Stop writing mothers out of history

I used to be vehemently anti-marriage in a ‘We don’t need a piece of paper from the City Hall’ kind of way – and beyond. Marriage treated women like men’s possessions. The ridiculous surname changing (yes – from one man’s name to another), the father of the bride ‘giving away’ his daughter as if he owns her, the virginal white wedding dress blah blah bleurgh! However, I mellowed with age, realised that (the above aside) being married gives you legal protection that co-habitation doesn’t – and most importantly – I met a man who treated me with respect and love and who sees me as an independent and equal person. Reader, I married him.

We’d been together nearly five years, but he put a lot of thought into proposing and picked a memorable and significant place to do it. It was romantic and exciting and the cherry on the cake was that we managed to book the registrar to marry us on the 5th anniversary of our first date. Don’t be sick – but I was thrilled – until the shine was taken off by going to register our marriage when I found out that Official Records have no interest in the person who carried you in their womb for nine months.

All they care about is the name of the father. I was deflated. Not because of any problem in my relationship with my Dad (he was a fantastic father) but because I have two parents – one of whom literally supported me in the nine months before I existed as a person. Who sacrificed her bodily autonomy for all those months to give me life. After which I didn’t even have the common decency to come out of the hole when I should. No. I had to be cut out. (And yes, I proceeded to be just as stubborn for the rest of my life).

What made matters worse, for me, is that both my parents are dead – and yet I couldn’t have them both there as represented by the official record of my marriage – only my father. And the registrar was quite snotty when I asked about it. As if I’d asked if I could sign the official register in faeces.

Pic courtesty of
Pic courtesty of

I’d be lying if I said it ruined my wedding day. It didn’t. My engagement, my wedding and my honeymoon were all brilliant – but it bothers me that the State, in the 21st Century when we have supposedly achieved equality, is content not just to ignore women but to diminish the existence of mothers by in effect writing them out of a crucial part of an individual’s personal history. It’s not just wrong. It’s ridiculous.

So I was over the moon to come across this petition started by Ailsa Burkimsher Sadler who is calling on the Equalities Minister Maria Miller to rectify the situation.

Obviously we need to be realistic about when this change can happen. We are still living in tricky economic times and although this is an important issue I’m sure we could all live if the Government said, “Yes. You’re right. This is outrageous! We will change the law so that mother’s names may be put on marriage certificates but… erm it will cost a bit to set it all up in practice so we might have to change the law now but enact the whole thing in a couple of years when we’ve got a bit more money.” I could live with that.

But I don’t want to have to put up with women being blatantly discriminated against by the State because someone can’t be bothered to bring marriage certificates into the 21st Century. So come on Minister, it’s time to say I do.

You can find – and sign – the petition here.

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