In late 1913, while the eugenics movement was picking up steam, various newspapers ran the story of England’s “first eugenic baby.”
The baby’s name? Eugenette Bolce.
Eugenette’s parents, both American, hadn’t been specially selected for one another (as you might expect, given the term “eugenic”).
Instead, while pregnant, Mrs. Bolce had made it a point to attend concerts and plays, and to have conversations with famous authors. She hoped this would positively influence the baby. (One modern writer called Mrs. Bolce “enterprisingly Lamarckian.”)
Born in March, 6-month-old Eugenette already had a sense of humor and was “absolutely fearless,” according to her parents. They claimed these favorable attributes were “due to their deliberate plan of eugenic training.”
Writers of the day mocked the idea of a eugenic baby. LIFE published a parody piece featuring a smug “first eugenic baby” who ended up getting punched in the jaw by a decidedly non-eugenic baby. One writer even mocked Eugenette’s name: “Eugenette Bolce — that is the name, and it is the name of a baby and not a skin-ointment.”
If you can divorce the idea of eugenics from the name for a second…what do you think of “Eugenette”? Do you like it more or less than Eugenie and Eugenia?
“Armchair Reflections.” Flight: First Aero Weekly in the World 11 Oct. 1913: 1123.
“Eugenette: First Eugenic Baby Brought Up on Humor.” Feilding Star 14 Oct. 1913: 4.
Kevles, Daniel J. In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Roald Amundsen wasn’t the only person racing southward in the early 1910s. English explorer Robert Falcon Scott was also trying to be the first to reach the South Pole.
But Scott’s team arrived in January on 1912 — more than a month after Amundsen’s team. Even worse, during the 800-mile return trek, Scott and all four of his companions died.
Scott’s body was discovered in November, but the news of his death didn’t reach civilization until February of 1913. At that point, he became a national hero.
It’s hard to know how many babies worldwide were named “Robert” in his honor, given both the prevalence of the name and the sheer size of the British Empire at that time, but I have found a pair of unmistakable tributes:
Robert Falcon Scott Simpson, born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1913.
Robert Falcon Scott Grieve, born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 1916.
Both babies were born in Canada, but Simpson’s parents were both from England, while Grieve’s were from the U.S. and Scotland.
Notorious Romanian leader Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918-1989) was one of nine surviving siblings:
Did you catch it? Nicolae is listed twice. The first one is the dictator, the second one is his younger brother, born when the first Nicolae was about 6.
Ceaușescu biographer John Sweeney writes off the repetition: “His parents had more children than they knew names.”
But here’s how Alice Miller, psychologist and child abuse expert, explains it:
To my question as to how a brother could also be christened Nicolae, I repeatedly received the reply that the father was drunk “as usual” at the time the child was named. By all accounts, he had simply forgotten that he already had a son named Nicolae–though no one could explain to me how Ceausescu’s mother could also forget that fact. This information seemed to arouse little surprise in Bucharest.
She also says the situation “throws light on the dictator’s obsessive desire for revenge,” which must have come from his “insatiable determination to gain at last the recognition completely denied him as a child.”
I haven’t found anything to verify Alice’s version of the story but, if true, it’s rather depressing. Naming and drinking do not mix. (Robert could have told you that.)
Miller, Alice. Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth. New York: Dutton, 1991.
Sweeney, John. The Life and Evil Times of Nicolae Ceausescu. London: Hutchinson, 1991.
On December 27, 1916, a baby girl was born to Mrs. Colin Campbell aboard a Los Angeles Limited passenger train as it was passing through Jericho, Utah, en route to Salt Lake City.
A pullman porter named Samuel Joseph assisted with the birth, and vaudeville actress Sophie Tucker, who happened to be in Salt Lake at the time, “gave up her state room to the child’s mother when informed of the circumstances.”
In thanks to the latter, the baby was named Sophie Tucker Campbell.
Decades later, in 1949, Sophie and Samuel began holding annual reunions. In 1953, they were guests on the NBC radio show Welcome Travelers. Here’s a photo:
“Child Born on Train.” Deseret News 28 Dec. 1916: 9.
Leavenworth, Kan. – Pulmotor Bradshaw is the unique name given the infant son of Ada Bradshaw of this city. The child came into the world and for an hour refused to breathe, despite the efforts of physicians. The new city pulmotor was sent for and the infant responded almost instantly when the oxygen was applied.
I haven’t been able to track down any records for Pulmotor Bradshaw — the only baby named Pulmotor that I’ve ever heard of — but I can tell you a a few things about the pulmotor itself.
What was it?
The pulmotor was an early resuscitation device designed to pump oxygen into and out of the lungs.
The device was patented in 1907 by Heinrich Dräger of Germany.
Several years later, U.S. fire departments, police departments and hospitals began acquiring and using pulmotors.
A New York Times article from late 1912 mentioned that New York City’s second pulmotor had just arrived, but that NYC was still behind Chicago, where there were already three pulmotors.
“Pulmotors were used extensively in Europe and the U. S. as late as the 1940s,” according to the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.
When it comes to names, who should have the final say, the mother or the father?*
In April of 1914, a Los Angeles judge “rendered a decision that a wife has absolute authority in the naming of children. The husband has nothing to do with it.”
The ruling was made in the case of Chrystos Malamatinos, a Greek, who insisted that his baby daughter be named after Helen of Troy. His wife, and American, insisted on Muriel, and the court sustained her choice and ordered Malamatinos to pay the family $5 a week.
According to records, his name was actually spelled Christos Malamatinas, and his wife was named Esther May Reynolds.
They were married in 1912. Their baby girl was born in August of 1913.
Esther had discovered the name Muriel in a novel. When Christos learned that she had named the baby Muriel, he left home in protest. He was eventually charged with failure to provide for his family, and that’s how the couple ended up in court.
Jean Blum of San Francisco was told he would be one of those people.
It was November of 1918, and he was in Mount Zion hospital, severely ill with the flu. His doctors had told him it was “all over.”
Jean’s wife, Mildred, was due to give birth any day to a baby “who most probably would never see or know his father.”
Jean was a member of Rotary, and around this time some fellow Rotarians — donning masks, gloves, and gowns — came to see him. He was so moved by their visit that “he later credited them with restoring his will to live.”
Mildred was soon brought to the same hospital, to give birth. Jean is reported to have said something along the lines of, “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, I want that child named ‘Rotary.'”
On November 16, 1918, Mildred gave birth to a baby boy. He was named Marshall Rotary Blum.
As an adult, Marshall Rotary Blum followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a member of the Rotary Club in San Francisco. He even served as the club’s president from 1986 to 1987.
“By The Way.” Editorial. Rotarian July 1977: 3-4, 8-10.
Greene, Jan. “Second to None.” Rotarian Nov. 2008: 46-47.
White, Will. “By The Way.” Rotarian Sept. 1986: 1-2, 8.