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Current Western tradition dictates that a woman is to take her husband’s surname upon marriage and pass it along to her children. In order to explore the reasons behind today’s relatively unchanging adherence to this trend of patrilineal surnames, surveys on marital name choices as well as publications on historical origins of the family and of family names were consulted. Some view this patrilineal trend as sexist, citing societal pressure and the patriarchy as forces compelling women to follow the tradition. While these factors do affect surname trends, the oppressive roots of the patrilineal surname run deeper than sexism. Further research revealed that sexism is not a main motivator or cause of patrilineal naming; the establishment of the permanent, patrilineal surname is linked to imperialist oppression, forced assimilation, and racism. In order to combat the oppressive structures working within surname tradition, it is suggested that people critically examine the naming practices they adhere to, and use that insightful analysis to break down said structures.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Gender Sexuality and Women's Studies, Humanities and Sciences, Sociology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary Shelden


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

Is Part Of

VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


© The Author(s)

The Implications of Patrilineal Surnames