Not a question - a rant about name MRS.

+8 votes
298 views

Just finished an afternoon of reading obits, at the local genealogy research center, for the cemetery project I'm working on, and reached overload on Mrs. so-and-so's.  The final straw, was reading an informative obit for Elizabeth Sophie Werner McGuire nicknames, Betty and Betta.  The obit listed many  women singing at and attending the service, but not a first name for any of them, just Mrs, so-and-so.  The topper of it all, was Betta having so many names to choose from, not one of them written in her own obituary, just referred to as Mrs. McGuire.  You'd think they could have called her Elizabeth or Betta (her preferred name) just once.  How and why did women loose their first names? 

in The Tree House by Patricia Roche G2G6 Pilot (428k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
What era and which part of which country did this outrage occur?
One of my ancestors is simply referred to as Betty, when she is mentioned at all, in baptismal records in the first two decades of the 1800s in England. In older church records in the Austrian Empire women are only referred by first names. In Colonial  Mexico, on the other hand, women did not loose their maiden names.

1998, in the very far as you can go, northwest corner of USA. Had it been back in 1700's, in deep south, would have rolled eyes and read on, but at my advanced age, 1998 is seems like just a few yesterdays ago.  

In that year, they shouldn't even have been Mrs - Ms would have been the correct prefix.

Never mind the 1700's - I live in the deep south right this minute and that kind of stuff is rampant here still - makes me nuts!!!
Good point, Gaile. Not up on proper prefix use, but she had been widowed 28 years prior to her death in 1998.

Yes, but George, they had a lot of surnames to CHOOSE from

Mexican Last Names: Frequently Asked Questions • FamilySearch

Ah, "should" and "should not" ... for 1998 in a much less isolated location, you are correct  and Ms might well have been used for younger women (Elsabeth was in her 80's and not in her 50's, for instance) and "Mrs." I gather from what Patricia said was "well represented" but not from the 1990's -- but this community was geographically and topologically (terrain) nearly isolated ... I read that Wikipedia and just shuddered ... 

I googled, being curious, been a long time since I read Miss Manners, Dear Abby (and her sister) and Emily Post ... I do NOT know if this helps EXPLAIN what Patricia was irritated by

ARTICLE on addressing a wedding invitation -- A widow is traditionally addressed as Mrs. John Jones, but if you feel the guest may not want to be addressed that way, it's completely okay to ask her how she prefers to be addressed. A divorced woman who has kept her married name should be addressed as you suggested -- Ms.

Mrs. - Wikipedia

https://en.m.wikipedia.org › wiki › Mrs.

Mrs was most often used by a woman when married, in conjunction with her husband's first and last names (e.g., Mrs John Smith). A widow was and still is addressed with the same title as when she was married. 

A very long term friend of my parents was unmarried, but had a successful career as a department store buyer.  She married much later in life - I think in her sixties, maybe late fifties.  Her husband lived in Richmond, Virginia and was in the upper crust of high society there.  He was considerably older then her, and after his death she continued her social upper class life.  When I moved to Virginia in the 1990's, although I was about 80 miles from Richmond, she insisted that I come to visit.  She took me out to dinner at one of the fancy shmancy private clubs her husband had belonged to, explaining that normally a woman couldn't go there as head of a party, but she had "widow's privileges" there.  We couldn't go through the main entrance though - we had to use some side entrance.  I was already trying to hold in what I thought of all this when the last straw happened.  She introduced me as Mrs. Gordon Goetsch and when I bristled, she privately explained that married or widowed women were known by their husband's first name with Mrs. in front, but the husband's first name was replaced by the woman's maiden name for divorced women (Goetsch was the last name of my first husband, which I kept after divorce because it seemed easier to have the same last name as my children).  I absolutely could not believe the metamorphosis of this woman, who had been a pioneer in a man's world during her career!

laugh Classic example of Survival Tactics ... she adopted, in a chameleon-like way, the coloration of her chosen milieu ... she may have entered on her spouse's coattails but she remained upon the terms set by the social matrix ... choice of "fitting in" or of being isolated and she chose to "fit in" ... she may have done the same when younger and in her chosen professional field and very likely did so ... successful tactics are not discarded very often 

PS// Just to be fair, it's known that even unsuccessful tactics are not discarded often enough 

In New Zealand - first country to give women the vote - my mother-in-law could always get me going by insisting that I was Mrs (husband's name) Price.
Hmm. Jean, having the legal right to vote (for women) didn't always translate into other legal rights ... for instance, my mother's life didn't settle down until the 1950's when a law was passed ref to real estate which left her with a vested interest in any real estate -- and barred my father from selling out from under her any more property "they" had purchased to live in ...

So it is perhaps possible that in New Zealand, even though women could vote, perhaps they could not own real estate, or have a bank account in their own name or any number of other provisions

I don't know where the rest of my fellow WikiTreers live, but in my neck of the woods, many a married woman still calls herself "Mrs."

I guess we never received the memo that said that title's use had been phased out!surprise

Maybe we'll be up to date by next millennium.

Lindy, nothing out of place, being called Mrs. Jones, but if you received an award or did something significant enough, to have an article in the newspaper, wouldn't you want to have a name between Mrs. and Jones, either Lindy or your husbands name?  How would anyone know who is being recognized if all they say is Mrs Jones, did . . . .  If the last name is very unusual, then yes, Mrs Szurechpicnic or such, would be identified, without a first name.  In reading those obits, all the men mentioned had first names, no  Mr Anderson or Mr Johnson, but no women had a first name, to identify them,  they were just Mrs Johnson, Mrs Swanson, Mrs Anderson, etc.

But the obituary was not for mecheeky, so my preferences are irrelevant.

And, as I never use titles for myself, especially erroneous ones, I would never accept an award that used one (unless it included a few million Bennies!!wink).

The obituary you reference just points to the fact/opinion that not everyone follows the same temporal "their conventions," even within the same country.surprise

And that's another reason that genealogy is so fun!!laugh

6 Answers

+3 votes

 Ah, Elsabeth Sophie “Betta” Werner McGuire (1913-1998) - Find A Grave Memorial m. to Charles J.; married using "Betty" [Jefferson Co marriage index, no dates etc, just names] 

Jefferson County, Washington - Wikipedia

I advance a what do I call it? Hypothesis (not proven) Factoid (has the appearance of fact, untested) 

Jefferson Co, estab. 1852; 2010 pop was 29K+; the county is the one and same ONLY incorporated town in the county (Port Townsend) 

Geography and terrain leaves the county somewhat isolated in Washington State and the eastern part of the county is pretty well isolated from the western part with one more or less road connecting them and the CENTRAL part is not inhabited ... 

Anachronistic in many ways apparently including communal forms of address 

So I venture to say women did not "loose their forenames" in this particular community just that the community hasn't quite joined the 21st century and due to geography and terrain might well never do so -- might still be clinging in many ways to the early 1900's social forms

by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (467k points)

laugh that the community hasn't quite joined the 21st century and due to geography and terrain might well never do so -- might still be clinging in many ways to the early 1900's social forms.

Yep - that is us.  

I think of Port Townsend as rather advanced in comparison to most of the Olympic Peninsula, but old habits die hard.

Recently I went through records from the late 1960s for  a civic organization in the community where I live, and was surprised to see that some women I know (or knew) as assertive and independent were all identified as "Mrs. Robert ___" or "Mrs. John ____." That was surprising. But even more recently (last week) I was shown a plaque listing donors to a new community facility, and was appalled to see that the donors were identified with names like "Mr. and Mrs. Donald ___" and even the occasional "Mrs. Scott" (no first name for the woman or her husband). I know these people, and I don't believe that the women who gave money in 2018 and 2019 are going to appreciate that listing! (But the person who created the plaque apparently thought that was the proper way to list married women.)
Takes about 3 or 4 generations for a social structure to be replaced by the "new one" -- what was unthinkable in 1920's was visible in the 1960's and in the 2000's it is commonplace and ordinary (paraphrase of many people's comment)

Been an interesting discussion indeed --
The Mrs. thing is apparently all around me, and I just hadn't noticed, till finishing paragraph two of that obit, and wanted to scream, THESE WOMEN HAVE NAMES - WHAT ARE THEY
+3 votes
From what I've seen many wikitreers use Mr.and Mrs.as titles, but neither adds anything to the name.It's not Captan or Admiral or Lord of Lady, etc.
by David Hughey G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
I remember when I registered my business corporation, I was required to have a title when I signed my name.  I appointed myself to the role I most often performed for the business - gave myself the title Janitor, but my lawyer said I couldn't do that - he made me be president instead.

Hmm, I wonder if I should enter that on my profile as a prefix - could you just see having to address me as President Connolly?  Janitor Connolly would still be more accurate, though.

I googled <is Mrs. a rank?>  

Mrs. (American English) or Mrs (British English; standard English pronunciation: /ˈmɪsɪz/) is a commonly used English honorific for women, usually for those who are married and who do not instead use another title (or rank), such as Dr, Professor, President, Dame, etc. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs.]

Hmm. An 'honorific' expresses high status, politeness, or respect.  Well, I can recall when it was discovered that a woman stayed home and was a housewife and a mother that she was openly scorned ... If she didn't hold down a job outside the home for wages / salary (esp. salary) she was a failure.  If I recall she was also held accountable for keeping interior of the house clean and neat. As well as being clean and fragrant herself in the event of a more spontaneous moment with the Sig. O.I remember that era. 

Or as a friend said about being a woman -- "The first 50 years are the hardest. After that, it's all downhill." 

I have no problem with honorifics per se, but how do they provide any new information to a wikitree profile?  I believe I would have made Carolyn (Barrow) Rmsey a great 2nd husband, but we never had the chance to get married.
+4 votes
My mother always hated this, the way she disappeared behind her husband's name the minute she married.  For me, the worst example of this was Mrs. Pat Murphy, who died in a ditch.  Pat was her husband's name.  She was an alcoholic, who was found dead of hypothermia in a ditch where she fell after she stumbled out of a saloon in the late 1800s in my county.  She was the mother of 7 children.  I've never been able to figure out her first name.  She's buried in a small cemetery which didn't keep records.  She doesn't have a tombstone.  There's no probate record.  Pat Murphy is too common a name for me to figure out which Pat Murphy he was, especially with few records in my local county for that time period.  So there's just that one ignominious record of her existence.
by J. Crook G2G6 Pilot (202k points)
+3 votes
I've been married longer than most people here. At the time we married it was a liberation. I'd been away from home and self-supporting for more than three years but was still under-age when we married. While my parents couldn't have forced me to return home they were still responsible for me. I assume, though don't know, that my husband, just 21, became my legal guardian, but I never felt my identity had disappeared. I'd just grown up early. I really didn't mind being called Mrs Joe Bloggs or whatever and we didn't receive enough very formal invitations for it to crop up very often. What I resent nowadays is that institutions or every kind think it's okay to use my first name without invitation. Even government organisations refuse to acknowledge the reality of our marriage. (Winter fuel payment is split in two and paid on separate occasions into the same joint and only bank account we have ever had) etc. We aren't one person but the reality is that being married is the most significant thing about us. How we earned our living is secondary and varied through time. Yet if you ask my husband he would tell you that I was a very liberated young lady when we married and he has never been able to force me into subordination, nor would he want to. I really don't know what all the fuss is about. I'm quite happy being Mrs Joe Bloggs.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (264k points)
Being addressed as Mrs. Joe Bloggs is indeed a show of respect, and had you been noted in a news article, as such, would be identified as the wife of Joe Bloggs, and readers would know you were being referred to.  My outrage is focused on the loss of identity for these women, due to this being a community with very large families and each of those Mrs Swanson, Mrs Johnson, etc. could have been any one of a dozen women.  Years later as we read these accounts, hoping to find clues about a person's life, all that could be gleaned from that obit was that. one of the many Swanson men's wives sang and one or more of the many Johnson men's wives were there, etc, etc..  It was meaningless, since no matter what the event, surely one or more women, with the mentioned surnames, would be there, but which ones. It seemed very disrespectful, to write so many words, that said so little, about the life of a person, who has grown so dear to me, as I work on her WikiTree profile
+4 votes

Being called by your first name shows a degree of familiarity with the lady concerned.  To show respect, newspapers would often call her 'Mrs'.

I find it amusing (and old-fashioned) that, because I am a woman of 'a certain age' i.e. 60, I am often called Mrs Haywood. Simply because either I am old enough to be married, or because it is respectful to call me 'Mrs'. Even though I have never been married.

Oh, and by the way - it's 'lose', not 'loose':
1) You lose weight, control, or your first name
2) You let sheep run loose in a field

by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I thought it was charming to say they did not loose their maiden name (but rather, they clung to them, he could have gone on to say)
Thank you Ross. I should check into the Grammarly program, as I have a bad habit of letting my fingers type away, while the brain is busy elsewhere, or napping.
+3 votes
The ones that still drive me crazy are the census records after the husband has died. I have some that, on first look at the index, make him appear to still be alive. On further inspection of the actual record, there is the widow still listed with the husband's name. For instance: Widow of William Field but only the William Field is indexed. Another one says Mrs. (husband's first name) and then last name.
by Virginia Fields G2G6 Pilot (625k points)

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