How popular is the baby name Ruth in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Ruth and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Ruth.
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In 1910, the Boston-based publisher H. M. Caldwell Co. ran the following ad for its “My Own Name” series of books in American Motherhood magazine.
It is the purpose of these charming little books to tell girls all about their names, information about the name, its origin, the name in history, the name in poetry, fiction and romance is given, also notable namesakes past and present.
It wasn’t much of a series, though, as there were only 25 names to choose from:
Alice (ranked 10th nationally in 1910)
Clearly three more names could have fit on that last line (next to Winifred), so let’s turn this into a game. Which three girl names would you add to this list? That is, give us three names you like that would also be logical additions to this list, given the time period. For instance, I think I’d add Iola, Della, and Bonnie. How about you?
(If you want to access the national rankings for 1910, click over to the SSA’s site and scroll down to “Popular Names by Birth Year.”)
A reader got in touch recently to ask about several unusual names. One of them was “Vouletti,” which belonged to a daughter of Isaac Merritt Singer (1811-1875).
Isaac Singer is best remembered for his successful sewing machine manufacturing company, founded in 1851 and still going strong today. Also notable, though, is the fact that he had a total of 24 children with five different wives and mistresses.
With Maria Haley, he had two children:
William Adam (b. 1834)
Lillian C. (b. 1837)
With Mary Ann Sponsler, he had ten children:
Isaac Augustus (b. 1837)
Vouletti Theresa (b. 1840)
Fanny Elizabeth (b. 1841)
John Albert (b. circa 1843)
Jasper Hamet (b. 1846)
Julia Ann (b. circa 1847)
Mary Olivia (b. 1848)
Charles Alexander (1850-1852)
Caroline Virginia (b. 1857)
…plus one more
With Mary McGonigal, he had five children:
Charles Alexander (b. 1859)
With Mary E. Walters, he had one child:
Alice Eastwood (b. 1852)
With Isabella Eugenie Boyer (of France), he had six children:
Adam Mortimer (b. 1863)
Winnaretta Eugenie (b. 1865)
Washington Merritt Grant (b. 1866)
Paris Eugene (b. 1867) – Palm Beach developer, namesake of Singer Island
Isabelle Blanche (b. 1869)
Franklin Morse (b. 1870)
These are traditional names for the most part, which makes “Vouletti” all the more intriguing.
Vouletti Singer was born in 1840, married William Proctor in 1862, had three children, and died in 1913. Though her name was definitely spelled Vouletti — that’s the spelling passed down to various descendants, and the one used by her friend Mercedes de Acosta in the poem “To Vouletti” — I found it misspelled a lot: “Voulitti” on the 1855 New York State Census, “Voulettie” on the 1900 U.S. Census, “Voulettie” again in a Saturday Evening Post article from 1951.
So…where does it come from?
I have no clue. I can’t find a single person with the given name Vouletti who predates Vouletti Singer. I also can’t find anyone with the surname Vouletti. (There was a vaudevillian with the stage name “Eva Vouletti,” but she doesn’t pop up until the early 1900s.)
Theater could be a possibility, as Isaac Singer was an actor in his younger days. Perhaps Vouletti was a character name he was familiar with?
My only other idea is the Italian word violetti, which means “violet.” Her parents might have coined the name with this word in mind.
Do you have any thoughts/theories about the unusual name Vouletti?
Valeska Suratt was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Indiana in 1882. Valeska was also a character name in multiple films, including For a Woman’s Honor (1919) and Broadway Scandals (1929).
Valli Valli was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Germany in 1882. Her birth name was Valli Knust. Alida Valli, often credited simply as Valli, was an actress who appeared in films from the 1930s to the 2000s. She was born in Italy (now Croatia) in 1921. Valli was also a character played by actress Margaret Livingston in the film What a Widow! (1930).
Vedah Bertram was an actress who appeared in films in the early 1910s. She was born in Massachusetts in 1891. Her birth name was Adele Buck.
Vedah, who died of appendicitis at the age of 20 in 1912, “became the first noted film player to be mourned by the movie-going public.” According to the San Francisco Call, her East Coast family had not been aware of her film career. “Hoping to keep her actions from her friends and relatives, she assumed the name under which she has been acting.”
Vee Newell was a character played by actress Olive Borden in the film Hello Sister (1930).
Velma Whitman was an actress who appeared in films in the 1910s. She was born in Ohio in 1885. Velma was also a character name in multiple films, including The Greatest Menace (1923) and The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1929).
Vermuda was a character played by actress Martha Sleeper in the short film Sure-Mike! (1925).
Verna Mersereau was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1920s. She was born in 1894. Verna was also a character name in multiple films, including His Temporary Wife (1920) and Here Comes Carter (1936).
Vesta Tilley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1900s to the 1910s. She was born in England in 1864. Her birth name was Matilda Alice Powles. Vesta was also a character name in multiple films, including The House in Suburbia (short, 1913) and The Duke of Chimney Butte (1921).
Vilma Banky was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Austria-Hungary (now Hungary) in 1898. Vilma was also a character name in multiple films, including Federal Agent (1936) and Meet the Boy Friend (1937).
Looking for an under-the-radar girl name with a retro feel?
A few years ago I combed though a bunch of IMDb pages looking for interesting female names associated with old films (1910s-1940s).
Most of the names I spotted — names like Mabel, Maisie, Hazel, Hattie, Elsie, Selma, Bessie, and Betty — were ones I expected to see. But I did manage to collect thousands of rarities, many of which have never appeared in the SSA data before.
Want to check out all these unusual names? I thought so! To make things interesting I’ll post the Z-names first and go backwards, letter by letter.
Zabette de Chavalons was a character played by actress Bebe Daniels in the film Volcano! (1926).
Zabie Elliot was a character played by actress Mary Alden in the film The Broken Butterfly (1919).
Zada L’Etoile was a character played by actress Sylvia Breamer in the Cecil B. DeMille-directed film We Can’t Have Everything (1918).
Zena Dare was an actress who appeared in films during the 1920s and 1930s. She was born in England in 1887. Zena Keefe was an actress who appeared in films during the 1910s and 1920s. She was born in California in 1898. Zena was also a character name in multiple films, including The Code of Honor (short, 1916) and The New York Peacock (1917).
We definitely want pick a name that has a certain positivity that will counter this barbaric, negative time that we’re in right now.
From the 2008 New York Times obituary of illustrator/author Tasha Tudor:
Starling Burgess, who later legally changed both her names to Tasha Tudor, was born in Boston to well-connected but not wealthy parents. Her mother, Rosamond Tudor, was a portrait painter, and her father, William Starling Burgess, was a yacht and airplane designer who collaborated with Buckminster Fuller. […] She was originally nicknamed Natasha by her father, after Tolstoy’s heroine in “War and Peace.” This was shortened to Tasha. After her parents divorced when she was 9, Ms. Tudor adopted her mother’s last name.
(Her four kids were named Seth, Bethany, Thomas, and Efner (female). One of Tudor’s books was called Edgar Allan Crow (1953).)
On the new scientific name of Australia’s “Blue Bastard” fish:
Queensland Museum scientist Jeff Johnson, who identified the species from photos taken last year by a Weipa fisherman, has formally christened it Plectorhinchus caeruleonothus – a direct Latin translation of the colloquial name anglers bestowed on a fish famously difficult to land.
“Caeruleo is blue and nothus is bastard. That was the origin of the name applied by fishermen for many years and I thought, why should I argue with that? It seemed like a perfect name [to] me,” Johnson told Guardian Australia.
“I wondered what the reviewers of the paper would say about it but they both agreed it was quintessentially Australian and we should go ahead.”
From the book My Life as a List: 207 Things about My (Bronx) Childhood (1999) by Linda Rosenkrantz (of Nameberry!):
Before I was born, my mother had decided to name me either Laurel or Lydia, names that appealed to her artistic temperament. But then somehow, while under the scrim of anesthesia, she was convinced by my father’s sisters to make me a lackluster Ruth, in honor of their recently deceased mother, Rose. And so my birth certificate read Ruth Leila, a name I was never, ever called by my mother, either of my father’s sisters or anyone else.
While walking along some river bank, not far from the Volga line, we might encounter some pleasant people called Kvedor, Markva, Valdonya and Nekhot and not realise that in Russian they would be Fyodor, Marfa, Svetlana and Mefody aka Theodore, Martha, Svetlana and Methodius.
This sort of phenomenon happens because of the Finno-Ugric special phonetic and secret lore. Any sound which is not familiar to their native tongue will be changed and adapted to suit the native tastes.
[E]arlier this year in Augusta, Ga., Superior Court Judge J. David Roper declined to change the name of a college student from Rebeccah Elizabeth to Rowan Elijah Feldhaus.
“I don’t know anybody named Elijah who’s female,” the judge said, according to a court transcript. “I’m not going to do that. I’ve never heard of that. And I know who Elijah was, one of the greatest men who ever lived.”
Months later, he ruled similarly in the case of a transgender man who wanted to legally become Andrew Baumert, the name by which he said everyone already knew him. The judge refused. “My policy has been that I will not change a name from an obviously female to an obviously male name, and vice versa,” he said.
Having grown up in a working-class world, Frank is sensitive to names that he finds “pretentious” while as the outsider black kid, I worry about names that sound “too white.” I must admit that I have mostly rolled my eyes at his unease with my never-ending list of suggestions from world mythology and literature. He suggests Molly; I counter with Aziza. He brings William to the table; I suggest Tiberius.
From a 1958 article in The Atlantic on Burmese Names by Mi Mi Khaing:
One or more of a Burmese child’s names is almost certain to show the day on which he was born–a survival from our belief that human destiny is linked with the stars. Certain letters of the alphabet are ascribed to each day, so that a “Thursday’s child” would have one name beginning with our P, B, or M.
Burmese is a monosyllabic language, and each part of our names is an actual word that means something, or even several things, depending on how it is pronounced. Thus I am “Little Mother” (Mi Mi) “Branch of the Tree” (Khaing) (though “khaing” can also mean “firm”) […] [a] merchant I know was aptly named “Surmounting a Hundred Thousand,” while the Rector of Rangoon University, Dr. Htin Aung, is “Distinguished and Successful.”
Being so handsomely named is not embarrassing, however, because we become so used to our names, and those of our friends, that we only think of the person and remember their names by their sound.