Single Mom Says It’s Time To Get Rid Of Ms, Mrs & Miss Titles To Stop Defining Women By Marital Status

Women don't need to be defined by relationships.

Women on a couch / Pexels

A single mom found herself inadvertently addressing issues of gender theory when she posted a question to the forum Mumsnet, an English website “by parents, for parents.”

She explained that she ordered a lamp at a store recently, and as the store clerk put her details into the system, she asked the mom, “Are you Miss, Ms., or Mrs.?”

The shop assistant qualified her question by saying, “I hate asking this, I find it so embarrassing,” and the mom clearly agreed. The mom identified herself with the title Ms. even though doing so made her uncomfortable.


“I was there with my daughter, so in that one exchange, I’d divulged I was a single, unmarried parent,” she said.

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She wants to get rid of Ms, Mrs, and Miss titles to stop defining women by their marital status.

“If I was a man, they’d be Mr. and none the wiser as to marital status,” she said, pointing out the inherent inequities of honorific titles.

“I know I could say Ms., but does any married woman really use Ms.?” she wondered. “It got me thinking, why do we need personal titles?”

“With the increasing desire by the younger generation to not even be defined by gender, identifying women by their marital status feels so outdated.”


‘Isn’t it time we abolished women being defined by marital status?’ asked the mom.

She has a valid point, since relationships are constantly evolving, including every form, from marriage and divorce to those who never marry and live with friends.

A sharp uptick in unmarried adults in the US lends even further credibility to this mom’s wish to do away with honorific titles based on marital status.

A report released by The Pew Research Center, in which they analyzed 2019 Census data, found that 4 in 10 adults, ages 25 to 54, were unpartnered.

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The history of defining women in relation to men is nothing new, though it is complex.


A research paper titled “Mistress, Miss, Mrs. or Ms.: untangling the shifting history of titles,” published by Amy Erickson in 2014 delves into the complicated origins of titles for women.

Erickson found that until the 19th century, most women were addressed without any prefixes before their names. Not only that, but Mrs. and, later, Miss were both restricted to women with higher social standing.

The introduction of Ms. as a neutral alternative to Miss or Mrs., and the direct equivalent of Mr., was proposed as early as 1901.


Activist Sheila Michaels is named as having first utilized the title Ms. in 1961, as a way to signify a woman’s inherent right not to be defined in relation to men.

Michaels stated,  “There was no place for me. No one wanted to claim me and I didn’t want to be owned. I didn’t belong to my father and I didn’t want to belong to my husband – someone who could tell me what to do.”

As our societal relations to both marriage and gender shift in form, maybe it’s time to rethink our use of honorific titles, especially for activities as innocuous as buying a lamp. 


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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers celebrity gossip, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.