She’s a Millennial, and had no idea why the designation “Ms.” was invented. When I told her, she was surprised and intrigued.
In case you have young people in your life who don’t know, before the invention of the honorific “Ms.,” women were either Miss (maidens; i.e. never married), or Mrs. (married or widowed).
While men have always been called Mister regardless of marital status, women were denied this privacy.
To my warped way of looking at it, it seems this was intended to designate who was or wasn’t virginal/available, regardless of the woman’s preferences.
During marriage, women lose their names completely. Thus, if I, Janetta Dos Flamencos, marry John Smith, I become Mrs. John Smith. Every trace of my brilliant and colorful “maiden name” is erased.
This realization led to the popularity of hyphenated surnames, but if you’re just linking your dad’s name with your husband’s, what’s the point?
Later, if John dies, I get my first name back: the designation “Mrs. Janetta Smith” indicates widowhood.
During the feminist awakening of the 1960s-70s, we resurrected “Ms.” as a counterpart to Mr. It is neutral as to marital status, thus giving women the same privacy as men.
Not everybody fell in love with it. I remember being mocked, as in:
“Will Mmmiiiiiiiizzzzzzzz Lynne Kuswa please come to the office?”
Now it’s accepted, and used as the default, unless, per the Emily Post Institute, a woman specifies her preference for Miss or Mrs.
Remembering this change, which happened just as I reached adulthood, makes me sigh with weariness. Like so much about feminism, the reasons for its necessity are forgotten. The fight is forgotten. So it was gratifying to see the young woman’s eyes widen in disbelief when she found out that this all occurred.
A few years ago, I happened to mention to my 30-something son that there was a time when women couldn’t get hired as firefighters or police officers. He is very bright, but he was shocked. And I was shocked that he hadn’t known.
This isn’t ancient history, folks.
My mother was 5 years old when women got the right to VOTE in this country! And that was after a long fight in which women were jailed, went on hunger strikes, and were force-fed with tubes for the right to vote! In case you’ve never seen it, watch this trailer for the unforgettable, triumphant, Iron-Jawed Angels with Hillary Swank.
We really have come a long way, and sometimes it saddens me that young women take equality for granted. On the other hand, doesn’t that presumption of equality make them stronger?