Independent baby name blog & directory, est. 2006.
How popular is the baby name Malaeska in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Malaeska and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Malaeska.
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The names Dorcasina, Malaeska, and Trilby were inspired by characters from 19th-century novels. Altruria also comes from a 19th-century novel, but not from a character.
A Traveler from Altruria (1894) by William Dean Howells was first published in installments in Cosmopolitan in 1892-1893. The protagonist is Aristides Homos, a visitor to America from the fictional island of Altruria, “a Utopian world that combined the foundations of Christianity and the U.S. Constitution to produce an “ethical socialism” by which society was guided.”
The fictional place-name Altruria is a play on the word “altruism,” which was coined relatively recently (circa 1830) by French philosopher Auguste Comte.
Though A Traveler from Altruria isn’t well-remembered today, it was influential during the 1890s. Altrurian Clubs started sprouting up across the country. A short-lived commune called Altruria was established in Sonoma County, California, in the mid-1890s. And at least two babies were given the (middle) name Altruria:
Carrie Altruria Evans, born in 1900 in Van Wert, Ohio
Lester Altruria Eby, born in 1895 in Des Moines, Iowa
The official history book of the Van Wert Altrurian Club even mentions Carrie by name:
What do you think of Altruria as a baby name? Do you think it could be an alternative to the fast-rising Aurora (which broke into the top 100 last year)?
I was reading something about U.S. history when I came across an interesting word: Malaeska. It was the name of a book that became very popular just before the Civil War broke out.
“Malaeska” sounded like a name to me, so I did some digging and discovered that it was indeed a name. The full book title was Malaeska: the Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Ann S. Stephens.
The tale had been serialized in The Ladies’ Companion way back in 1839, but didn’t become widely known until it was republished as the world’s first dime novel in 1860. Several hundred thousand copies of the book were sold that year, making it a bestseller.
What’s the novel about?
It’s about a Mohican woman named Malaeska who lives in the Catskill region of New York in the mid-1600s. She secretly marries a white settler and gives birth to their bi-racial child, but when her husband is killed, she’s forced to abandon her tribe and take her son to New York City to seek the help of her husband’s family. The family is shocked by the situation, but they agree to raise the boy as their own and keep Malaeska around as the nanny.
Years go by, the boy grows up, and Malaeska returns to her tribe. When her son comes to visit her one day, she decides to tell him the truth — that she isn’t his nanny, she’s his mother. He can’t accept the truth, so he drowns himself. Malaeksa, “the heart-broken victim of an unnatural marriage,” tries to rescue him but also dies.
Sensationalistic and melodramatic? Yup. But that’s exactly what made the novel so popular 150 years ago.
So is the name Malaeska a legitimate Mohican name?
Nope. Like the story itself, the name is a romantic fiction. Ann S. Stephens (1810-1886) was a prolific New England author and editor, fairly famous in her day, but she wasn’t going for accuracy when she created Malaeska’s exotic-sounding name.
And accuracy apparently didn’t matter much to the handful of parents who liked the name enough to give it to their daughters (and at least one son) during the 1860s:
Malaeska Graffins*, born in 1862 in Pennsylvania
Malaeska Morgan, born in 1863 in Ohio
Maleaska [sic] Moon, born in 1863 in Cornwall, England
Malaeska E. Stevens, born in 1866 in New Hampshire
Malaeska Jefferson Marsh (male), born in 1866 in Kansas
Several more babies born in the 1860s and after were named Malaeska, but usage of the name basically ended a few decades into the 20th century.