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
1918: 9 baby girls named Neysa
1917: 9 baby girls named Neysa [debut]
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?
Betty: The baby girl born to actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds in October of 2019 was named Betty, as revealed by the recent Taylor Swift song “Betty.” (US Weekly)
Lucifer: A baby boy born in the UK earlier this year was finally named Lucifer after parents Dan and Mandy Sheldon had an argument with the registrar. (Extra.ie)
Olympia Lightning (Bolt): The baby girl born to Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and his girlfriend Kasi Bennett in May was named Olympia Lightning. (Twitter)
Onyx: The baby boy born to rappers Iggy Azalea (real name: Amethyst Kelly) and Playboi Carti (Jordan Carter) earlier this year was named Onyx, which, like mom’s first name, refers to a semi-precious gemstone. (Page Six)
Cissy Cissy Fitzgerald was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in England in 1873. Her birth name was Marie Kathleen Kipping. Cissy was also a character name in multiple films, including Just Cissy’s Little Way (short, 1913) and Sunny Side Up (1926).
Claudette Claudette Colbert was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in France in 1903. Claudette was also a character played by actress Glenda Farrell in the film Traveling Saleslady (1935).
Cleone Cleone Meredith was a character played by various actresses (like Madge Stuart and Elissa Landi) in various films called The Amateur Gentleman, all based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Farnol.
Cleopatra Cleopatra was a character name in multiple films, including Cleopatra – Queen of Egypt (1912) and Oh! Oh! Cleopatra (1931).
Conchita Conchita Montenegro was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in Spain in 1911. Her birth name was Concepción Andrés Picado. Conchita was also a character name in multiple films, including A Branded Soul (1917) and Border Romance (1929).
Corinna Corinna Mura was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in 1909. Corinna was also a character played by actress Jacqueline Logan in the film The House of Youth (1924).
Corliss Corliss Palmer was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1930s. She was born in Georgia in 1902. Corliss was also a character played by actress Gloria Grey in the film Unknown Dangers (1926).
Dale Dale Fuller was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in California in 1885. Her birth name was Marie Dale Phillipps. Dale was also a character name in multiple films, including Top Hat (1935) and King of Alcatraz (1938).
Derelys Derelys Perdue was an actress who appeared in films in the 1920s. She was born in Missouri in 1902. Her birth name was Geraldine Perdue. Derelys was also a character played by actress Lilyan Tashman in the film Take Me Home (1928).
Usage of the baby name Derelys (which debuted in the data in 1924).
Deria Deria was a character played by actress Julia Dean in the film Experiment Perilous (1944).
Despina Despina was the 114-year-old woman featured in the short documentary The Weavers (1905), believed to be the first motion picture shot in the Balkans. (There’s no proof of Despina’s year of birth, but if she really was 114 years old, then she’s the earliest-born person ever filmed.)
Dolly Dolly Larkin was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in New York in 1889. Her birth name was Margaret Larkin. Dolly was also a character played by actress Cleo Madison in the short film The Ring of Destiny (1915).
Dolores Dolores del Rio was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was born in Mexico in 1904. Dolores Moran was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in California in 1926. Dolores was also a character played by actress Hedy Lamarr in the film Tortilla Flat (1942).
Dolorita Dolorita was a dancer who appeared in films in the 1890s and 1900s. Her first film, The Dolorita Passion Dance (1897), was the first motion picture to be banned in the United States. (It was banned in Atlantic City specifically.)
Domini Domini was a character played by various actresses (such as Helen Ware and Marlene Dietrich) in various movies called The Garden of Allah, all based on the 1904 novel of the same name by Robert Smythe Hichens.
Donia Donia Bussey was an actress who appeared in films from the 1940s to the 1950s. She was born in Ohio in 1899. Donia was also a character played by actress Edith Storey in the short film The Chains of an Oath (1913).
Dorinda Dorinda Clifton was an actress who appeared in films in the 1940s and 1950s. She was born in California in 1928. Dorinda was also a character name in multiple films, including Rosemary, That’s for Remembrance (1914) and The Farmer’s Daughter (1940).
Dorothea Dorothea Kent was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 1940s. She was born in Missouri in 1916. Dorothea was also a character name in multiple films, including The Heart of a Child (1915) and Broken in the Wars (1919).
My guess is female jockey and trick rider Ardoth Schneider.
She’d been winning races since the late 1920s, so her name — often misspelled “Ardath” — had been mentioned in the newspapers before.
But 1933 was the year she was declared Sweetheart of California Rodeo:
While thousands cheered themselves hoarse at the western arena [in Salinas] this afternoon as the spectacular 22nd annual rodeo got under way, the 1933 Sweetheart crown was placed over the lustrous, black locks of winsome Ardoth Schneider, 23, of Long Beach.
Following the win, various photos of Ardoth — typically astride or beside a horse — began popping up in the newspapers. And I think the photos (as opposed to the mere mentions) are what made the difference.
As the new “Sweetheart,” she went on a tour of Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador with a letter of introduction from President Roosevelt that described her as California’s “finest outdoor girl.”
What are your thoughts on the name Ardoth? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?
“The Fair Sex in a New Field.” Cincinnati Enquirer 1 Apr. 1928: 110.
“Favorite of Rodeos.” Oakland Tribune 24 Sept. 1933: 57.
“Girl Student Rise to Tijuana Triumph.” New York Times 12 Mar. 1928: 25.
“Long Beach Girl Wins Sweetheart of Rodeo Honors.” Santa Cruz Sentinel 22 Jul. 1933: 3.
P.S. For several months in the winter of 1928, Ardoth was in Japan performing for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. Twice a day, she jumped her Shetland pony Betty off a 40-foot platform into a pool of water “to entertain the enthusiastic Japanese crowds.”
P.P.S. Tuesdee is another female jockey-inspired baby name I discovered in the data.