I was the last Guiler in our line. I was the only child of an only son, of an only son and that meant if I gave up my family name it would be no more. Proud of my heritage, I could not bring myself to do it.
Having my husband’s name was somewhat of a convenience when it came to having children in the school system. It was certainly much easier to identify parents to children, considering they carried their father’s name. And so I kept the name for all these years, using the hyphenated version, without much thought.
After the death of my father in 2011 I started to think I needed to change my name back to my maiden name and last year went to inquire of a lawyer about how to make that happen. With about $300 on the table and lots of good intention the process was begun and I filled out forms and mailed off my birth certificate (original required) to the Province of Ontario.
Several months later I received a letter I didn’t understand which stated that I didn’t need to change my name because it had never been changed in the first place. I was confused and took it to the lawyer.
My lawyer, a busy man, took a long time to get back to me but finally a secretary with some savvy figured out what the message meant and called me back. She explained that in Ontario when a woman marries she “adopts” her husbands name but her birth name is still hers to use unless it is formally changed. In short my name had never been changed, I was just borrowing my husband’s name.
The secretary at the lawyers office was as perplexed as I was about why I had payed to have my name changed, when in fact, my name hadn’t been changed at all so made a case for a refund which I received forthwith.
Two problems remained. One was that all my identification carries the name Delahunt. The other is that I was unable to change my name back to Guiler on said ID because my original birth certificate had been mailed to the Province where, after looking it over, they had summarily disposed of it. So then I began a rather tedious process of restoring the document with a new one. Bless their hearts, they saw fit to wave the $25 fee and today at long last, after almost 18 months of messing about with it, I finally have my birth certificate and can go to change my drivers licence and my health card back to Guiler.
I do believe this process will have to wait until after next Monday’s federal election though or I will have trouble casting my vote.
And yes Peggy and Margaret are the same person but that’s a whole other blog.