Schrödinger’s Woman

Choosing names for fictional characters can always be tricky because, I have been told, a name is what and who they are.

I saw an article some time ago in relation to genealogy research, and of matriarchal lines in particular. It assured its readers of how surveillance and record keeping had become so ingrained, from even before the dawn of computers, that if you Google your name there will ALWAYS be hits. It stated that it is almost impossible for any ancestor to fly under the internet’s radar without leaving some echo, somewhere. I have been looking for my Cumbrian ancestors for years and found no one; mainly because I suspect them of lying to the authorities as easily as they breathed.

Their anonymity set me thinking about the time-honoured habit of women changing (some might say losing) their identity on marriage. Anyone who has tried tracing a family tree will know how easy it is to trace the patriarchal lines whereas matriarchal ancestors tend to blend into the background like so much wallpaper.

As an experiment I put my given name into Google … and nothing. Having no family left, few people know that name; few remember me under that guise. So is it a case of Schrödinger’s woman? If the lid is lifted would that old me still exist? Or has she ceased to be? I find the whole notion both amusing and a little disturbing, but as a writer also very interesting.

It occurs to me that, contrary to perceived wisdom, female fictional characters can seemingly vanish, should they so wish, in a way that males cannot. A useful trick, whether they be villain, hero, hunted or hunter. Something to keep in mind for future books.

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