Rare Girl Names from Early Cinema: W

willette kershaw
Willette Kershaw (1882-1960)
Time for more unusual female names from old films!

Here’s something I didn’t know until recently: many (most?) of the “Indian maiden” characters in early movies had names starting with W. As a result, about half of the names below refer to Native American characters specifically. I’m not sure how many of these Native American names are legit, though. If you can verify any of them, please leave a comment.

Wah-na-gi
Wah-na-gi was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Squaw Man’s Son (1917).

Wahnah
Wahnah was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Kidnapped by Indians (1914).

Wah-tah
Princess Wah-tah was a character played by actress Yvonne De Carlo in the film The Deerslayer (1943).

Wah-ta-wah
Wah-ta-wah was a character played by actress Aline Goodwin in the film serial Leatherstocking (1924).

Wahtonka
Wahtonka was a character played by actress Claire Du Brey in the film Dakota (1945).

Wahtunka
Wahtunka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Brought to Justice (1914).

Walmura
Walmura was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The Fate of a Squaw (1914).

Walpurga
Walpurga was a character played by actress Mrs. A. C. Marston in the short film On the Heights (1914).

Wamba
Wamba was a character name in multiple films, including Wamba, a Child of the Jungle (short, 1913) and Justice of the Far North (1925).

Wambi
Wambi was a character played by actress Lule Warrenton in the short film The Queen of Jungle Land (1915).

Wana
Wana was a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Indian Maid’s Sacrifice (1911).

  • Usage of the baby name Wana.

Wanama
Wanama was a character played by actress Armida in the film Jungle Goddess (1948).

Wanana
Wanana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film A Daughter of the Redskins (1914).

Wanda
Wanda Hawley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1895. Wanda McKay was an actress who appeared in films mainly in the 1940s. She was born in Oregon in 1915. Wanda was also a character name in multiple films, including The One-Way Trail (1920) and Men Are Such Fools (1938).

  • Usage of the baby name Wanda.

Wandi
Wandi was a character played by actress Mary Gale Fisher in the film One Million B.C. (1940).

Wanoka
Wanoka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the film Grey Eagle’s Last Stand (1914).

Wan-o-mee
Wan-o-mee was a character played by actress Evelyn Axzell in the film The Hell Cat (1918).

Warda
Warda Lamont was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s.

  • Usage of the baby name Warda.

Watuma
Watuma was a character played by actress Phyllis Gordon in the film The Werewolf (1913) — possibly the first-ever werewolf film.

Wauteka
Wauteka was a character played by actresses May Foster and Lule Warrenton in the short film The Brand of His Tribe (1914).

Wawina
Wawina was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The War Bonnet (1914).

Wenda
Wenda was a character played by actress Myrtle Tennehill in the short film When the Mind Sleeps (1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Wenda.

Wendie
Wendie Holmes was a character played by actress Marjorie Riordan in the film Parachute Nurse (1942).

  • Usage of the baby name Wendie.

Werta
Werta was a character played by actress Dorothy Dwan in the film The Devil Bear (1929).

Wetona
Wetona was a character played by actress Norma Talmadge in the film The Heart of Wetona (1919).

  • Usage of the baby name Wetona.

Wilda
Wilda Lanning was a character played by actress Frances Robinson in the film Forbidden Valley (1938).

  • Usage of the baby name Wilda.

Wildeth
Wildeth Christie was a character played by actress Fay Wray in the film Shanghai Madness (1933).

Wildflower
Wildflower was a character played by Mona Darkfeather in the short film Indian Fate (1914).

Willametta
Willametta was a character played by actress Margaret Hamilton in the film Meet the Stewarts (1942).

Willette
Willette Kershaw was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in Missouri in 1882.

Willowbud
Willowbud was a character played by actress Marin Sais in the short film The Big Horn Massacre (1913).

Willowdean
Willowdean French was a character played by actress Leila Hyams in the film Summer Bachelors (1926).

Wilma
Wilma was a character name used in multiple films, including Woman-Proof (1923) and Three Cheers for Love (1936).

  • Usage of the baby name Wilma.

Winona
Winona was a character name used in multiple films, including An Indian Ambuscade (short, 1914) and Reckless Courage (1925).

  • Usage of the baby name Winona.

Wowkle
Wowkle was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Girl of the Golden West (1915), by Neola May in The Girl of the Golden West (1930), and by Ynez Seabury in The Girl of the Golden West (1938). The film was based on the play The Girl of the Golden West (1905) by David Belasco, who found the name Wowkle in the writings of ethnographer Stephen Powers, who claimed the name meant “fox” among the Nisenan of California.

Wyllis
Wyllis Hyde was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film The Argument (1918).

  • Usage of the baby name Wyllis.

Wynne
Wynne Gibson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in New York in 1898. Wynne was also a character played by actress Anita Louise in the film Lady Tubbs (1935).

  • Usage of the baby name Wynne.

Wynona
Wynona was a character name used in multiple films, including Wynona’s Vengeance (1913) and The Woman from Warren’s (short, 1915).

  • Usage of the baby name Wynona.

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Which of the above names do you like best?


7 thoughts on “Rare Girl Names from Early Cinema: W

  1. My guess is Willametta is likely not a true Native American name. It likely was chosen for the film as a feminine version of Willamette. “Willamette” itself is based on how the French translated the name of a Native American settlement and subsequently used as the name of the nearby Willamette River/Willamette Valley.

  2. I’d guess that too. By the look of that movie, I don’t think it was intended to be.

    Willametta may have come from the place name (thanks for that etymology!), but it might also just be a feminized form of William.

  3. Wambi is a real Native name, as far as I know. I see variants in birth announcements. It’s probably Lakota.

  4. Winona means “first born daughter” in the Dakota language. It was most likely not so much a “name” as it was a familial term similar to calling a parent “Father” rather than their given name.
    There is at least one “Princess Winona” mentioned in histories of Minnesota and the Dakota people. There is also a “Princess Winona” in the story “Lover’s Leap” which may or may not be based on an actual “Indian lore” depending on who you ask.

    This article in the Winona Post includes some additional information about Winona and the Dakota:
    https://www.winonapost.com/Archives/ArticleID/3258/Traces-of-the-Dakota

  5. I take that back. The name I’ve seen is Wambdi. It’s often used in compound names by Lakota members. It means eagle in Lakota Sioux. Someone may have heard it and used Wambi as a variant.

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