The American news is currently dominated by the name Donald, so I thought now would be a good time to talk about one of Donald’s feminized forms, Donaldine, which was not just a one-hit wonder in 1922, but the top one-hit wonder of 1922.
1922: 12 baby girls named Donaldine
Where did it come from?
A Stanford co-ed named Donaldine Cameron, whose photo ran in the newspapers twice during the first half of the year.
The first time was in February, after Donaldine was declared the prettiest girl at Stanford:
Searching out the most beautiful girls on the Pacific coast finds Miss Donaldine Cameron getting the unanimous vote at Stanford University where she has been starring in amateur collegiate theatricals.
(Some of the plays she was in: “Wedding Bells,” “Charm School,” “Maid to Order.”)
The second time was in May, when Donaldine’s opinion that college boys spent too much money on girls somehow became the topic of an entire article:
“They have enough to do in carrying themselves through college without being burdened by extravagances. It’s up to the men to cut out their foolish spending.”
(The expenditures listed in the article: dances, movies, ice cream sodas.)
Donaldine graduated from Stanford in 1923 and, later the same year, married U.S. Navy officer Frank Pinckney Helm.
Donaldine’s father was named Donald, so no doubt she was named in honor of him. That said…around the time she was born (1902), and in the same region of California, there was a relatively famous missionary named Donaldina Cameron (often called “Donaldine” in the papers) who was helping female Chinese immigrants escape forced prostitution. I think it’s possible that the missionary was a secondary influence on the name (though I have no way to confirm this).
What are your thoughts on the baby name Donaldine?
Have any 20th-century Uldines in your family tree? If so, there’s a good chance that your Uldine was named after pint-sized preacher Uldine Mabelle Utley.
Uldine Utley was born in Oklahoma in 1912, spent much of her youth in Colorado, and then moved with her family to California — where she first encountered Pentecostal evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, in 1921. Not long after witnessing Aimee preach, Uldine decided to begin her own preaching career.
By the mid-1920s, Uldine was one of America’s best-known child evangelists. She drew a crowd of 14,000 when she preached at Madison Square Garden at the age of 14, for instance. She even put out her own monthly magazine called Petals from the Rose of Sharon.
And when Uldine Utley was most popular — from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s — the usage of the rare baby name Uldine was at its highest, according to both the birth name data and the death name data (SSDI) from the Social Security Administration.
Uldine Utley kept up an intense preaching schedule until the end of 1936, when she suffered a nervous breakdown. She recovered temporarily, and even had a brief marriage, but spent most of the rest of her life in institutions or under family care.
Are you related to anyone named Uldine? What are your thoughts on the name? Any guesses about the name’s derivation?
The name “George Barr McCutcheon” probably doesn’t mean anything to you. But the name has become pretty familiar to me over the years, because George Barr McCutcheon — who wrote dozens of novels in the early 1900s — put several brand new baby names on the map in the early 20th century.
The Indiana-born writer lived from 1866 to 1928, and many of his books became bestsellers. Today, his best-remembered story is Brewster’s Millions, which has been adapted into a movie several times. The most memorable adaptation was the 1985 version starring comedians Richard Pryor (as protagonist Montgomery Brewster) and John Candy.
So which baby names did McCutcheon introduce/influence?
McCutcheon’s novel Nedra (1905) was the 5th best-selling book of 1905. Though there’s a lady on the front cover, “Nedra” isn’t a female character, but the name of an island on which several of the characters are shipwrecked.
SSDI data confirms that the name Nedra saw noticeably higher usage after the book was released.
One of these baby Nedras grew up to become actress Nedra Volz (b. 1908).
Yetive, Truxton, Gerane, Beverly
McCutcheon wrote six novels about the fictional Eastern European country of Graustark:
Graustark (1901) – the 9th best-selling book of 1901
Beverly of Graustark (1904) – the 6th best-selling book of 1904
Truxton King (1909) – the 6th best-selling book of 1909
The Prince of Graustark (1914) – the 10th best-selling book of 1914
East of the Setting Sun (1924)
The Inn of the Hawk and Raven (1927)
Several of these books were later made into movies and plays. The three Graustarkian names I’ve noticed on the charts are:
Yetive (debuted in 1911), inspired by Princess Yetive, a character in the first two books.
Truxton (deb. 1912), inspired by Truxton King, a character in the 3rd book.
Gerane (deb. 1928), inspired by Gerane Davos, a character in the final book.
Plus there’s Beverly, which was used for a female character in Beverly of Graustark. The novel, along with a 1926 film adaptation, helped pull the once-gender-neutral name onto the girls’ side definitively. (Ironically, the actress who played Princess Yetive in a 1915 film adaptation of Graustark used the stage name Beverly Bayne.)
Here are some of Graustarkian names that did not make the charts: Ganlook, Grenfall, Dantan, Dannox, Marlanx, Bevra (the daughter of Beverly), Hedrik, and Pendennis.
McCutcheon’s novel West Wind Drift (1920) is like his earlier book Nedra in that both stories involve a shipwreck and an island. In Nedra, “Nedra” is the name of the island; in West Wind Drift, “Doraine” is the name of the ship.
The year West Wind Drift came out, the name Doraine debuted in the baby name data.
1923: 5 baby girls named Doraine
1921: 6 baby girls named Doraine
1920: 11 baby girls named Doraine [debut]
It was tied for 2nd-highest debut name that year. (#1 was Dardanella.)
Coincidentally, the shipwrecked characters in West Wind Drift have a debate at one point about using “Doraine” as baby name. They argue over whether or not they should give the name to an orphaned baby girl who had been born aboard the ship. Here’s the opinion of character Michael Malone: “We can’t do better than to name her after her birthplace. That’s her name. Doraine Cruise. It sounds Irish. Got music in it.”
Have you ever a George Barr McCutcheon book? If so, do you remember any unusual character names? (If not, and you’d like to check him out, here are dozens of George Barr McCutcheon novels archived at Project Gutenberg.)
Avalon began as a legendary Arthurian island. It was first mentioned in the early 12th century by Geoffrey of Monmouth, who may have derived the name from the Welsh word afal, meaning “apple.”
By the late 1800s, Avalon was seeing regular (if rare) usage as a baby name in the U.S., probably thanks to Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King — a series of Arthurian poems published from 1859 to 1885.
These poems also influenced real estate developer George Shatto to use the name “Avalon” for the Catalina Island resort town he was building in the late 1880s.
California’s Avalon became a popular vacation destination for the Hollywood film community during the early 1900s, and in 1920 the town (and the name) were featured in a song called “Avalon,” written for entertainer Al Jolson.
Here’s the chorus:
I found my love in Avalon
Beside the bay
I left my love in Avalon
And sailed away
I dream of her and Avalon
From dusk ’til dawn
And so I think I’ll travel on
Al Jolson’s rendition of “Avalon” became one of the top songs in America in early 1921.
Not surprisingly, the baby name Avalon saw a spike in usage the same year:
1923: 22 baby girls named Avalon
1922: 23 baby girls named Avalon
1921: 43 baby girls named Avalon
1920: 11 baby girls named Avalon
You can see a similar spike in the SSDI data:
1923: 17 people with the first name Avalon
1922: 17 people with the first name Avalon
1921: 36 people with the first name Avalon
1920: 10 people with the first name Avalon
1919: 3 people with the first name Avalon
After the 1920s, the usage of Avalon as a baby name tapered off. In fact, the name wasn’t in the SSA data at all during the ’60s and ’70s.
But it popped up again in 1982. The influence was probably the 1982 Roxy Music album Avalon, which included a song called “Avalon” (video). A slightly later influence was no doubt Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1983 fantasy novel The Mists of Avalon. (The name of the lead character, Morgaine, debuted in the data in 1984.)
The usage of Avalon has been steadily rising ever since, though the name has yet to hit the top 1,000.
What do you think of the baby name Avalon?
P.S. One of the pre-1921 Avalons was a baby girl born in late 1903 to Mr. and Mrs. Goslin of Maryland. She was born aboard the Chesapeake Bay paddle steamer Avalon. Sadly, Avalon Goslin died of pneumonia in 1918 — just a few years before the song “Avalon” became famous.
Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431), known as Joan of Arc in English, was a French peasant, Christian mystic, and teenage warrior during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between France and England.
Well, she wasn’t a “warrior” exactly, as she never actually fought in battle. She was more of an “inspirational mascot, brandishing her banner in place of a weapon.”
In any case, she ended up being captured by the enemy, convicted of heresy and witchcraft (among other things), excommunicated from the church, and burned at the stake — all before the age of 20.
But a few decades later the verdict was overturned, the excommunication was invalidated, and she was declared a martyr.
And during the centuries that followed, her reputation grew — especially among the French.
Despite all this, the well-known St. Joan didn’t officially become a Roman Catholic saint until the early 20th century. She was canonized in May of 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.
The same year, the full French form of her name, Jeannedarc, debuted on the U.S. baby name charts and reappeared several more times during the same decade:
1926: 5 baby girls named Jeannedarc
1924: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
1923: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
1921: 6 baby girls named Jeannedarc
1920: 5 baby girls named Jeannedarc [debut]
And that’s not all. Records show that more than a few of the babies simply named Jeanne and Joan in the 1920s had as middle names “d’Arc” and “of Arc.” Two examples:
Jeanne D’Arc Florabel Menard, daughter of David and Georgiana Menard, born in Vermont in 1924.
Joan of Arc Mary Agnes Chabot, daughter of Thomas and Zelia Chabot, born in Vermont in 1923.
A disproportionate number of these 1920s babies named Jeanne d’Arc and Joan of Arc were born in the Northeastern U.S. to families of French (Canadian) extraction.
Interestingly, St. Joan herself only used the medieval spelling of her name, “Jehanne,” and never included the surname “d’Arc,” which was a form of her father’s surname. In fact, if she’d been forced to use a surname, she likely would have chosen her mother’s, Romée, as per hometown tradition. The surname Romée denoted someone who had made a pilgrimage (though not necessarily to Rome).