Is that Ms. or Mrs. MP?

More fe­male Con­ser­va­tives in the House of Com­mons pre­fer Mrs. over the more mod­ern Ms., but there’s no pre­dict­ing who will take which ti­tle in any party, GLEN MCGRE­GOR finds.

Ottawa Citizen - - CANADA -

Two-thirds of the fe­male MPs in the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment have opted to use the tra­di­tional hon­orific Mrs. in the House of Com­mons in­stead of the mod­ern Ms. favoured by most fe­male MPs in other par­ties.

For some women, Mrs. is sim­ply a po­lite form of ad­dress for a mar­ried woman. To oth­ers, it is an ar­chaic — or even sex­ist — term of by­gone era.

The Euro­pean Union last year banned Mrs. and Miss from use in of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­cause they re­fer to a per­son’s mar­i­tal sta­tus, while Mr. does not.

The Con­ser­va­tives boosted their rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women in the last elec­tion but only 15 of 22 cur­rent fe­male Tory MPs pre­fer to be called Mrs., a re­view of House tran­scripts shows.

By con­trast, just five of 20 women in the Lib­eral cau­cus and one of a dozen New Democrats go by Mrs.

The pref­er­ence for the tra­di­tional term among Con­ser­va­tive MPs does not ap­pear to be gen­er­a­tional. There is lit­tle dif­fer­ence in the av­er­age age of the women in the four party cau­cuses, with the Lib­eral women on av­er­age slightly older than the Tory and NDP fe­male MPs.

“It pro­vides peo­ple with a re­ally good un­der­stand­ing of the fact that I am mar­ried, without hav­ing to ex­plain it,” said Kelly Block, 48, a first-term Con­ser­va­tive MP from Saskatchewan.

“ I think of my­self as a wife and a mother, and then a mem­ber of par­lia­ment.”

Block went from Miss to Mrs. when she mar­ried and has never been a Ms.

In the House, MPs re­fer to each other us­ing their rid­ing names. Fam­ily names are heard only when roll is called dur­ing recorded votes. New MPs are asked by the Speaker’s off ice which hon­orific they pre­fer in each of­fi­cial lan­guage.

Of the 11 Con­ser­va­tive fe­male MPs f irst elected in 2008, seven chose the tra­di­tional hon­orific Mrs.

Six Bloc Québé­cois MPs list Mrs. as their cho­sen hon­orific in English, al­though this is a tech­ni­cal­ity and never used in the House. In French, all the women are called Madam.

There are cur­rently no Misses or Made­moi­selles, a term that has fallen out of com­mon us­age. For­mer Re­form Party MP Deborah Grey was the last Miss in the House, un­til she mar­ried.

The Tory benches gained a Mrs. when MP He­lena Guer­gis mar­ried and dropped the Ms., al­though she did not take her hus­band’s last name.

In the last par­lia­ment, Lon­don MP Irene Math- yssen was the sole New Demo­crat Mrs., but she has since switched to Ms. MP Carol Hughes is now the only Mrs. in the NDP cau­cus. She says she was ac­cus­tomed to it af­ter 27 years of mar­riage and never thought of chang­ing.

“ There was no thought given to it. It was just au­to­matic that I’m a Mrs.”

Mrs. is a con­trac­tion of mis­tress and tra­di­tion­ally used only with the name of a woman’s hus­band, as Mrs. John Smith, for ex­am­ple. Miss with a maiden name is used for a sin­gle woman.

Ms. came into com­mon use in the late 20th cen­tury and is now the de­fault term of ad­dress for women, mar­ried or oth­er­wise.

CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS

but Ms. Lisa Raitt.

CHRIS WATTIE, REUTERS

It’s Mrs. Leona Aglukkaq …

PAT MCGRATH, THE OTTAWA CI­TI­ZEN

but Mrs. Mar­lene Jen­nings

DAVID AKIN, CANWEST NEWS SER­VICE

It’s Ms. Hedy Fry …

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