What Brought Geraldine Back?

Geraldine Ferraro, the first female vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket, passed away several days ago. (She was the running mate of Democrat Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election.)

Blogger L.R. at NameCandy insinuates that Ferraro’s nomination helped bring back the name Geraldine:

Although the name Geraldine sank rapidly through the 60s and finally fell off the charts in 1976, it rallied briefly after the presidential campaign.

Geraldine reappeared on the baby name charts in 1988, leaping from nowhere to #576, and charted in 1989 and 1990, too. Named years after Ferraro’s failed campaign, these young Geraldines suggest that she continued, nevertheless, to inspire.

Probably not. In fact, it doesn’t look like Geraldine Ferraro had any impact on baby naming at all:

  • 1980 – 109 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1981 – 125 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1982 – 124 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1983 – 103 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1984 – 107 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1985 – 125 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1986 – 122 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1987 – 137 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1988 – 356 baby girls named Geraldine [rank: 576th]
  • 1989 – 250 baby girls named Geraldine [rank: 777th]
  • 1990 – 199 baby girls named Geraldine [rank: 948th]
  • 1991 – 161 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1992 – 152 baby girls named Geraldine
  • 1993 – 118 baby girls named Geraldine

A Ferraro-inspired comeback would have started in ’84 or ’85, not years later.

What really caused the brief return of the name Geraldine to the top 1,000? My best guess is Geraldine Page, the well-known theater actress who won an Oscar in 1986 and passed away in mid-1987. Another possibility is Geraldine Muir, the little girl in Hope and Glory (1987), which was nominated for five Oscars in 1988.

Do you have any other theories?


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