How popular is the baby name Bessie in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Bessie and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Bessie.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Bessie

Number of Babies Named Bessie

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Bessie

Is the Name Mellona Really that Bad?

Back in 1886, writers at the New York newspaper The Sun spotted the name “Mellie Butterfield” in the Omaha Herald and it piqued their curiosity.

In the same column…we found Nellies and Minnies, Gussies and Lizzies, Mollies and Sadies, Tillies and Sallies, Bessies, Maggies, Jennies, Tudies [sic], and the whole run of nursery names, but we were able to infer the real and dignified names of these lovely young women.

They couldn’t figure out Mellie, though. So they asked the Herald editor for the details. He said Mellie’s real name was Mellona after the Roman goddess Mellona. (Mellona is based on the Latin word mel, meaning “honey.”)

It seems that the young lady’s grandfather was a Presbyterian minister [Rev. Josiah Moulton], and that he gave the name to her mother at the suggestion of a classically inclined brother clergyman, and that Mellona was therefore handed down to the daughter.

The anonymous Sun writers were not keen on the name Mellona:

  • “Mellona? We cannot say that we like the name suggested by the clergyman”
  • “it is so unusual as to be odd”
  • “why did he not call her Melissa”
  • “A very odd name for a girl is objectionable rather than otherwise”
  • “surely there is nothing peculiarly beautiful in Mellona to call for its selection”
  • “the Moulton family have a monopoly of its use — and they are likely to keep it”

Their final comment — “Mellona is a much more suitable name for a young lady than Mellie” — was vaguely complimentary, but it doesn’t quite make up for the string of criticisms that preceded it.

Do you agree with them about the name Mellona?

Source: “Mellie.” Sun [New York] 19 Jul. 1886: 2.

(That post about women’s pet names from a few months ago was also based on a Sun essay.)


Pet Names for Women – Inappropriate? Disrespectful?

Nine women graduated from Rutgers Female College in 1886, and three of these nine women went by the pet names Hattie, Bessie and Mamie (diminutives of Harriet, Elizabeth and Mary/Margaret) during the graduation ceremony.

A writer at the now-defunct NYC newspaper The Sun had a strong opinion about this:

“[I]t seems very incongruous, and it is very incongruous, to give scholastic degree to a young woman who is spoken of only as if she were a baby who had not yet mastered the pronunciation of some of the consonants, and who changed the construction of words to suit the limitations of her infantile vocal organs.”

Here’s more:

In the domestic circle such nursery names have sweet and tender associations, but they sound quite silly when they are read out at a college commencement as the serious appellations of young women who are deemed worthy of grave scholastic degrees. Suppose that when Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was given an honorary degree in England, the other day, he had been described as Ollie Holmes or Noll Holmes.

These three young women allowed Dr. Samson and Dr. Burchard to address them before a large audience as if they were little girls in pinafores waiting for a present of a doll or of sweetmeats, instead of young ladies about to receive diplomas certifying that they had mastered studies within the ability of maturity only. They and their friends were not in the least indignant at the familiarity, but took it as altogether nice, pretty and proper.

Among the other recipients of degrees were two Marys and two Elizabeths, who were so called in their degrees, but Mamie and Bessie probably looked on them as the victims of the prejudices of old-fashioned and unreasonable parents. Yet we can never think of Mamie and Bessie and Hattie as dignified young women so long as they put those baby names on their cards.

The author didn’t strike me as being a feminist, but that’s how I saw his/her basic argument: women looking to be respected in the public sphere do themselves a disservice when they allow pet forms of their names to be used on serious/formal occasions.

And, back in that era — back when pet names typically were pet names (and not legal names) — I think I would have agreed. Because pet names would have denoted immaturity, familiarity, perhaps weakness — certainly not maturity, independence or power (traits that I imagine progressive women of the 19th century would have been aiming for).

These days the argument sounds a bit silly, though, as diminutives (e.g., Allie, Callie, Ellie, Sadie) are just as likely to be used as standalone legal names.

What’s your opinion?

Source: “Hattie, Bessie and Mamie.” Sun [New York] 12 Jun. 1886.

Names Popular During the Victorian Era

Tuesday’s post about the Victorian-style Tylney Hall Hotel reminded me of a list of Victorian-era names that I’ve had bookmarked forever.

The list was created by amateur genealogist G. M. Atwater as a resource for writers. It contains names and name combinations that were commonly seen in the U.S. from the 1840s to the 1890s. Below is the full list (with a few minor changes).

Victorian Era Female Names Victorian Era Male Names
  • Abigale / Abby
  • Ada
  • Adella
  • Agnes
  • Allie
  • Almira / Almyra
  • Alva
  • America
  • Amelia
  • Ann / Annie
  • Arrah
  • Beatrice
  • Bernice
  • Charity
  • Charlotte
  • Chastity
  • Claire
  • Constance
  • Cynthia
  • Dorothy / Dot
  • Edith
  • Edna
  • Edwina
  • Ella
  • Eleanor
  • Ellie
  • Elizabeth / Eliza / Liza / Lizzy / Bess / Bessie / Beth / Betsy
  • Elvira
  • Emma
  • Esther
  • Ethel
  • Eudora
  • Eva
  • Fidelia
  • Frances / Fanny
  • Flora
  • Florence
  • Geneve
  • Genevieve
  • Georgia
  • Gertrude / Gertie
  • Gladys
  • Grace
  • Hannah
  • Hattie
  • Helen
  • Helene
  • Henrietta / Hettie / Ettie
  • Hester
  • Hope
  • Hortence
  • Isabell / Isabella
  • Jane
  • Jennie
  • Jessamine
  • Josephine
  • Judith
  • Julia
  • Juliet
  • Katherine / Kate
  • Laura
  • Leah
  • Lenora
  • Letitia
  • Lila
  • Lilly
  • Lorena
  • Lorraine
  • Lottie
  • Louise / Louisa
  • Lucy
  • Lulu
  • Lydia
  • Mahulda
  • Margaret / Peggie
  • Mary / Molly / Polly
  • Mary Elizabeth
  • Mary Frances
  • Martha
  • Matilda / Mattie
  • Maude
  • Maxine / Maxie
  • Mercy
  • Mildred
  • Minerva
  • Missouri
  • Myrtle
  • Nancy
  • Natalie
  • Nellie / Nelly
  • Nettie
  • Nora
  • Orpha
  • Patsy
  • Parthena
  • Permelia
  • Phoebe
  • Philomena
  • Preshea
  • Rachel
  • Rebecca / Becky
  • Rhoda / Rhody
  • Rowena
  • Rufina
  • Ruth
  • Samantha
  • Sally
  • Sarah
  • Sarah Ann
  • Sarah Elizabeth
  • Savannah
  • Selina
  • Sophronia
  • Stella
  • Theodosia / Theda
  • Vertiline / Verd
  • Victoria
  • Virginia / Ginny
  • Vivian
  • Winnifred / Winnie
  • Zona
  • Zylphia
  • Aaron
  • Abraham / Abe
  • Alan / Allen
  • Albert
  • Alexander
  • Alonzo
  • Ambrose
  • Amon
  • Amos
  • Andrew / Drew / Andy
  • Aquilla
  • Archibald / Archie
  • Arnold
  • Asa
  • August / Augustus / Gus
  • Barnabas / Barney
  • Bartholomew / Bart
  • Benjamin
  • Bennet
  • Benedict
  • Bernard
  • Bertram / Bert
  • Buford
  • Byron
  • Calvin
  • Cephas
  • Charles / Charley / Charlie
  • Christopher
  • Christopher Columbus
  • Clarence
  • Clement / Clem
  • Clinton / Clint
  • Cole
  • Columbus / Lom / Lum
  • Commodore Perry
  • Daniel / Dan
  • David
  • Edmund
  • Edward / Ned
  • Edwin
  • Eldon
  • Eli
  • Elijah
  • Elisha
  • Emmett
  • Enoch
  • Ezekiel / Zeke
  • Ezra
  • Francis / Frank
  • Franklin
  • Frederick / Fred
  • Gabriel / Gabe
  • Garrett
  • George
  • George Washington
  • Gideon
  • Gilbert / Gil
  • Granville
  • Harland
  • Harrison
  • Harold / Harry
  • Harvey
  • Henry / Hank
  • Hiram
  • Horace
  • Horatio
  • Hugh
  • Isaiah
  • Israel
  • Isaac / Ike
  • Isaac Newton
  • Jacob / Jake
  • James / Jim
  • Jasper
  • Jefferson / Jeff
  • Jedediah / Jed
  • Jeptha
  • Jesse
  • Joel
  • John / Jack
  • John Paul
  • John Wesley
  • Jonathan
  • Joseph / Josephus
  • Josiah
  • Joshua
  • Julian
  • Julius
  • Lafayette / Lafe
  • Lawrence / Larry
  • Leander
  • Les / Lester / Leslie
  • Lewis / Lew / Louis
  • Levi
  • Lucas
  • Lucian
  • Lucius
  • Luke
  • Luther
  • Louis
  • Levi
  • Lucas
  • Lucian
  • Lucius
  • Luke
  • Luther
  • Matthew
  • Marcellus
  • Mark
  • Martin
  • Martin Luther
  • Masheck
  • Maurice
  • Maxwell
  • Merrill
  • Meriwether
  • Meriwether Lewis
  • Michael / Mike
  • Micajah / Cage
  • Mordecai
  • Morgan
  • Morris
  • Nathaniel / Nathan / Nate / Nat
  • Newton / Newt
  • Nicholas / Nick
  • Nimrod
  • Ninian
  • Obediah
  • Octavius
  • Ora / Oral
  • Orville
  • Oscar
  • Owen
  • Paul
  • Patrick / Pat
  • Patrick Henry
  • Paul
  • Perry
  • Peter
  • Pleasant
  • Ralph
  • Raymond
  • Reuben
  • Robert / Bob
  • Robert Lee
  • Richard / Rich / Dick
  • Roderick
  • Rudolph
  • Rufus
  • Samuel
  • Sam Houston
  • Seth
  • Silas
  • Simon
  • Simeon
  • Stanley / Stan
  • Stephen
  • Thaddeus
  • Thomas / Tom
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Theodore / Ted
  • Timothy / Tim
  • Ulysses
  • Uriah
  • Victor
  • Walter
  • Warren
  • Washington
  • Wilfred
  • William / Will / Bill / Billy
  • Willie
  • Zachariah
  • Zebulon
  • Zedock

Which female name and male name do you like best?

Source: Victorian Era Names, A Writer’s Guide

Starlet Names from the Early 1900s

Ever heard of the WAMPAS Baby Stars?

They were young actresses on the cusp of movie stardom back in the 1920s and 1930s.

WAMPAS baby stars 1928

About 13 Baby Stars were selected by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers every year from 1922 to 1934 (minus 1930 and 1933).

Some of those young women did indeed achieve stardom. Among the Baby Stars were Clara Bow (’24), Mary Astor (’26), Joan Crawford (’26), Fay Wray (’26) and Ginger Rogers (’32).

I thought the names of the Baby Stars — the oldest of whom were born in the final years of the 1800s, the youngest of whom were born in the mid-1910s — would make an interesting set. But I wanted birth names, not stage names, so I tracked down as many birth names as I could. Here’s the result, sorted by frequency (i.e., seven women were named Dorothy).

  • 7: Dorothy
  • 6: Helen
  • 4: Elizabeth
  • 3: Frances, Ruth, Virginia
  • 2: Anita, Ann, Barbara, Betty, Clara, Doris, Dorothea, Eleanor, Evelyn, Gladys, Gwendolyn, Hazel, Jacqueline, Katherine, Laura, Louise, Lucille, Margaret, Maria, Marian, Marie, Marion, Mary, Patricia, Violet
  • 1: Adamae, Alberta, Alma, Anne, Audrey, Augusta, Blanche, Carmelita, Caryl, Constance, Derelys, Dolores, Duane, Edna, Eleanor, Ena, Enriqueta, Ethel, Ethlyne, Evalyn, Flora, Gisela, Gloria, Gretchen, Hattie, Helene, Ina, Ingeborg, Jacquiline, Jean, Joan, Jobyna, Josephine, Juanita, Julanne, Kathleen, Kathryn, Kitty, Launa, Laurette, Lena, Lenore, Lilian, Lola, Lu Ann, Lucile, Madeline, Marceline, Martha, Mildred, Myrna, Natalia, Natalie, Nellie, Neoma, Olive, Olivia, Patsy, Rita, Rochelle, Rose, Sally, Suzanne, Sidney, Toshia, Vera, Vina

And here are the leftover stage names:

  • 5: Sally
  • 4: Mary
  • 3: Joan, June
  • 2: Betty, Jean, Judith, Pauline
  • 1: Alice, Bessie, Boots, Claire, Colleen, Dolores, Dorothy, Elinor, Evelyn, Fay, Frances, Gigi, Ginger, Gladys, Gloria, Gwen, Iris, Janet, Joyce, Julie, Karen, Kathleen, Lila, Lina, Lois, Lona, Loretta, Lucille, Lupe, Marian, Molly, Mona, Natalie, Patricia, Sue

(Often stage names were the real-life middle names of these women.)

Finally, a few interesting details:

  • Jobyna is Jobyna Ralston, named for actress Jobyna Howland, daughter of a man named Joby Howland. Jobyna debuted on the SSA’s baby name list in 1927.
  • Derelys is Derelys Perdue. “Perdue’s boss, future presidential father Joseph P. Kennedy, insisted on changing her name to the more palatable Ann Perdue.” She sued, but lost, and her career never recovered. Derelys was a one-hit wonder on the SSA’s baby name list in 1924.
  • Sidney is Sidney Fox, a female who had the name Sidney/Sydney long before the name became trendy for girls.
  • Lina is Lina Basquette, who I mentioned in last week’s name quote post.
  • One of the Marys is Mary Astor, who went on to give her daughter a Hawaiian name.

Which of the above names do you like best? Why?

Source: Derelys Perdue – Biography – Movies & TV – NYTimes.com

List of Female Names from 1888

female names, 1888

A while ago I found a book called “A Collection of Original Acrostics on Ladies’ Christian Names” that was published in Toronto in 1888.

I won’t post any of the poems, which are all pretty cheesy, but author George J. Howson does include an intriguing selection of names. He notes that he wrote acrostics for “all the most popular feminine christian names of the day, and many more that, while not in common use, are known to exist in actual life.”

Here’s the list:

Abigail
Ada
Adelaide
Adelle
Adeline
Addie
Aggie
Agnes
Alberta
Alecia
Aletha
Alfretta
Alice
Allie
Alma
Almeda
Almira
Alta
Althea
Alvira
Alzina
Amanda
Amelia
Amy
Ann
Anna
Annabell
Annas
Annette
Angelia
Angeline
Annie
Athaliah
Athelia
Augusta
Aura
Avis
Barbara
Beatrice
Bell
Bella
Berdie
Bertha
Bertie
Bessie
Beulah
Blanche
Bridget
Calista
Carrie
Carlotta
Cassie
Catherine
Cecilia
Cela
Celia
Celicia
Celis
Charlotte
Chloe
Christie
Christine
Clara
Clarissa
Cleanthe
Clementina
Constance
Cora
Cordelia
Corinne
Cornelia
Cynthia
Cyrena
Debbie
Delia
Della
Diana
Diantha
Dinah
Dollie
Dora
Dorcas
Dorinda
Dorothy
Edith
Edna
Effie
Ella
Eleanor
Eleanora
Electa
Ellen
Elfie
Eliza
Elma
Elsie
Emma
Emmeline
Emily
Ena
Erma
Estelle
Esther
Ethel
Ethelind
Ettie
Eugenie
Eula
Eunice
Euphemia
Euretta
Eva
Evalina
Eveline
Evelyn
Fannie
Felicia
Flora
Florence
Floss
Frances
Frank
Gay
Georgie
Georgina
Geraldine
Gertie
Gracie
Hagar
Hannah
Harriet
Hattie
Helen
Helena
Henrietta
Hulda
Ida
Irene
Isabel
Isabella
Isadora
Jane
Janet
Janie
Jeannette
Jemima
Jennet
Jennie
Jessie
Jerusha
Joanna
Josephine
Josie
Julia
Kate
Kathleen
Katie
Keziah
Lany
Laura
Leah
Leila
Lena
Lera
Lettie
Levina
Levinia
Libbie
Lida
Lilian
Lillie
Lizzie
Lola
Lora
Lorretta
Lottie
Lou
Louisa
Louise
Lucinda
Lucretia
Lucy
Luella
Lula
Lulu
Lydia
Mabel
Madelaine
Maggie
Malvina
Mamie
Marcella
Margaret
Maria
Marilla
Marion
Mary
Marsena
Martha
Mattie
Maud
Maudie
May
Melinda
Mellissa
Mercy
Mertie
Mildred
Millie
Mina
Minerva
Minnie
Mintha
Miranda
Mollie
Muriel
Myra
Myrtle
Nancy
Naomi
Nellie
Nettie
Nina
Nora
Ollie
Olive
Olivia
Ormanda
Ophelia
Pauline
Pearl
Phoebe
Phyllis
Priscilla
Prudence
Rachel
Rebecca
Rhoda
Robena
Rosa
Rosabel
Rosalie
Rosalind
Rosamond
Rose
Ruby
Ruth
Sabina
Sadie
Sally
Samantha
Sarah
Selina
Sophia
Sophronia
Stella
Susanna
Susie
Sybil
Teresa
Theodocia
Theresa
Tillie
Una
Verna
Victoria
Vida
Viola
Violet
Wilhelmina
Winifred
Zuba

Have any favorites?

Hulda/Huldah is one I like. It’s one of those names that I always see on old New England gravestones but never come across in real life. Wonder when that one will become stylish again.

BTW, has anyone ever seen a good name acrostic? Like, one that’s actually well-written and/or thought-provoking? Because I don’t think I ever have.

Source: A Collection of Original Acrostics on Ladies’ Christian Names by George J. Howson