A common trope with immortality is that the immortal character hides their true nature by faking their death every so often and pretend to be one of their descendants. They end up adding a "III" or "IV" to their name and claim to have a "strong family resemblance".
It works well for male characters but what I found while writing a female immortal character is that it would be a lot harder to do given that in Western cultures family name is typically patrilineal rather than matrilineal. Therefore, having the same woman with the same name pop up throughout history would be extremely suspicious.
My question is how can my female immortal hide her immortality?
- They are sterile due to the nature of their immortality so having their extended family hide them and pass them off as a distant cousin isn't an option.
- They aren't interested in getting married and losing their family name. In story this is because they were married once and never got over the loss. Out of story it's so the reader doesn't get confused by the character constantly swapping names depending on the time period. Therefore, the "black widow" thing where the female immortal marries a mortal and simply outlives her husband isn't an option. Plus it would raise a lot of red flags that whatever mortal she married has a wife that never ages and can't produce children or heirs (which was often a juicy piece of local gossip in older times). Male immortals often claim in fiction that they have a fake family that no one knew about, which they could get away with due to a lot of cultures having "stay in the kitchen" attitudes where people didn't see someone's spouse, whereas female immortals have fewer options to have a fake family unit that no one knew about to justify a new cover.
- If the immortal tried to pass herself off as a member of an already existing family, there would be a lack of a paper trail compared to a male immortal who can more easily fabricate identifying documents from his prior incarnation. Because again, until recently most societies were very patriarchal and the societally conditioned view was that men were the ones who handled public business and bureaucracy, aside from widows and secretaries. E.g., a male immortal can easily do things like write a will saying "I leave all my stuff to my son John Notanimmortal II, who is totally not me", whereas a female would have more difficulty.