“Is it all right to use Ms. as a title?” Ensign, Mar. 1977, 63
Alice Colton Smith, Relief Society General Board Well, this is the way I feel about it—and remember, this is my opinion, not doctrine. For some women, Ms. is associated with the women’s liberation movement; when they hear sisters using Ms. they automatically assume that these women are also radical liberationists and antimarriage, antihome, etc. I think that kind of thinking is a shame for two reasons: (1) There’s no place in the gospel for judging others. Stereotyping on the basis of title is a form of making a sister an offender for a word—especially when you don’t know where she stands on these other issues. (2) Assuming that Ms. is an undesirable word takes away a very convenient option if you don’t happen to know a woman’s marital status and want to use something neutral. The title was not invented by the women’s liberation movement. My British friends tell me that they were taught in grammar school to use Ms. for a woman whose marital status is unknown, long before the title had any political or social implications. In the United States, secretarial schools have for a long time suggested the same thing. In Germany, the convenient title Fr. may mean either Frau (Mrs.) or Fraulein (Miss). I like keeping the option. I want as many options as the gospel allows.
Two thoughts might be considered in choosing one’s own option:
A married woman may prefer to use Mrs. instead of Ms. to show that she values her married status; a single woman may prefer to use Ms. instead of Miss because the anonymity of Ms. affords her a degree of protection. I don’t think either should feel offended if she is addressed by a title other than the one she prefers.
Now, if a woman likes just one form of address, I’m delighted to use it if she’ll let me know her preference. For me, it doesn’t matter. Ms., Miss, Mrs., Sister, or just plain Alice—I’ll answer to all of them. But I don’t want to be boxed in until even my title is a must. I want to save the musts for the really important areas.