How popular is the baby name Willowdean in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Willowdean.
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So I’m taking this as a sign that it’s finally time to post about Willodean. :)
“Willodean” is the most popular spelling, but the group includes dozens of variants, 16 of which have been used frequently enough to register in the SSA data. Here are some specifics on each of the 16:
Willodean: At least 1,236 U.S. baby girls have been named Willodean (which was in the data from the 1910s to the 1950s)
595 in Ala., 76 Tenn., 47 Ark., 42 Ind., 16 Ky.
Willadean: At least 880 baby girls named Willadean (1910s to 1960s)
Willodene: At least 241 baby girls named Willodene (1910s to 1940s)
44 in Alabama
Willadene: At least 220 baby girls named Willadene (1910s to 1940s)
5 in Indiana
Wylodean: At least 77 baby girls named Wylodean (1920s to 1930s)
5 in Alabama
Willadeen: At least 75 baby girls named Willadeen (1920s to 1930s)
9 in Texas, 6 in Arkansas
Willowdean: At least 63 baby girls named Willowdean (1920s to 1930s)
Wilodean: At least 55 baby girls named Wilodean (1920s to 1930s)
10 in Kentucky, 5 in Alabama
Wylodine: At least 32 baby girls named Wylodine (1920s to 1930s)
Willodeen: At least 29 baby girls named Willodeen (1920s to 1930s)
Wylodene: At least 23 baby girls named Wylodene (1920s)
5 in Alabama
Willadine: At least 16 baby girls named Willadine (1920s)
Wilodene: At least 11 baby girls named Wilodene (1920s to 1930s)
Willodine: At least 10 baby girls named Willodine (1930s)
Wilodyne: At least 6 baby girls named Wilodyne (1920s)
Wiladean: At least 5 baby girls named Wiladean (1920s)
Overall, the group was most popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as you can see in the chart above.
Only the most popular variant, Willodean, was able to break into the top 1,000:
1933: 43 baby girls named Willodean
1932: 67 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 854th]
1931: 66 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 856th]
1930: 57 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 983rd]
1929: 67 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 876th]
1928: 76 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 830th]
1927: 57 baby girls named Willodean
1926: 64 baby girls named Willodean [rank: 941st]
1925: 48 baby girls named Willodean
And now for the $64,000 question: What made the “Willodean” name-group so trendy in the Southeastern U.S. (particularly Alabama) in the late ’20s and early ’30s?
I wish I knew!
The data suggests that something kicked things off around 1924, and yet I haven’t been able to find a probable event. Was it something in the newspapers? On the radio?
The only clue I’ve found so far is a secondary character named Willowdean French from Summer Bachelors, which was two things in 1926: a book published in August and a silent film released in December. But the book and movie were clearly just following the trend, not launching it.
I’ve known about the historical/regional trendiness of Willodean for a long time now. I even remember seeing posts about Willodean at other name blogs (like Spastic Onomastic and Baby Name Wizard). I held off writing about it myself because I figured I’d eventually stumble upon the influence and post something definitive. But, more than a decade later, I still haven’t solved the mystery.
So…does anyone out there have a theory about what made Willodean trendy in the early 20th century?
Even better: Do you happen to know a family with a Willodean who was born in the ’20s or ’30s? (I’m looking at you, Alabama peeps!) If so, would you please reach out and ask a family member if they know the story behind the name?
A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reader looking for lists of old-fashioned double names. She was aiming for names like Thelma Dean, Eula Mae, and Gaynell — names that would have sounded trendy in the early 1900s. She also mentioned that she’d started a list of her own.
So I began scouring the interwebs. I tracked down lists of old-fashioned names, and lists of double names…but I couldn’t find a decent list of double names that were also old-fashioned.
I loved the idea of such a list, though, so I suggested that we work together to create one. She generously sent me the pairings she’d collected so far, and I used several different records databases to find many more.
I restricted my search to names given to girls born in the U.S. from 1890 to 1930. I also stuck to double names that I found written as single names, because it’s very likely that these pairings were used together in real life (i.e., that they were true double names and not merely first-middle pairings).
Pairings that seemed too timeless, like Maria Mae and Julia Rose, were omitted. I also took out many of the pairings that feature now-trendy names — think Ella, Emma, and Lucy — because they just don’t sound old-fashioned anymore (though they would have a few decades ago).
The result isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a decent sampling of real-life, old-fashioned double names. I’ve organized them by second name, and I also added links to popularity graphs for names that were in the SSA data during the correct time period (early 1900s).
Time for more unusual female names from old films!
Here’s something I didn’t know until recently: many (most?) of the “Indian maiden” characters in early movies had names starting with W. As a result, about half of the names below refer to Native American characters specifically. I’m not sure how many of these Native American names are legit, though. If you can verify any of them, please leave a comment.
Wah-na-gi was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Squaw Man’s Son (1917).
Wahnah was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Kidnapped by Indians (1914).
Princess Wah-tah was a character played by actress Yvonne De Carlo in the film The Deerslayer (1943).
Wah-ta-wah was a character played by actress Aline Goodwin in the film serial Leatherstocking (1924).
Wahtonka was a character played by actress Claire Du Brey in the film Dakota (1945).
Wahtunka was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film Brought to Justice (1914).
Walmura was a character played by actress Mona Darkfeather in the short film The Fate of a Squaw (1914).
Walpurga was a character played by actress Mrs. A. C. Marston in the short film On the Heights (1914).
Wamba was a character name in multiple films, including Wamba, a Child of the Jungle (short, 1913) and Justice of the Far North (1925).
Wambi was a character played by actress Lule Warrenton in the short film The Queen of Jungle Land (1915).
Wana was a character played by actress Alice Joyce in the short film The Indian Maid’s Sacrifice (1911).
Wanama was a character played by actress Armida in the film Jungle Goddess (1948).
Wanana was a character played by actress Marie Walcamp in the short film A Daughter of the Redskins (1914).
Wanda Hawley was an actress who appeared in films from the 1910s to the 1930s. She was born in Pennsylvania in 1895. Wanda McKay was an actress who appeared in films mainly in the 1940s. She was born in Oregon in 1915. Wanda was also a character name in multiple films, including The One-Way Trail (1920) and Men Are Such Fools (1938).
Wowkle was a character played by actress Anita King in the film The Girl of the Golden West (1915), by Neola May in The Girl of the Golden West (1930), and by Ynez Seabury in The Girl of the Golden West (1938). The film was based on the play The Girl of the Golden West (1905) by David Belasco, who found the name Wowkle in the writings of ethnographer Stephen Powers, who claimed the name meant “fox” among the Nisenan of California.
Wyllis Hyde was a character played by actress Pauline Starke in the film The Argument (1918).
Wynne Gibson was an actress who appeared in films from the 1920s to the 1940s. She was born in New York in 1898. Wynne was also a character played by actress Anita Louise in the film Lady Tubbs (1935).