A READER ASKS Is That Miss Or Mrs. Robinson?

Dear Lily,
                I never changed my last name after I got married for professional reasons. Recently, I started dropping off my granddaughter at school and when her teacher referred to me by my granddaughter's (and my husband's) last name, I politely corrected her, telling her that I go by my maiden name. The teacher has started to call me Miss ______ which for some reason just doesn't sit well with me, I feel it's inappropriate for a woman my age (I'm in my late fifties). I don't want to make a big deal out of it by mentioning it to her but just out of curiosity I was wondering what is the right way to address a grown woman like myself who is married and has kept her maiden name?


Dear Louise,
                      since it has become very commonplace for married women to use their maiden names regardless of professional status, to avoid confusion the most accepted form of address is 'Ms.' when referring to any woman over the age of eighteen when you are unsure of her marital status or preference.
If the lady is married, she can be addressed by either form, 'Ms.' or 'Mrs.' accompanied by the last name she prefers and uses. For example, if a married woman has never changed her maiden name she would be referred to as Ms. Jones. If she has changed her name to her husband/partner's, she could be referred to as Mrs. Brown or Ms. Brown. (If the woman is single and over the age of 18, the form 'Ms.' would be used once again.)
The term 'Miss' is usually reserved for a single woman under the age of eighteen (and for some reason makes people think of an old maid or spinster if used in reference to anyone older 30) so I can understand why you might feel a little discomfort with someone using that form of address with you.  While I am sure the teacher didn't mean any harm by how she addressed you, there is nothing wrong with politely correcting her the next time she addresses you in a way that makes you uncomfortable.


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  1. It's interesting that the reader wants to know the correct etiquette for someone else rather than herself.

    Just because one doesnt legally change their name doesnt mean other wont make an attempt to connect the dots.

    I didnt legally change my name but go by my husband and son's last name. It's unifying. I dont know why someone would be so insistant on making sure people know they dont have the last name as their children.

    Anyhooooo perhaps our reader should just introduce herself right away rather than correcting people in public.

  2. What's troublesome (but not bothersome, just troublesome) is that I remarried after my sons' biological father and I divorced. Some of their acquaintances at school (where I also teach!) call me Mrs. "Their Last Name". I try to fently correct them, but soemstill dont get it. What will be funny is that if they end up having me as a teacher. Then they'll be really confused!

    Thanks so much for your sweet comments and prayers. We certainly felt them!!!

  3. One shouldn't worry about teachers. In my experience all female teachers get called 'Miss' by their pupils, and probably it is infectious. Also, to many women of a certain age 'Ms' carries connotations of 'new-fangled man basher'. It's completely wrong, but there it is nonetheless. Of course, 'Miss', 'Ms' and 'Mrs' are all short forms of 'Mistress', so if one can get past the peculiar associations one might take objection to all of these titles as nineteenth-century throwbacks. What do I call my wife? 'Dr', of course.