The name Raven has been given to babies of both genders for decades, but I find its female usage particularly interesting because girl-name Raven has gotten three distinct boosts from popular culture so far.
The first boost happened in 1941, when Raven debuted as a girl name in the data. (It had already popped up a few times as a boy name.)
6 babies [debut]
In October of that year, in the comic strip Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff, a female character named Raven Sherman died in a dramatic and memorable sequence.
Raven, “a WASP clearly modeled on Katharine Hepburn” according to one source, was an American heiress who was working at a camp for war refugees in China. She was pushed off a moving truck, died of her injuries, and was buried on an isolated Chinese hillside. “Caniff was flooded with flower deliveries, mock memorial services, petitions of condolence signed by disparate groups as factory workers and entire colleges, as well as a lot of irate letters.”
The second pop culture boost happened in the 1970s:
In 1976, the soap opera The Edge of Night introduced a female character named Raven Swift (first played by Juanin Clay, then played by Sharon Gabet). She was described as “the show’s delightful young vixen-heroine” in The Soap Opera Encyclopedia. The character remained on the show until it was canceled in 1984.
And the most recent (and biggest) pop culture boost happened in the early 1990s:
It went on to peak at 139th in 1993.
The reason? Actress Raven-Symoné, who first found fame as a four year old when she started playing Olivia (Denise’s step-daughter) on the The Cosby Show in 1989. The compound name Ravensymone debuted in the data in 1990, and the spelling variant Ravensimone followed in 1991. (Her Disney Channel show That’s So Raven didn’t come along until much later.)
What are your thoughts on the name Raven? Would you use it?
Hamill, Pete. “Milton Caniff.” Masters of American Comics, edited by John Carlin, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 229-237.
We won’t know until tomorrow about the names of the first babies of 2020. Until then, here’s the story behind the name of Toronto’s first baby of 2010, Eva Violante, who arrived one second after midnight on New Year’s morning.
The parents “knew the baby was a girl and had two names picked out – Olivia and Eva.”
They chose Eva because it was the name of the doctor who delivered her, they had driven down a street in their neighbourhood with the same name, and because they thought she was going to be born on New Year’s Eve.
Neat, right? And here’s another baby whose name was chosen after a series of coincidences.