Mrs., Miss, and Ms.: The Evolution of “Ms.”

By Ann Varner

Recently, I realized that while I know the differences between “Mrs.,” “Miss,” and “Ms.,” I didn’t know the significance of how “Ms.” came to be. The literary term for these titles are honorificsAccording to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Mrs.” is “a title used before a surname or full name to address or refer to a married woman.” This is something I’m sure everyone knows. Families and friends have made a huge ordeal about the bride becoming a “Mrs.” in every wedding I’ve been in or attended. Additionally, Grammarly.com states that “Miss” is a title of respect for an unmarried woman.

“Ms.” came about in the 1950’s as a title of respect for women that did not disclose a woman’s marital status. It’s only fair, after all, because “Mr.” is the equivalent to “Ms.” as it also does not disclose a man’s marital status. We can thank

Sheila Michaels, the activist who popularized the term “Ms.” for women.

Ms. Sheila Michaels, a feminist who campaigned to popularize the title “Ms.” in the 1960’s as a way for women not to be defined by their relationships with men.

In 1986, “Ms.” became popular and accepted after the New York Times published that it would begin using the term “Ms.” as “an honorific in its news and editorial columns.”

While we as a society have made many advancements on how we view women, please remember that using “Ms.” (unless you’re told otherwise or they have a doctorate) is the best form of respect when addressing a woman in a professional manner.