Being a professional calligrapher and Medieval History major, I'd like to address (no, I'm not sorry about the pun) the hot topic of Miss, Mrs., and Ms. I'm not going to get into whether or not you are taking your spouse's last name. That's a whole other can of worms! I'm talking about the history of these three titles for women, and their purposes…
Historically, “Miss” was used when referring to or addressing a girl (much like the almost archaic title “Master” used for boys), and “Mrs.” was used for a grown woman (married or unmarried). Mrs. also indicated a woman (married or not) who was in business, or was a master of a craft. Neither title indicated marital status. It wasn't until the 20th century that these two titles indicated marital status; Miss coming to mean an unmarried woman of any age, and Mrs. meaning a married woman.
So much for your history lesson: and who cares, anyway, about what they used to do in the old days, right? Let's talk about Miss., Mrs., and Ms in “modern” times. Let's start with a pop quiz.
Which of these three men are married?:
* Mr. Joe Blow
* Mr. John Smith
* Mr. Jake Johnson
By simply reading their titles and names, you cannot tell who is living in marital bliss and who is living the swinging single life, can you?
Now, which of these three women are married?:
* Mrs. Jane Dough
* Ms Mary Smith
* Miss. Gladys McGillacuddy
Oops, not so fast! You may have assumed that Ms Mary Smith was single. That is a common misunderstanding of the title Ms.
But think about this in a rational, 21st century kinda way. WHY does society think that we must know a woman's marital status, and not a man's? Does this strike you as a bit sexist?
Yeah, that's what people in the late 20th century thought, too. So some smart people got together and created the title “Ms”, which was to replace all other women's titles so that there was only one female title (Ms), as there is only one male title (Mr.). Simple enough, right?
But somehow, over the course of years, people got the notion that anyone who uses the title Ms is a single, ball-busting feminist. Whereas in actuality, women who use the title Ms can be single and/or a married ball-busting feminists!
Miss. and Mrs. require punctuation. Ms is not an abbreviation, so it does not require a period at the end.
I use the title Ms when formally addressing every woman in my circle of friends; single or married, old or young. Of course, when I address my customers' envelopes, naturally I will use any titles of their choosing.
But it is truly a pet peeve of mine if someone is using the Miss., Mrs., Ms titles without knowing their purposes. Many are the times I've had to curtail my auto-rant and not go off on a lecture about “the original purpose of Ms.” So thank you all for allowing me to vent here on Offbeat Bride.