Not sure this is an appropriate question, but I'll try it anyway.

Many Government or quasi-legal roles have traditionally attracted the honorific of "Mr" before them - Mr Speaker, Mr President, Mr Chairman. Since women began filling such roles, they have been addressed, not as Mrs, but as Madam - Speaker, Chairman, etc. This seems to suggest that Mrs (Miss, Ms) is seen as somehow less respectful than "Mr", and I am wondering how this came about.

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    Ms. was supposed to be equivalent. You are correct about "Madam" though. The US Secretary of State was titled "Madam Secretary" for the nearly continuous 12 years that position was held by a female from 1997 to 2013. I guess "Mistress" doesn't sound as honorific. Perhaps because the former inherently sounds like an older person than the latter. – T.E.D. Apr 4 '17 at 16:04
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    This might be better asked on the English Language & Usage StackExchange. – Michael Seifert Apr 4 '17 at 17:11

You seem to be comparing honorific usage and common usage. Mister, when used in the honorific is somewhat equivalent to a statement of title, not just a common form of address.

Historically, mister—like Sir or my lord—was applied only to those above one's own status in the peerage.

Madam was borrowed from the French, which translates to 'my Lady', which was the past equal to a Lord or a Sir(knight), so is the equivelent form of address to someone of higher 'status'.

Common usage for Mr and Mrs can refer to any 'rank' individuals. Mrs

is a commonly used English honorific used for women, usually for those who are married and who do not instead use another title (or rank)

(emphasis mine).

So Mrs or Miss are merely descriptive, but show no 'rank'. Mr, on the other hand, has dual meaning today; Either as the equal of Madam(showing rank), or as the equal of Mrs.(a term of respect, but not denoting any further 'position').

Notably since it also reflects the womans 'status' as married or not is in modern times considered less desired to some:

In 2009 the European Parliament issued guidance on the use of gender-neutral language which discouraged the use of terms which indicate a woman's marital status.3

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    Sorry, this seems to be begging the question. The usual English masculine equivalent of Madam is Sir, not Mr. And when women began at least chairing committees, no one knew or cared about gender neutral language or marital status. I asked why Mrs seems less respectful than Mr and your explanation is because Mrs is less respectful than Mr. – TheHonRose Apr 4 '17 at 14:48
  • Edited my answer to try to clear it up some. – justCal Apr 4 '17 at 15:16
  • Mrs. is a completely different term. When used correctly, it is followed by the woman's husband's name, not her own. Implication of course being that's what is important to know about her. – T.E.D. Apr 6 '17 at 13:14

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