4-H Baby Names: Clarabeth and Nawatha

clarabeth, baby name
Clarabeth Zehring

The 4-H youth organization was officially established by the U.S. government in the 1914. (Those four H’s come from the group’s original motto, “head, heart, hands, and health.”) The initial focus was agricultural and home economics activities, and the initial participants were rural youth.

In 1922, 4-H started hosting an annual congress at which national-level awards were bestowed. And at least two of these top-level award winners — whose names and photos often ran in the papers — had a slight influence on U.S. baby names.

The first 4-H name to debut was Clarabeth:

  • 1937: unlisted
  • 1936: 6 baby girls named Clarabeth [debut]
  • 1935: unlisted

The second was Nawatha:

  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: 5 baby girls named Nawatha [debut]
  • 1940: unlisted

Both were one-hit wonders.

Clarabeth was inspired by 17-year-old Clarabeth Zehring of Germantown, Ohio. She was the national winner of the 4-H dress-making competition in late 1935. First she won in her category (“school dress”) and, along with three other category winners, received a gold wrist watch. Upon being the one chosen (out of the four) to win the national title, Clarabeth also got a solid gold medal.

Nawatha was inspired by 20-year-old Nawatha L. Krebs of Eufaula, Oklahoma. She was the female winner of the National Achievement Award (there was a male winner as well) in late 1940. She won a silver flatware set and a college scholarship.

And, check this out — I happened to find some proof that Nawatha’s name being in the newspapers had an influence on expectant parents:

About the time Nawatha was winning her 4-H award, a family in McAlester [Oklahoma] had a new baby, a girl. The mother had seen Nawatha’s picture in the paper, fell in love with the unusual name and named her baby Nawatha.

The two Nawathas later learned of one another after both had moved to California and both had tried to get a California license plate that said “NAWATHA.” The younger one, who had the idea first, got the plate. The older one was stuck with the plate “NWATHA” instead.

Which of today’s names, Clarabeth or Nawatha, do you like more? Why?

Sources:

The Launch of Leilani

The baby name Leilani — which means both “heavenly flowers” and “royal child” in Hawaiian — is very close to entering the U.S. top 100 for the first time.

It’s been making appearances in the top 1,000, though, for quite a while — starting way back in the 1930s:

  • 1939: 98 baby girls named Leilani [rank: 689th]
  • 1938: 101 baby girls named Leilani [rank: 685th]
  • 1937: 81 baby girls named Leilani [rank: 758th]
  • 1936: 8 baby girls named Leilani
  • 1935: 9 baby girls named Leilani

What gave it that initial boost?

The song “Sweet Leilani” from the film Waikiki Wedding (1937), which starred Bing Crosby. Crosby’s rendition of the song became one of the top songs of 1937, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in March of 1938.1

The song hadn’t been created with the movie in mind, though. It had been composed by songwriter Harry Owens several years earlier.

Owens, originally from Nebraska, became the musical director of the orchestra at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel2 in Waikiki in 1934. He and his wife were living on Oahu when they welcomed their first child, a baby girl, in October. The day after Leilani Katherine was born, Owens wrote “Sweet Leilani” for her.

What are your thoughts on the Hawaiian name Leilani?

1A few years later, Crosby scored another hit with “Sierra Sue.”

2The Royal Hawaiian Hotel “was fashioned in a Spanish-Moorish style, popular during the period and influenced by screen star Rudolph Valentino.”

The Introduction of Danya

danya, hand cream, baby name, 1930s
Danya ad, 1940

The name Danya began showing up in the U.S. baby name data in 1939:

  • 1943: 9 baby girls named Danya
  • 1942: 7 baby girls named Danya
  • 1941: 16 baby girls named Danya
  • 1940: 5 baby girls named Danya
  • 1939: 7 baby girls named Danya [debut]
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: unlisted

The influence?

I think it was Danya hand cream, which was introduced by Pond’s in 1937.

baby names, products, danya, drene, 1940s, 1930s
Drene & Danya ad, 1939

Danya hand cream was advertised in both newspapers and magazines — particularly women’s magazines, such as Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Home Companion.

In 1939, incidentally, it was cross-promoted with Drene shampoo. You could buy them both together for just 53¢ (a savings of 32¢!).

Despite all the marketing, Danya lotion saw poor sales. It was discontinued in 1943. (Monchel was another name-influencing beauty product that didn’t last long.)

The baby name Danya, on the other hand, stayed in the data for years to come. In fact, peak usage happened relatively recently: 126 baby girls in 2007.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Danya?

Sources:

Images from Good Housekeeping (Mar. 1, 1940, page 131) and Chicago Sunday Tribune (Feb. 12, 1939, page 3).

The Peak of Aleeta

Aleeta & Mertis Fleming, 1933

In 1933, the relatively rare baby name Aleeta saw an isolated spike in usage:

  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted
  • 1933: 17 baby girls named Aleeta [peak]
  • 1932: unlisted
  • 1931: unlisted

What gave it a boost that year?

Aleeta Fleming, a 28-year-old “farm wife” from northeastern Ohio who was in the news starting on August 6th. A physician had recently determined that her 4-month-old son, Mertis, Jr., had died of strangulation. Following that revelation, Aleeta “glibly” confessed to the murder of not just Mertis, Jr., but also to the murder of an earlier son, Willis, who she’d poisoned as a baby in January of 1932.

The next day, she repudiated her confession and instead blamed her 55-year-old husband Mertis, who “disliked boy babies,” for the deaths:

Mrs. Fleming said her husband gave all his affection to their 3-year-old daughter, Beatrice, and complained to her that the boys fretted too much…[She] was quoted by the sheriff as asserting her husband threatened to kill her unless she made away with the boy babies.

Both parents ended up pleading guilty to second degree murder. In early November, both were sentenced to life in prison.

Interestingly, the spelling “Aleeta” seems to be a newspaper typo. In all the records I’ve seen (e.g., Willis’s death certificate, Mertis’s death certificate, the 1930 U.S. Census, the 1940 U.S. Census) the name is spelled “Alleta.”

Do you like the name Aleeta?

P.S. Beatrice, who spent her childhood in an orphanage, “worked as a foster parent with Indian children out west” as an adult.

Sources:

  • “Admits the Killing of her Infant Sons.” Lincoln Star 6 Aug. 1933: 17.
  • “Held in Slaying of two Children.” Evening Independent [Massillon, Ohio] 7 Aug. 1933: 1.
  • “Mother Admits Poisoning Babies.” Defiance Crescent 7 Aug. 1933: 1.
  • “Parents Who Killed 2 Children Sentenced.” Nevada State Journal 3 Nov. 1933: 4.
  • Beatrice M. Fleming obituary

The Appearance of Patsy Ann

The compound name Patsyann was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data, making its single appearance during the 1930s:

  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted
  • 1933: 7 baby girls named Patsyann [debut]
  • 1932: unlisted
  • 1931: unlisted

What put it there? I think the influence was the mystery tale Outrageous Fortune by British author Patricia Wentworth. The story was serialized in many U.S. newspapers in the autumn of 1933.

The mystery involved a shipwrecked man with amnesia. A woman named Nesta* claimed the man was her husband…but really she thought he might know the location of a certain priceless emerald necklace. In the meanwhile, the man’s cousin, a woman named Caroline, tracked him down and tried to help him recover his memory.

The protagonist was clearly Caroline, but Caroline’s roommate Patsy Ann “provide[d] an innocent diversion to the main story with her romantic life.”

In the UK the same year, Outrageous Fortune was published in book form, but under the title Seven Green Stones. Another difference between was Patsy Ann’s name: Pansy Ann in the UK. Perhaps the name had been changed from “Pansy” to “Patsy” for American readers because Patsy sounded trendier than Pansy in the U.S. at the time. The slang meaning of pansy, though relatively new in the ’30s, might have been a factor as well.

(If “Patsy Ann” sounds familiar to longtime readers, I blogged about Patsy Ann, the famous dog from Alaska, a couple of years ago.)

Sources: Patricia Wentworth – Wikipedia, Outrageous Fortune by Patricia Wentworth – Northern Reader, Pansy – Online Etymology Dictionary

*The name Nesta got a boost in 1934.