642 , 645 (1945) (unmarried woman generally known by surname of supposed husband). [Citations omitted.] We assume, in view of the wording of our statute (G. "The first statute enacted in this Commonwealth allowing a change of name by judicial decree was St. 379, which permits a woman to resume her maiden name or the name of a former husband, regardless of who obtained the divorce. So far as our cases suggest that a person has a "legal name" or a name "with legal effect," different from the name he has lawfully chosen, those suggestions were not necessary to decision. We have been authoritatively advised that freedom of personal choice in matters of family life is one of the liberties protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that there is a private realm of family life which the State cannot enter. Organization of Foster Families for Equality and Reform, 431 U. No rule is laid down by which to determine any "name." In these circumstances we are remitted to the common law or to governing statutes to determine what is a "name." No tradition of city and town clerks can override the law or the rights of the people. We therefore take note of a number of recent legal developments which, though not directly controlling, contribute to the setting in which the questions now before us arise. Important changes in popular and legal thinking suggest that ancient canards about the proper role of women have no place in the law.
The plaintiffs filed a complaint on July 28, 1976, in the Supreme Judicial Court for the county of Suffolk. L, five years later, one of the defendants refused to register legitimation unless the child's surname was changed to L, and insisted that the affidavit of paternity list the mother's name as L, although she had not adopted her husband's name. City and town clerks customarily do not change a name on a birth or marriage record except by court order or pursuant to specific statutory provisions. 208, Section 23, for the proposition that after Alice W. Bacon her "legal name," as matter of law, was Alice W. The result was that her automobile was improperly registered and was a trespasser on the highway; it also appeared that she was generally known as Alice W. Later cases made it clear that registration in the name Mrs. Bacon or in another name by which she was generally known would have been proper. 239 , 245 (1939) (Theophilus Doucette, generally known as Thomas Douey). In any event, the doctrine of trespass by improper registration was later abolished. [183-185] Discussion of recent legal developments with respect to freedom of choice in the matter of names. We summarize the stipulated facts, omitting statements of law. One of the defendants recorded the name as C and refused to change it. [185-187] A woman, regardless of her marital status, may change her name at will, without resorting to legal proceedings, provided it is done for an honest purpose.