Mrs., Miss, or Ms.? Married or Not?

The question is a valid one. These days, it is rare for a woman to be introduced as "Mrs." or "Miss" anybody. Usually it's the first name, and occasionally the last name, that we are told when we meet someone. Our forgetfulness or the fact that we may never have known what a lady is titled has caused the "Ms." title to make its way more frequently into our usage.

The question of "Mrs., Miss., or Ms." could fall into several categories. It could be an etiquette question, or relate to grammar, or social issues and relationships. I want to show you that the true realm at stake is much deeper than any etiquette or grammatical question. The usage of "Ms." instead of "Mrs." or "Miss" has philosophical roots in feminism.

A feminist.
A feminist. | Source

"Mrs. or Miss" was the age-old question.

Before the 17th century, Ms. was the abbreviated form of "Mistress," which indicated that the lady was married, or in charge of a household. "Miss" and "Mrs." began to be used in the 17th century to show the difference between a married woman under her husband's headship, and an unmarried woman under her father's headship. "Mrs." was used with a lady's husband's first and last name (eg. "Mrs. John Smith") and never with her own first name (eg., never "Mrs. Julie Smith"). "Miss" was used for any woman who was not married, with "Miss" and the last name alone used for the eldest daughter in the household, and "Miss" with both the first and last name used for all other daughters in the household.

A great example of this is in Jane Austen's book, Pride and Prejudice, in which she refers to Jane, the eldest daughter of the Bennett family, as "Miss Bennett," and the younger sisters as "Miss Elizabeth Bennett," "Miss Mary Bennett," "Miss Kitty Bennett," and "Miss Lydia Bennett."

When a girl or woman was introduced, spoken of, or had her name appear in print, her title of Mrs. or Miss always accompanied her name. This was an honor. It showed belonging. No one could be in doubt of her position in a family. The use of Mrs. or Miss provided the benefits of masculine headship—no one could assume that this lady was without a man's guidance and protection in the world. She was not independent, or acting on her own. Rather, she identified herself as the daughter of her father, or the wife of her husband. If anyone wanted to contact her or address her, they had to be aware that she was a one-man woman, protected physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, by her lawful head. When she interacted with the world, she acted as a representative of her head: carrying out activities, purchases, deeds of charity, hospitality, etc., in his name. Again, it was an honor to carry a man's name, to represent him, and to live with a status symbol that connected herself to him.

It was an honor to be under authority.


Where did this idea of headship come from? God instituted it in the Garden of Eden, and explained it in His Word.

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. ...the woman is the glory of man. For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. -1 Cor. 11

Showing Honor by Using Mrs. or Miss

1 Corinthians 11 (shown in the blue sidebar) delineates that the woman was created for the man, and he is her spiritual head, just as Christ is the man's spiritual head. It makes reference to Genesis 2, the account of the creation of man and woman, in which God says, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helpmeet comparable to him." Woman was created to help the man, to complement, encourage, and work alongside him in his God-given endeavors. The woman was not created to be independent, but to be united with a man in his vision. This is known as headship.

The use of Mrs. and Miss are one way that society, through the last four hundred years, has created a symbol of headship for a woman; much like the head coverings used in the early church showed a symbol of authority on the head of a woman, Mrs. and Miss are used to show that a lady is dutifully, joyfully, and appropriately under authority, and to reflect honor and grateful submission to her spiritual head.


Feminism and Ms.

These are hard words for the women of the modern world. Women have been told they are most fulfilled when they are independently living out their own desires in the workforce, forming their own identities, and not affiliating themselves with any man. Feminist writer Eve Kay, in her article, "Call Me Ms," defines the days after the 17th century, when "Mrs." and "Miss" were common usage, as "a more refined era of oppression." She continues, "Miss and Mrs are marks of the old world, reminders of women's second-class status as wives-to-be (Miss) or simply wives (Mrs)."

Marriage used to be an honor for a woman. It meant fulfillment, protection, and purposeful, joyful work with the person she loved more than anyone else in the world. The wife was filling a role only she could fill, with honor and dignity working as an equal alongside her husband and under his authority. Now, feminists like Eva Kay consider marriage a type of bondage from which a woman needs to be "freed." We can imagine the only person she loves more than anyone else in the world is herself. Eva Kay says that "the whole point of the word [Ms.] was to give women a title that makes their autonomy central, not to highlight their relationship or absence of relationship, to a man."

"Ms. is being adopted as a standard form of address by women who want to be recognized as individuals, rather than being identified by their relationship with a man." -Ms. Magazine editors

Ms: the Autonomous Woman

The current use of Ms. instead of Mrs. or Miss is very new to society, having originated in 1961 with radical feminist Sheila Michaels, who found a typo on a piece of mail belonging to her roommate. This got her thinking about using "Ms.". Michaels says,

"[I] was looking for a title for a woman who did not 'belong' to a man. 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 a husband—someone who could tell me what to do."

From there, she began advocating the use of Ms. in her workplace and amongst her friends, but didn't receive much enthusiasm until 1971, when a fellow feminist, Gloria Steinem, heard Michaels use the term on a radio program, and then convinced Michaels to start a magazine called "Ms." for autonomous, feministic women.

Now, the magazine reports on "women's rights," publicizing sins against women done by men, rooting for pro-abortion legislation, praising women in political and church leadership: all portrayed crudely, with crass and awkward references to things that should remain private, completely destroying the dignity and difference of women as they were created to be.

A piece of legislation also came out during the early seventies, advocating for the use of "Ms." on legal forms for women who did not want to make known their marital status. Since then, the term has grown in popularity, first being used by divorced women, and later spreading to all women who consider themselves autonomous (auto-nomos: a law unto themselves), not under the headship of a man, and out representing their own agenda in the world.


So... Mrs, Miss, or Ms?

As anti-God language has seeped into our culture's communication, Christians have often adopted it without question. Among the words we have adopted, the title "Ms." now holds a prevalent place. Whether we have been conscious of it or not, when we use "Ms.," we are using a word symbolizing autonomy, the opposite of obedience to the law of God. The result of this autonomy is a movement that has destroyed the family by promoting abortion, confusing the woman's role in society, and leaving many homes, husbands, and children without daughters, wives, and mothers. (For statistical evidence of the destructive nature of feminism, read Women Who Make the World Worse by Kate O'Biern.)

When faced with the question, Mrs, Miss, or Ms, think carefully about what you use. If you enjoy autonomy, if you support the feminist movement, if you really couldn't care less about identifying yourself with your father or your husband, then go ahead. "Ms" was made for you. But if you are a God-loving, Bible-believing, authority-honoring daughter or wife who loves her influential role in society as a woman under authority, then take your "Mrs" or "Miss" and embrace it.

Comments 43 comments

Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

Thanks for the history lesson, Jane. I knew that both Miss and Mrs. are short-forms of "Mistress," but had no idea why one was chosen for unmarried women and the other for married ones. Further, I had no idea that Ms. was older than both Miss and Mrs. and fell out of use in favor of the Miss/Mrs. abbreviations.

But I take issue with your assertion that the feminist movement is responsible for leaving many homes without daughters, wives and mothers. Really, time is what leads adult daughters to leave home--time and maturity and independence. If I had a daughter, I'd want her to leave home when she reaches adulthood and can earn her own living.

It's true that the divorce rate has risen since the advent of modern feminism, but it's not the moms who abandon their children. Typically, it's the mom who must raise the children on her own, sometimes with little or no support from her erstwhile husband. Further, most women do not leave their families just to fulfill themselves or indulge a midlife crisis: they leave their husbands because of abuse or infidelity, and take the kids along.

And of course, it's also true that men abandon their families at a far higher rate than women do.

Finally, I don't see how devotion and independence are mutually exclusive for a woman (or for anyone).

Mamara Marketing profile image

Mamara Marketing 5 years ago from Cape Town

I agree with Jeff.

Very interesting article historically Jane but, and it's a big BUT, I prefer to use Ms as I no longer fall under my father's headship as he (sadly) died some years back and as a divorced woman I no longer fall under a husband's headship. I was quite happy being a Miss until I was married and then became a Mrs for a short time.

I'm no fanatical, bra-burning feminist but I do believe in myself and was able to raise my child without the useless appendage that, for all intents and purposes, was referred to as a husband. He did what thousands of husbands do, he walked away from all his responsibilities. That type of headship most of us can well do without. So much for the honour of being a Mrs.

I know of many women who are proud to be known as Mrs but so am I proud of my Ms status - I've achieved what I have in life without Mr being my crutch and/or helpmate.

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I had never heard the history of "Ms." before. Very well explained. I use the "Mrs." status, but I don't really have an opinion one way or the other if other married women do, too.

Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

You really struck to the heart of the matter here, Jane. So easily has the term "Ms." become a part of our everyday vocabulary, that we don't think twice about what it means. In "Let Me Be a Woman", Elisabeth Elliot points out that feminism, in claiming to promote the freedom of women, is actually taking away the meaning of womanhood. Submission to male leadership is a part of the created purpose for a woman. Denying this fact, this part of our nature, results in the opposite of freedom - it keeps us from fulfilling our calling as women.

aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 5 years ago from American Southwest

Jane Grey, sorry for such a long comment, but you know you've hit a hot button with me!

"Ms." sounds unpleasant, like a fly's buzz, and I think I'm not the only one who associates an unpleasant attitude with the sound.

Jeff, I think your statistics are backwards about who's leaving whom. I can't remember what it was I read to be able to quote it either, but I challenge you to check into it. What I'd really like to see is statistics on how many happily married women believe women's studies classes instead of their own experience and divorce after the classes.

Jeff, if you have a daughter, I hope you'll at least ask what she thinks. I did live on my own at adulthood, for about 20 years, because I had no idea it could be otherwise. I think if I'd lived with my parents, I would have been happier and safer, and less vulnerable to men who preyed on my loneliness. I probably would have wondered if I was jeopardizing my chances of marriage that way. But I think it's just hard to meet singles in general after the college years, and I probably would have been unmarried for a long time either way. When you're on your own it's easy to listen to what a man says, ignore what he does, and only realize in hindsight how many men in the dating scene are looking for everything but marriage.

It is a real problem to know what to call a woman when you want to honor her with a title but aren't sure of her marital status. However, there's got to be a better way than "Ms." During my single years, I did not like being called "Miss", as it brought to my mind images of a little girl, which I obviously wasn't, or a Dickensian old maid, which I didn't want to be. But I at least felt if someone called me "Miss" their intentions were friendly. If someone called me "Ms.", I felt it was an insult; that they were assuming just because I was single I had no use for a man when actually I very much love Dad and wanted a husband to love too.

And I don't think women have changed much since Jane Austen's time in the status of "Mrs.". Spend some time in honest conversation with never-married 30+ women, and see how many of them, Christian or not, would trade their Ivy League degrees and jet-setting jobs in an instant for a husband and family.

Jeff Berndt profile image

Jeff Berndt 5 years ago from Southeast Michigan

"Submission to male leadership is a part of the created purpose for a woman. Denying this fact, this part of our nature, results in the opposite of freedom..."

Well, that's assuming the woman in question believes in your religion. If she does, and wishes to submit to male leadership, then that's just grand. Feminism is after all about women making their own choices, and if that choice is to submit, then that is (or ought to be) okay. The problem with your argument, though, is that your 'fact' is not in fact a fact, but rather an article of faith. There's a difference between the two and it's pretty big.

"I think your statistics are backwards about who's leaving whom."

Really? How many single-parent households are run by the mom, and how many are run by the dad? According to the Census Bureau, 84% of single-parent homes are of the mom-and-kids variety, while only 16% are dad-and-kids.

"What I'd really like to see is statistics on how many happily married women believe women's studies classes instead of their own experience and divorce after the classes."

I'd be curious to see those statistics too, but I suspect that most women are not so easily manipulated as you imagine them to be.

Amy 5 years ago

Hi Jane,

What a coincidence that you should choose this a topic!

One of my best friends and I were talking about these titles the other day, and it was the first time I had really thought about it.

It was neat to get this perspective from you.

I do have to chime in with those who disagree with your premise.

“Women have been told they are most fulfilled when they are independently living out their own desires in the workforce, forming their own identities, and not affiliating themselves with any man.”

There are a few things I take issue with here.

Why are independence, living dreams, and forming identities such negative things?

God made us each unique as people, with individual personalities, desires, and gifts. Nowhere in the Bible do I see that we should stamp that out of ourselves. It’s what makes you, you. Neither do I see evidence for forming ourselves around another human being. The only other place our identity comes from is Christ. It is, indeed, outside of man. It is our own.

As far as independence, look at the Proverbs 31 woman. She did all the wonderful things she did outside of her husband. Do you think she would have any trouble surviving on her own? She was such a good wife because she was such a go-getter. In fact, the passage doesn’t even allude to her husband instructing her to do those things.

The workplace is not the only place a woman can “live out her own desires.” A woman could very well live out her dreams at home. But another woman may be more suited and gifted in the work place. Why should we discriminate one way or the other?

What if a man’s desire was to stay home and raise the kids and do the cleaning for his wife?

Also, why are independence, identity, and dreams things that you cannot have while “affiliating with a man”?

“Marriage used to be an honor for a woman. It meant fulfillment, protection, and purposeful, joyful work with the person she loved more than anyone else in the world. The wife was filling a role only she could fill, with honor and dignity working as an equal alongside her husband and under his authority.”

The terms “equal” and “under authority” are contradictions. I used to believe that they weren’t. But logically, you cannot deny that they are phrases that simply cannot be used to describe the same thing. I work alongside my manager at work. I am under her authority. Therefore, we are not equal. She has a position that is above mine.

In marriage, this should not be the case. The positions “husband” and “wife” are in every way equal. Man and woman should live as partners, submitting to one another.

I am aware of the argument that says a man submits by “being loving.” How does that add up? A woman submits by submitting. A man submits by loving… What? Submission is submission.

Aethelthryth, you asserted that Jeff had his statistics wrong about who is leaving whom. And Jeff, you pointed out that “[a]ccording to the Census Bureau, 84% of single-parent homes are of the mom-and-kids variety, while only 16% are dad-and-kids.”

I think it’s probably closer to 50-50. Those stats only show who won the kids.

My point is that it’s not just men, and it’s not just women. Both sexes are leaving. Either sex could be at fault. Both sexes cause problems. Either sex can be the instigator of a divorce.

We’re all human, men and women. We all have problems.

Aethelryth, you also wrote:

“What I'd really like to see is statistics on how many happily married women believe women's studies classes instead of their own experience and divorce after the classes.”

You seem to have an extremely low view of women.

I think I can detect that, because I used to feel the same way. But why is your estimation so low? Put yourself in that position. Are you telling me that you, personally, as a woman, believe everything people tell you and are unable to discern what is right and what is wrong? Do you have any friends, or even many acquaintences that you would say would do such a thing as disregard their own experience and other things they have learned in the past so easily? I know very few females who would do such a thing, and on the flip side, I know the same amount of males who would be so easily manipulated.

“I think if I'd lived with my parents, I would have been happier and safer, and less vulnerable to men who preyed on my loneliness. […] When you're on your own it's easy to listen to what a man says, ignore what he does, and only realize in hindsight how many men in the dating scene are looking for everything but marriage.”

I don’t mean to sound rude or anything, I know tone is hard to pick up online. But did this happen to you? Were you very vulnerable and just listened to whatever men told you?

Again, there are certainly women who will do this, but there are also women who will not. I personally, at 20 years old, live at home with my family because I simply want to. But I work 2 jobs and am not home for long periods of time. I have to deal with men all. the. time. I don’t need my dad or my brother there to tell me, “Ohh, watch out! Look he’s manipulating you!” I know how to be discerning myself. I was raised that way.

If I ever raise a daughter who cannot take care of herself (and others) and be wise and discerning, I will know that I went wrong somewhere.

And concerning safety and protection: Marriage does not guarantee either of those things. Just because a woman has a husband does not mean that she is automatically protected. She still needs to take care of herself, and is often the one protecting the children. Think about how many hours out of the week a stay at home mom is home alone while her husband is gone at work. Maybe he travels often, too.

A friend of mine wrote a really great piece about this here:

I have many more thoughts on this, but I suppose I’ve written enough for now. =)

banananut 5 years ago

Isn't it a bigger problem for women to define themselves based on the man in their life, be it their father or husband or significant other?

That said, isn't a problem that men are defined based on the woman in their life?

I highly doubt that Ms. has ever done any drastic measure to those of us average Janes in life. Ms. has great uses: in the business world it is hard to tell if someone you are emailing or writing a letter to is married, and using Ms. has less of a chance to offend then "Dear Mrs.." "I'm not married," or "Miss," "I'm not a young little college thing."

Saying that you must claim Mrs or Miss to be in ...shall we say polite society, just says that you can't claim who you are. Saying that you need to be under some man's authority in order to be safe and protected, and not throw your emotions on a man (so they don't prey on your loneliness) just means that you need to grow up. There's such a thing as being wise, and knowing when to trust people and when not to, and knowing how to set limits with friendships. Learning from your father is great, but there will always come a time in life that you are forced to rely on yourself and wouldn't, one could say doesn't God expect us to be prepared for moments that those?

Back in the day of bustles and breakfast biscuits Mrs and Miss had their role. This is the day of jeans and airplanes. Does it really matter what we call whom?

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Hi Jeff, Thanks for your time and your comments! You are right that our assertions are founded on Christian principles. The fact that the woman was created to be in submission to a man comes from Genesis 2, at the creation of woman, when God says "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." Eve was created as a being that is "comparable" (read equal in value & worth) to the man, and yet she was created to be his helper. The Bible calls these things facts, and because the Bible is declared by God to be His Word and self-attests to its truth, we take what we read in the Bible as fact, and when we talk about it to others, whether they are also Christians or not, we talk about it as fact, because that is what God wants us to do. If you'd like the Bible references for this, let me know.

I don't expect every person reading this article to agree with the Biblical point of view, but it is my duty before God to continue to write with the Biblical perspective of life and society forefront in my mind and words. There are many people who may never hear about how the Bible applies to every area of life, especially in the area of men's and women's created roles-- so I am to "teach" what I've learned from the Word.

So, thanks for reading and jumping into the discussion! I hope that clears up the foundational issue of disagreement that you noticed here.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Mamara Marketing,

Thank you for your comment! There are thousands of divorced women who wear the title "Ms." with pride, as you do, and the title "Ms." seems to fit you well. My goal is to caution the many married women and daughters who unwittingly carry the "Ms." title because that's what society puts on them, rather than rejecting it in favor of the title "Mrs." or "Miss" that more truly reflects their relationship with their husband or father.

As for you not being a bra-burning feminist-- that's good! But just be aware that the feminist movement has brought many ideologies into our culture that are harmful to the dignity and value of women. I can give you some examples of this if you are interested.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Randomcreative, good for you! The "Mrs." title is a beautiful one, deep with lovely meaning. I, too, don't take offense if someone wants to use the "Ms." title, but my goal is to make sure it is used with discretion, knowing that it is foundationaly rooted in feminism.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Rose West, I love that quote you found! "Let Me Be a Woman" is such a good book, too. Elliot words so well the Scriptural foundation behind womanhood, and how the created order for women is truly a more fulfilling, strengthening, noble thing than most moderns can imagine for themselves.

It's always a pleasure to have you stop by!

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Aethelthryth, I thought you might be interested in this topic! I appreciate you being willing to reveal your experiences of living on your own as a single woman but wanting to be a "Mrs." This certainly is a "hot button" for many people, I think, but it's definitely something every woman has to think of as she decides how she will present herself and what her title indicates to the world.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Hi Amy,

Wow, that is a coincidence! I started thinking about it because I get several pieces of mail that have all the titles with my name! It's funny, really. Hillsdale sends me a newsletter with "Ms.," American Heart Association with "Mrs." (?), and AiG a newsletter with "Miss." :)

Anyway, to get to some of the things you take issue with, I think I could maybe clear up a few things by pointing out that "living out dreams" is not something I consider a wrong thing for a woman, as long as it is done in obedience to the law of God, and with honoring her father or husband. Being able to function maturely and with a level of independence is also a Biblical concept, as you pointed out from Proverbs 31, because it means that a woman will be a greater help to her husband first, her family second, and society third. The Prov. 31 woman is out buying fields, selling merchandise, etc., with her husband's blessing, and done in her husband's name. We read that her husband praises her for doing well and "excelling them all" which definitely sounds like a woman living out dreams and pursuing opportunities! Also, her husband is "known in the gates" (in the place of authority), which we assume is due in part to his wife's wise acting on her husband's behalf. My point was more directed towards women who do these things without honoring the authority God placed over them, and with desiring to selfishly build up their own reputation.

But you are right that we disagree about the issue of submission in marriage. I know you've heard these verses before, but they are foundational to why I say that a woman is to submit to and obey her husband in marriage.

"That they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. " Titus 2:4-5

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." Eph. 5:22-24

"Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear." 1 Peter 3:1-2

Remember that Jesus Christ is equal in power and glory to His Father, yet submitted to Him, obeyed Him, even to death. Because Jesus submitted to His Father and was under authority, did that mean that He was not equal to His Father? Jesus also acted on behalf of His Father (John 17), and was more concerned about His Father's reputation than His own. He identified Himself as the Son of the Father. It is not a demeaning thing for Jesus to do this! It is the example of the perfect relationship, and how a husband and wife's relationship should be. The Son honoring the Father and acting in His name, and the Father glorifying the Son and giving Him His entire kingdom.

Callie 5 years ago

Jane, I thought your article was very well thought out, and I agree with you!

I have to say, I can think sometimes a single lady may prefer the "Ms." title over "Miss" without necessarily agreeing with feminism, because "Ms." has become such a common term in our society that the old (1970s) use of "Ms." to make a statement regarding a single feminist isn't necessarily the case with every "Ms." anymore. Actually, it's rather rare that I hear the term "Miss" used either (unless it's used by children toward a grown, single woman).

But if a married woman prefers "Ms." over "Mrs.", I think that is a very clear feminist statement. And on the flip side, I think as Christians, using "Miss" over "Ms." can be a deliberate statement in the opposite direction, showing that we do not believe in the feminist movement. Which is interesting - how the statement-maker has switched in the last 40 years. It just goes to show how much feminist ideology has ingrained itself into our culture, as you were saying.

CASE1WORKER profile image


My mum who is 81 had an advertisers letter addressed to her as Ms- she flatly refused to consider any of their products and put them in the bin.

I am known to my husbands friends and if truth be known to my husband as Mrs Flewitt ( my real name)- I am formally introduced as this and they all address me as this. To my friends I am Julie or something near that. I dont know why this happens, but it does. However at the restaurant where my middle daughter works, I am known as Mother Flewitt - I suppose that distinguishes me from my daughter. I have no idea why it is done- although my daughters are known as Miss and my son as Mr- maybe we just have an old fashioned way of addressing people.

Thankyou for this very thought provoking hub.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Callie, thanks for visiting! Always a pleasure to have you here and to hear your thoughts. :)

You're right about "Ms." becoming so familiar that it doesn't carry the stigma of feminism with it anymore. Many women use it and I don't want to make them my enemies, by all means! My goal with this article was to show the origination of the term, and perhaps to convince some not to use it--especially if they don't like the antinomian undercurrents that have been associated with it from the beginning.

That's a good point about how a married woman using "Ms." is more of a feminist statement. I would love to see more married women stand against the pressures of our current culture and show that they are not afraid to be identified by their covenant with their husband.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments! Hope you are doing well. :)

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 5 years ago from Oregon Author

Case1Worker, I love your mum's spirit! If only they knew what calling her "Ms." would do for their advertising!

Three cheers for your family's old-fashioned ways of addressing each other! I think that is the sweetest thing.

xyz 4 years ago

I'm not sure if "Ms." is solely applicable to divorced women - or in other cases either unmarried or married women. I guess it all depends on what the individual choses as her prefix.

In my understanding.. (I like to explain with examples.)

Miss is the prefix given to an unmarried woman.

Example; Miss Mowat.

Now, Miss Mowat marries Mr Davis. After marriage Miss Mowat has two choices:

1. Change her name from Miss Mowat to Mrs.Davis, therby adopting her husband's last name, or

2. Miss Mowat can now be called Ms Mowat because she does not wish to adopt her husband's last name. In this case she will be called Ms. Mowat because Mrs. Mowat would technically be her mother.

I believe that's how it goes..

bharmoriat profile image

bharmoriat 4 years ago from CHANDIGARH INDIA

people are know by who they are, and what they are called is immaterial. i won't like you because of the title or sir name u use. i would because of your behavior. call a person whatever he or she likes to be called.

and as far as the ' wives submitting to their husbands is concerned'. it has given me a lot of anger and anxiety. i believe my god has created every one as equal. the biggest proof of that is the way we are born and the way we die. we all are born out of our mothers wombs, and will die if our hearts stop or we can't breathe. god has created us all equals and mother nature does is not partial to anyone, anyone. so , if someone wants my 'submission' then he or she better be good. just because a person is born a male, doesn't mean he is a leader or owner, or whatever you choose to say it. father or husband...... they have to be worthy of love and respect. and even this doesn't command submission. and one more thing, i don't understand why being born a male is such an achievement , it is not as if you have worked hard for it... or you have sacrificed something for it. everyone is equal in god's eyes. it is man who creates these arguments. god loves us all equally. and when it is our time to return , there will be no partiality. be a good human being , that is the only thing that matters. i don't need to have somebody submitting to me, ever and i don't feel the urge to do it too. i won't ever look at a person and think he or she must submit to me... never. no matter what he or she is, or what he or she does. i respect people and i treat them as equals. and that is my religion . respecting everyone as i would like to be respected is my prayer.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Hello Bharmoriat,

I think our discussion comes down to the foundation of what we consider to be the standard of truth in our lives. You mention your "god," and I would like to know how you know what your god's standard of morals is. If we can't talk about an absolute standard, then we will be merely arguing about feelings, and whether or not we, personally, feel angry or inspired by a system of authority.

My God tells me what is important in His Word, the Bible. In the Bible, He talks a lot about equality, and highly values women, often using wise women to keep the men in their lives from doing something stupid! See 1 Samuel 25, and Judges 4. God says that women are not to be in authority over a man, not because she is inferior to a man, but because she was *created* for a different purpose. God is *protecting* the woman from danger, because she is special to Him, by putting the men in the positions of authority, responsibility, danger, and risk.

Also, I don't know if you read it, but in my article I mention that Jesus was in every way equal to God the Father, yet puts Himself in submission to His Father in order that their mutual goal (salvation for His people) would be accomplished. I hope that I can treat everyone as equals as well, because they truly are equal in value. However, there is a big difference between saying someone fills a different role in the family, and saying that someone is a less valuable person in the family.

Hope that helps!


jambo87 profile image

jambo87 4 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space

I was thinking about Ms./Mrs. while taking care of some mundane work at the office and was wondering when the language will lose the Mrs. As you've referenced, Mrs. is the designation of a married woman. Is this distinction necessary today? Misters aren't called masters in their youth anymore. Mister is Mr. so why not just use Ms.?

It's gender-biased language that is going the way of its siblings.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 4 years ago from Oregon Author


The distinction as I understand it is not based on youth, but on the lady's position in her family. Traditionally, women were (and loved to be) called by the title that recognized them as their father's daughter (Miss) or their husband's wife (Mrs).

Yes, much of the gender-distinctive language is being pushed out of usage by modern, God-less philosophy. But I'm going to dig in tooth and nail to keep it! God created humans "male and female" it says in Genesis, and if he's the one who created us, we should stick with his language.

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 4 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space

God didn't create English. I'm sorry, I just don't understand why you want to be subordinate to a man.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 4 years ago from Oregon Author

The Bible says God created all things: "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." John 1:3

Though there seems to have been one language at the beginning, God created the many individual language roots that now have channeled down to form English; read the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11, or here is a good article:

When God created man and woman, he named them (in the original language), and gave them specific roles in the family. The reason I want to be submissive and under the authority of the man, is because this is part of God's natural order. Subordination does not mean inferiority, since Jesus subordinated Himself to His Father, yet was equal to him.

Hope that helps clear up the discussion a bit!

jambo87 profile image

jambo87 4 years ago from Outer Space / Inner Space

I prefer Luke.

I see your point, and also that you take the Bible very literally. Using one source for any argument is never sufficient, no matter who wrote it, or how much you were cultivated to follow it uncritically.

Do you believe that men who adhere to your same dogma believe that "subordinate" is not synonymous with "inferior". Men have used this very argument from the Bible to subordinate women for centuries. You don't think they took advantage of that? It worked on you.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 4 years ago from Oregon Author

Okay, Luke it is! :)

One of the things I strongly believe is that the Bible IS ALWAYS sufficient. Yes, the Bible makes that claim about itself so that could be deemed as a circular argument, but someone, somewhere must hold absolute truth within himself/itself, and the Bible holds up its own claims remarkably well.

If you would like to read up on another source other than the Bible, G. K. Chesterton writes about women's God-gifted roles in "What Is Wrong With the World," showing how it is not demeaning to be submissive to a man, but rather that it is fulfilling and draws out our true potential as women. I also found the research in the book "Women Who Made the World Worse" highly convincing.

Yeah, so it "worked" on me. The kind of womanhood that loves to submit (me) is the kind of womanhood that is married to, or the daughter of, the man who won't abuse that authority, but rather lays his life down sacrificially each day to serve the women who he is called to protect and nourish. Most women don't want to take charge of a situation unless the men don't seem to be doing their jobs as leaders. The men who do lead well are ones who highly value and esteem their wives, often deferring to their judgment or counseling with them before making a big decision.

I know this is getting long, but I did want to point out that most non-Christian religions throughout history have not treated women as equals-- but Christianity has. Islam is a great example of this, but also think of the temple prostitutes in Hindu, and the widow-burning customs that are in many religions. In contrast, Jesus, as He was dying on the cross, was asking his brother to look after his mother when he died. Think also of Mary Magdelene, who was the one who saw Jesus first, when he was resurrected from the dead. That was an honor that not even Peter or John, Jesus "closest" disciples received! The gospels are full of touching moments and tenderness for women. Inferior? To be served with such love and humility by a man, the way Jesus served the women in his life? I'm sorry, but no matter what you say, I cannot see it that way.

Personally, I have a very kind father, who I do submit to and obey, but who also knows my heart, my desires, my wishes, and only does things that are loving and kind and for my best interests. I know not every woman is blessed with a man in her life like this, whether father or husband or brother, but I am.

Thanks for reading,


Marianne55 4 years ago

It took much longer for the 'Mrs John Smith' usage to develop than you have acknowledged. Mistress and then Mrs were used interchangably for married and unmarried women. The definitely unmarried heroine of the epoymous novel is called 'Mrs Pamela Andrews'.

Scotswomen did not even adopt their husband's surnames until the 1800s.Robert Burns' wife was always called Jean Armour. In earlier times the custom did not always apply in England. Even the wives of the notorious tyrannical bluebeard Henry viii were known by their original surnames.

It is just not true that a woman would never be known as -say- Mrs Julie Smith. In 'Wuthering Heights' Nellie Dean who is not married was known as Mrs Dean in the early 1800 although she addresses younger women as Miss.

The 'Mrs John Smith' usage which is aestheically unattractive as well as idealogically depressing cannot have been used before the 1700s and was not common then. It reached a peak in Victorian times and was almost obsolete in Britain by the 1970s.

It may still be usual in the USA and I appreciate you have an anti-feminist agenda. But why not acknowledge that a woman who in one context called herself Mrs Almanzo James Wilder would in another one call herself Laura Ingalls Wilder? Usage has been more varied than you admit.

Furthermore Muslim women are even more 'covered' and 'protected' by their husbands than Christians have been yet they almost never use their husbands' surnames and never ever call theselves Mrs Abdullah Ahmed or the like. Different cultures oppress women in different ways. What about the Spanish speaking world? This usage is unknown there and would sound ridiculous.

Jennifer 3 years ago

"The use of Mrs. or Miss provided the benefits of masculine headship—no one could assume that this lady was without a man's guidance and protection in the world"

Oh good grief. I am a woman happy with my influential role in society, under GOD'S authority and that of the law.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 3 years ago from Oregon Author


So you see the contrast between how it used to be and how it is now? Enough to draw out an expression of "good grief" because it is so different now? To many Christians throughout history, God's authority translated into the authority of a father or husband. The husband in particular was to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and never to abuse HIS authority. The father was never to "provoke his children to wrath," and never to abuse HIS authority. Out of curiosity, what is your influential role in society? Would you consider it consistent with what the BIble outlines for the woman's role in society?

abrodech profile image

abrodech 3 years ago from 130 Linden St, Oakland, California, 94607

I liked this article and thought it was very nice and informative until you started criticizing Ms. Magazine for being evil and screwing up society and ruining the sanctity of women. Furthermore I didn't like the bible thumping part at the end and thought it was rather close minded of you to think that the title of "Ms." is "Anti-God" language and that a woman can only be a heathenish feminist who asserts her own independence or a dutiful housewife/daughter/mother.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 3 years ago from Oregon Author

I hope the Bible-thumping part was all through it, and not just at the end. ;) The way I see the world is shaped by what the Bible says, and I desire to please God in how I analyze the way our culture has changed over the years. Our culture has become distinctly anti-God in many ways, so it stands to reason that many of the new fads of language would reflect an anti-God thinking. Of course this doesn't apply to every fad of language, but it deserves some research. I know most women who use Ms. are not intending to be anti-God, which was why I did this research and wrote this article. I was not surprised to find that Ms. started out as an anti-God term, even though it does not have that connotation now for most people.

The term feminist also needs some background. Feminism has so infiltrated our culture that most women don't realize that many of the ideas they have are feminist at the root, even though most women aren't into bra-burning and man-bashing.

amynluv profile image

amynluv 3 years ago from Missouri

Wow. I'm not sure if this is serious or written as a joke. Surely no one in the 21st century is this backwards. I go by Ms., and am, and never will be, under the authority of any man or woman. I am my own person and will remain so. It isn't an honor to be a man's slave. What century are you from anyway?

Dawn 2 years ago

I agree with you, amynluv and Ms. Gloria. I see Jane Grey hasn't commented in 8 months. I guess her husband will not give her permission to use the computer.

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 2 years ago from Oregon Author

I didn't comment because I did not want to battle someone who is in such a different world. My world is shaped by what the Bible says, and I try hard to let the Bible interpret the world around me. I am also interested in history, and I know that new is not always better. Contrary to your sarcasm, I do use a computer and the internet all the time, I am also a business owner and a book editor. I find much freedom and grace and beauty in the station God has placed me. I am not married, but I certainly look forward to it, and until then, my father is a loving and gracious leader who often seeks my input on his decisions, and I seek his input on mine.

limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

There are a couple of British institutions where form of addressing a Woman is for traditional reasons retained. In both Houses of Parliament female politicians are addressed as the Honourable Lady, the Right Honourable Lady or Madam Speaker or the Minister. I sincerely hope this never changes. Within the legal profession female lawyers are always addressed as Miss (regardless of marital status) and Judges as Ma'am. At the beginning of the Women's Liberation circa 1960's era in the cult television series 'the Avengers' Diana Rigg portrayed Mrs Emma Peel. She wouldn't have had it any other way!

I wouldn't dare call gender icon Germaine Greer anything else but Ms Greer.

limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

The late Eartha Kitt a celebrity entertainer of Diva status stipulated that She be refered to as 'Miss Kitt' as Her official fan page reveals 'Miss Kitt to you'!

Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 2 years ago from Oregon Author

Limpet, that is fascinating! I love the traditional forms of address, and I think they speak with honor both of men and women.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Jane, what an informative and well-thought-out discussion. The whole idea that use of Ms carries with it a statement of personal autonomy that is much different from what God's word portrays is new to me, and is something I'll have to really think through. The entire hub is thought provoking, and I'll be reading it through again. Thanks!

limpet profile image

limpet 2 years ago from London England

merrie we meet

Though this input of mine may be slightly 'off topic' i should like to mention 17 th century references to young Women of virtuous disposition to be respectfully titled 'Goodie' (probably sounds smug in our tymes). There was the English tale Goodie Two-shoes and an even earlier Irish ditty with the title of Goodie. In the Arthur Miller play of 'The crucible' set in Salem, Mass. the defendants are being referred to in court by Goodie********* etc.


the limpet

limpet profile image

limpet 20 months ago from London England

The 1960's T.V. cult series the Avengers had a variety of forms of address for each of the successive leading ladies. In the first series the two 'partners in crime' both male, in a first season low ratings. One was writtern out and replaced by the glamorous English actress Honor Blackman who portrayed Caterine Gale, a doctor of Anthropology and entitled to be referred to as Doctor (never as doc!) However as her protagonist Steed was at worst condescending at best flippant by calling her Cathy only served to make her more assertive. Replaced by Diana Rigg as Mrs Emma Peel we didn't see her husband on screen as with Steed's ubiquitous valet never seen. Canadian actress Linda Thorson took the next player as Tara King. Ms King to you! When the series reprised in the 1970's the absolutely fabulous Joanne Lumley (former Bond girl) was known only as Purdie, mononous names serve to add the a woman's mystique.

limpet profile image

limpet 20 months ago from London England

There is a need to 'tidy up' previous post as it was typed in a hurry. Purdie as a mononymous name 'a la' Zoella, Cher, Cleopatra, Boudicca etc. She did have a partner in crime with Mike Gambit but there was no sexual connotation between them. Duty first! Purdie was a ballerina turned slueth and excelled at it too. The vivacaecious and practical Ms King arrived in the series right at the cusp of the Women's Liberation movement, she didn't practice the martial arts but but was somewhat clever at improvising. I didn't detect animosity in her working relationship with Steed. Two actresses have portrayed Mrs Peel namely;

Diana Rigg in the series and Uma Thurman the movie (a hard act to follow). In the episode 'A touch of brimstone' Mrs Peel has to infiltrate a cult as does so in the guise of a dominatrix where we get to see submissive males snivelling to her and calling her Mistress. I would like to think that Avenger Ladies getting 'writtern out and replaced would instead go off on a solo clandestine mission. If there were any subtle lesbian inference in the Avengers then Dr Catherine Gale might come fairly close to that.

limpet profile image

limpet 19 months ago from London England

Signs on the toilet doors in a London pub read: 'squires' for the gents, 'damsels' for the ladies.

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