The Baby Name Neysa

Neysa McMein

The name Neysa first popped up in the U.S. baby name data in 1917. It began seeing regular usage during the 1920s:

  • 1924: 10 baby girls named Neysa
  • 1923: 8 baby girls named Neysa
  • 1922: 12 baby girls named Neysa
  • 1921: 7 baby girls named Neysa
  • 1920: unlisted
  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: 9 baby girls named Neysa
  • 1917: 9 baby girls named Neysa [debut]
  • 1916: unlisted
  • 1915: unlisted

What put this name on the map?

Illustrator Neysa McMein, whose creations — typically drawings of pretty young women — were featured prominently in magazines and advertisements during the 1920s and 1930s. For instance, Neysa drew every single McCall’s magazine cover from 1923 to 1937, 62 Saturday Evening Post covers from 1916 to 1939, and gave a face to Betty Crocker in 1936.

Beyond her art, Neysa McMein was also a well-known personality of the Roaring Twenties. She was “mentioned or quoted in magazine articles, fiction, and in advertisements with some regularity.” According to theater director George Abbott, “every taxi-cab driver, every salesgirl, every reader of columns, knew about the fabulous Neysa.”

Interestingly, though, she didn’t start out as a Neysa. She was born a Marjorie.

In 1911, after growing up in Illinois and graduating from art school in Chicago, she moved to New York City to both launch her career and forge a new identity — which included adopting a new name.

Though she told the press that “Neysa” had been suggested by a numerologist, she told her husband a different story: that “Neysa” was the name of an Arabian filly she’d encountered while visiting cartoonist/horse breeder Homer Davenport in New Jersey.

Regardless of the source, she did say that she believed the name Neysa had more “commercial value” than the name Marjorie.

What are your thoughts on the name Neysa? Would you use it?

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