The Silver Screen Baby Name Seena

Signe Auen in Photoplay, Oct. 1915
Signe Auen in Photoplay, Oct. 1915

First there was Francelia. Then there was Ormi. And today we have Seena — the third name (I know of) to debut on the U.S. baby name charts thanks to the influence of a silent film actress.

That actress was Seena Owen, and she’s a special case, as she’s the first actress on my list to become popular under a stage name.

Signe Auen was born in Washington state in 1894. Her parents were immigrants from Denmark, and she had older siblings named Lillie (who became a screenwriter) and Audun.

The Scandinavian name Signe can be traced back to the Old Norse name Signý, which is made up on the elements sigr, meaning “victory,” and , meaning “new.”

Signe Auen began appearing in films in late 1914.

In 1915, there was an uptick in the number of babies named Signe according to both the SSA and the SSDI.

191243 Signes92 Signes
191346 Signes76 Signes
191445 Signes70 Signes
191567 Signes73 Signes
191642 Signes55 Signes
191752 Signes50 Signes
191851 Signes55 Signes
191940 Signes40 Signes
192054 Signes52 Signes
192144 Signes37 Signes
192226 Signes26 Signes

(For the SSDI numbers — which were declining during the 1910s, after peaking in the 1890s and 1900s — I only counted people who had Signe as a first name, not as a middle.)

Seena Owen in Photoplay, Mar. 1916
Seena Owen in Photoplay, Mar. 1916

Sometime during the last half of 1915 Signe Auen changed her name to “Seena Owen” — the phonetic spelling of her Danish name.

And in 1917, the baby name Seena debuted on the SSA’s baby name list:

1914x4 Seenas
1915x2 Seenas
1916x1 Seena
19175 Seenas [debut]4 Seenas
1918x4 Seenas
19196 Seenas4 Seenas
1920x2 Seenas
19219 Seenas8 Seenas
192211 Seenas6 Seenas
192312 Seenas10 Seenas
192422 Seenas16 Seenas

Numbers from both the SSA and the SSDI show that usage of the name Seena, which has always been relatively low, was at its highest during the 1920s.

This matches up pretty well with Seena Owen’s film career, which lasted from the late 1910s until the early 1930s, when Owen retired from acting due to the advent of talkies.

Which name do you like more, Signe or Seena?

P.S. Did you know that Seena Owen was the first person to wear false eyelashes? Director David Llewelyn “D. W.” Griffith had a wig maker invent the first set of eyelash extensions for Owen to wear in his 1916 epic film Intolerance.

Sources: Seena Owen – Wikipedia, Signý – Behind the Name

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