Christopher as a Girl Name?

Orson Welles, his first wife Virginia, and their daughter Christopher (1938)
Legendary actor Orson Welles was married three times and had one daughter per marriage. The last two daughters had conventional names (Rebecca and Beatrice), but the first had an unexpected name: Christopher.

On the day Christopher Welles arrived in March of 1938, her father sent out a short telegram that read: “Christopher, she is born.” The name Christopher was chosen simply because “Orson liked the sound of the name.”

The same year, the baby name Christopher appeared as a girl name for the first time in the SSA data:

Year # Boys Named Christopher # Girls Named Christopher
1940 500 7
1939 359 5
1938 308 8 [debut]
1937 294 .
1936 277 .

My hunch is that Orson Welles’s daughter was the main influence behind the debut. That said, the name Christopher was on the rise (as a boy name) in the late ’30s, so it’s possible that some of these female Christophers were simply miscoded male Christophers.

As it turns out, Christopher Welles did not like her name as a child: “I was teased mercilessly in school and was quite miserable as a result. I wanted to change it to Linda.” As an adult, she went by the shortened form Chris.

The name Christopher was in the top 10 for boys from 1967 to 2009, ranking #2 for many years from the ’70s to the ’90s. But it also ended up in the girls’ top 1,000 for 24 years, from 1967 to 1990.

What are your thoughts on Christopher as a girl name?

Sources: Orson Welles – Wikipedia, In My Father’s Shadow: a Daughter Remembers Orson Welles by Chris Welles Feder: review, Daughter of Orson Welles: daddy never let me hold him back


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