"What's in a name?" asks Arena Stage founder Zelda Fichandler. "Only identity. Only how you feel about yourself. Only how people see you. Everything's in a name."

Tell that to Sid Winters. If confirmed by the Senate, Alice Rivlin -- Winters's wife -- will become the first female director of the Office of Management and Budget in U.S. history.

Winters? Winters? Rivlin must be her maiden name, right?

Not quite. It's been 17 years since she divorced first husband Lewis Rivlin, but the Clinton nominee still carries the last name of her ex-spouse.

Rivlin is not the only professional woman who has opted to keep her husband's surname after a divorce, rather than reverting to a maiden name or taking on the name of a new spouse. Historically, this is nothing new: Divorced women long retained their married names because of social dictates and to spare their children from the confusion of having parents with two different names.

But many in the work force now hold on to old names for professional, rather than familial, continuity. Think of National Organization of Women founder Betty Friedan, former labor secretary Lynn Martin, author Erica Jong, Carter administration official Anne Wexler and neoconservative writer Midge Decter. All of them are well-known names. And all of their names originally belonged to men no longer their husbands.

Frank Lloyd Wright biographer Meryle Secrest divorced in 1965, and remarried 10 years later. At that point, she says, "I tried writing under the byline 'Meryle Beveridge' and nobody knew who it was." So she went back to her ex-husband's name.

Secrest's dilemma is typical of women who embark on a career after exchanging vows and changing their names. As the smoke from divorce proceedings clears, some find themselves reluctant to give up a name everyone knows.

After her divorce, Leslie Wolfe, executive director of the Center for Women Policy Studies, told her ex-husband, "I definitely made this name and so I'm keeping it." Ivana Trump and Frances Lear have found that an ex-husband's famous name keeps them in the spotlight after the split. Who, after all, would recognize Ivana Zelnicek?

Sherrye Henry decided to keep her married name, but was uneasy about it. "It was very uncomfortable," says the author of "The Deep Divide: Why American Women Resist Equality." "I've always felt that keeping the name Henry was a little unfair to my husband. It was kind of like borrowing a coat that didn't fit and then finding that you couldn't give it back."

Secrest's publisher actually forbade her to change her name. "They just had a fit," Secrest recalls. "I was told that libraries around the country wouldn't be able to cope with so many names."

Indeed, playing the multiple-marriage name game can get tricky. Just ask D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, whose mid-term wedding created a certain amount of confusion. Press secretary Unnia Pettus says the mayor's name switch was based "purely on personal reasons," and that her new name "reflects two loves" -- her family and her husband. Pettus is quick to point out, however, that the administration continued to use old "Sharon Pratt Dixon" stationery after the ceremony, ordering new paper only when the supply had run out.

Some women choose to live with a double identity that accommodates both facets of their lives. "I think of that name {Secrest} as my professional activity, and Mrs. Beveridge as my private world," Secrest says.

But Wolfe believes such dual roles can lead to identity crises, as women jump from persona to persona like so many hopscotch squares. She argues that women should choose a name they're comfortable with, and stick with it. "Women should not have to be split in half between the home person and the work person," she says.

Fichandler, who has been legally separated for 15 years from her Arena Stage co-founder, Tom Fichandler, agrees. She decided to keep her husband's moniker come what may. "It would be like assuming some other identity," she says about reverting to her maiden name or taking a new one if a second husband were to come along.

And if it does? How do the Sid Winterses of the world feel about living in the shadow of a long-gone spouse? Winters, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, isn't troubled when others refer to him as "Mr. Rivlin."

"There's modest confusion from time to time," he says. "Sometimes it's funny."

And Secrest says her husband doesn't take his wife's name too seriously, either. "He just gets irritated occasionally when I forget and call myself 'Mrs. Secrest,' " she laughs. "He reminds me that that's what 'Ms.' is for."