The baby name Tenley first popped up in the SSA’s baby name data in 1953:
- 1957: 11 baby girls named Tenley
- 1956: 25 baby girls named Tenley
- 1955: 11 baby girls named Tenley
- 1954: 6 baby girls named Tenley
- 1953: 12 baby girls named Tenley [debut]
- 1952: unlisted
The inspiration? Tenley Emma Albright (b. 1935), who overcame childhood polio to become a world-class figure skater.
She won a silver medal at the 1952 Winter Olympics, became the first “triple crown” winner (U.S., North American, and World titles) in figure skating in 1953, and won a gold medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics (the first to be televised).
After retiring from figure skating in 1956, she became a surgeon.
Where did she get her name?
“I don’t know exactly where my mother found the name Tenley. When I asked her, she said, “I just liked the sound.”
Her family is full of interesting names: father Hollis, mother Elin, and brother Nile (whose name is “Elin” spelled backwards). Her first husband was named Tudor, and her three daughters are Lilla Rhys, Elin, and Elee.
In 1965, Tenley explained her eldest daughter’s name to Sports Illustrated. She said that Lilla came from the Swedish expression Lilla Vän (“little friend”) — her mother’s childhood nickname — and that Rhys was a family name.
In July of 2014, for her 79th birthday, Tenley hosted a party for her many namesakes at the Boston Skating Club. She promoted the party via the website My Name Is Tenley. Over 60 Tenleys showed up, some coming from as far away as London and Holland. The party even featured a performance by an 11-year-old skater named (what else?) Tenley.
(And what pushed the name Tenley in the top 1,000 for the first time in 2010? A contestant named Tenley on the 14th season of The Bachelor.)
Image: © 1956 UPI