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.
"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.