Thursday, March 17, 2016

What’s in a woman’s name?

Mary Moore and Val Vaillancourt on their wedding day in 1946. PRMA 1973.531.044
We have heard, it seems forever, women have no names except for that of their husbands – that women are obliged to take their husband’s family name and thus become known as Mrs. So and So, not acknowledging the fact she has a name given her at birth by her parents, such as Mary or Anna.

Agreed, there are cases in which it has been the fault of women for letting this happen – on the other hand – society and a sense of decorum has been the dictator. There have even been women who have the audacity to not relinquish their family name for that of their husband.

Also, too, there were times in the early years and still, today, journalists/newspapers chose to refer to women by their husband’s name because of its political acceptability.

That’s how it was in the early years – not only in Peace River, but elsewhere. The practice created some difficulty for researchers, whether from newspapers or people seeking genealogical information and for women themselves who value – what they consider an important aspect of their identity – their name.

Most of us are familiar with what began as T. A. Norris High School, now T. A. Norris Middle School, named in honour of Thomas Albert Norris, proprietor of a Main Street furniture store – a man heavily involved in education and other important community aspects. According to one account in Peace River Remembers (Reprinted from 1955-56 issue of the Pioneer, Peace River High School Year Book): “Mr. Norris married [in 1901] and gained a companion, who gave him unfailing help and encouragement until her death in 1948. As well as caring for their children – two sons and a daughter, Mrs. Norris also served her church and community faithfully in a multitude of ways.” Nowhere in this particular article does it tell the reader this wonderful woman had a name. It is doubtful the exclusion was T. A.’s oversight – an oversight nonetheless. Research reveals her name – Lyde Jean – Etta, their daughter’s name.
So, what’s in a name? Much. Just think, April 19, 2016, is the 100th anniversary of Women’s Right to Vote in Alberta – does voting not require identity verification?

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