How do you address a widow?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tphuong122002, Mar 5, 2008.

  1. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    Hi all,

    For example, Jane Smith is a widow. If you write to her and want to use the word widow, how do you address her? Do you say "Dear Widow Jane Smith"?

  2. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    No, if she called herself "Mrs. Smith" before her husband's death, she is still "Mrs. Smith". If she called herself "Ms. Smith" before her husband's death, she is still "Ms. Smith". Pointing out her widowhood would be like pointing out someone's unmarried status ie: "Dear Spinster Jane Smith".:)
  3. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    I'm going to disagree with you on this, BB. Some women take extreme exception to being called "Ms.". If you don't know what she referred to herself as, better to use "Mrs." or just "Dear Jane Smith"
  4. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    Many thanks, Dimcl, for this.

    If Jane Smith writes a letter to somebody as a widow, how should she address herself at the end of her letter? Shoud it be like this?



    Widow Jane Smith"
  5. cycloneviv

    cycloneviv Senior Member

    Perth, Western Australia
    English - Australia
    As Dimcl said, Jane Smith would call herself Mrs Smith or Ms Smith, whichever she called herself while her husband was alive. She would not sign letters Widow Jane Smith. The fact that she is a widow has no effect whatsoever on her title.
  6. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    I guess I don't understand why you think that it's necessary to point out that she's a widow, Tphuong. The fact that her husband died has no bearing on who she is. In North America or Europe or Britain, it would be highly unlikely that she would sign as "Widow Jane Smith". In fact, she likely wouldn't use anything but her name ie:


    Jane Smith.

    The only other option is to sign as:


    Mrs. Jane Smith

    (or "Ms. Jane Smith").

    Would an unmarried man sign this way:


    Bachelor John Smith

    ??? :)
  7. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    OK, thank you very much, cycloneviv, for your help.
  8. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
  9. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    Thank you, Dimcl. The reason why I keep asking so is that I have to translate from my language into English a letter from a widow to thank those who attended her husband's funeral. At the end of her letter, she wrote her name and the word "widow". How should I say in English?
  10. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    Ah, context is everything...:) If this is a literal translation and the woman wrote the letters with the word "Widow" in her signature, then that's what she wants. In Canada, in this context, she would likely just sign her own name ie: "Sincerely, Jane Smith".

    This may well be a cultural difference, Tphuong, and I'm loathe to recommend any change to the lady's letter for that reason. Perhaps I don't understand the "art and science" of translation but I don't think that, unless you have her permission, you should alter such a personal letter in any way.

    Is there a reason why you want to change her letter just because you're translating it into English?
  11. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    Done, I'll take your advice. Thank you very much indeed, Dimcl, for your great hep and patience!:)

    Best regards,

  12. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    The lady added widow after her name with the meaning "bereaved widow of the deceased" as she might have once added her maiden name (Mrs Alice Smith, née Brown), but no widow outside a pantomime (as said above) would expect to be addressed as Widow X or Widow Ms/MrsX . Address only those women who expect it for whatever reason as Ms. (a title that did not exist in my youth), or when you write to a woman of whom you do not know whether she is married or not, in case the wrong title, whether Miss or Mrs, might offend. The habit of using the Christian/first name of the husband seems to have died out e.g. Mrs John Smith.
  13. tphuong122002 Senior Member

    Vietnamese Vietnam
    Thank you, Arrius, for your additional clarification.
  14. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    The practice of using the husband's name has certainly not died out, as one may clearly see by looking at, for example, the list of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera, which includes Mrs. Walter Annenberg and Mrs. Paul Desmarais.

    No one, male or female, properly uses a title as part of the name in a signature in social correspondence. If Jane Smith marries John Doe, she is addressed as "Mrs. Doe", but she herself would sign her name as "Jane Doe", with no Mrs. She may, however, put the form in which she is commonly addressed underneath her signature in parentheses. In this case, you might indicate the relation of the widow to the deceased by doing the same thing. The stranslation would thus read something like:
    Sincerely yours,
    Mary Jones
    (Mrs. Robert Jones)
  15. Arrius

    Arrius Senior Member

    English, UK
    OK, so the habit is perhaps only obsolescent, at least in the UK. It would be surprising if it were not in an era of political correctness and the rise of feminism.
  16. inib

    inib Senior Member

    La Rioja, Spain
    British English
    I'm adding this comment because I think it may be of interest to some of you, not as an attempt to solve the original query. In Britain, I think it would almost seem like you were trying to rub salt in the wound if you addressed someone as a widow, but this may vary from culture to culture. I have no idea about Vietnamese customs, but it is not uncommon in Spain to refer to someone, or for a lady to refer to herself as "Viuda de X" = Widow of X.
    I've seen it on envelopes, letters and even the name board on the front of some shops carries it, just as we might see "Smith and Sons" in the UK.
  17. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    <Added to an older thread. Nat, Moderator>

    Hi teachers,
    If a woman is widow, does she still use her husband's last name to call her Mrs.?

    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2017
  18. Tenacious Learner

    Tenacious Learner Senior Member

    Thanks, nat.

  19. london calling Senior Member

    I'm a widow. I'm Mrs. XXXXX (either my maiden name or my late husband's surname, as in Italy you do not take your husband's surname: you have to keep your own). God forbid anyone call me Widow XXXX, which makes me think of the panto character, Widow Twankie.:eek:

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