The Arrival of Ardoth

Ardoth after winning a race, circa 1930

The rare name Ardoth was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 1933:

  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted
  • 1933: 6 baby girls named Ardoth [debut]
  • 1932: unlisted
  • 1931: unlisted

What gave the name a boost that year?

My guess is female jockey and trick rider Ardoth Schneider.

She’d been winning races since the late 1920s, so her name — often misspelled “Ardath” — had been mentioned in the newspapers before.

But 1933 was the year she was declared Sweetheart of California Rodeo:

While thousands cheered themselves hoarse at the western arena [in Salinas] this afternoon as the spectacular 22nd annual rodeo got under way, the 1933 Sweetheart crown was placed over the lustrous, black locks of winsome Ardoth Schneider, 23, of Long Beach.

Following the win, various photos of Ardoth — typically astride or beside a horse — began popping up in the newspapers. And I think the photos (as opposed to the mere mentions) are what made the difference.

As the new “Sweetheart,” she went on a tour of Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador with a letter of introduction from President Roosevelt that described her as California’s “finest outdoor girl.”

What are your thoughts on the name Ardoth? Would you use it for a modern-day baby?

Sources:

  • “The Fair Sex in a New Field.” Cincinnati Enquirer 1 Apr. 1928: 110.
  • “Favorite of Rodeos.” Oakland Tribune 24 Sept. 1933: 57.
  • “Girl Student Rise to Tijuana Triumph.” New York Times 12 Mar. 1928: 25.
  • “Long Beach Girl Wins Sweetheart of Rodeo Honors.” Santa Cruz Sentinel 22 Jul. 1933: 3.
  • Davis-Platt, Joy. “She filled a long life with love, adventures.” St. Petersburg Times 1 Mar. 2003.

Image: Screenshot from USA: Female Jockeys Competing In Turf Classic Race (British Pathe)

P.S. For several months in the winter of 1928, Ardoth was in Japan performing for the coronation of Emperor Hirohito. Twice a day, she jumped her Shetland pony Betty off a 40-foot platform into a pool of water “to entertain the enthusiastic Japanese crowds.”

P.P.S. Tuesdee is another female jockey-inspired baby name I discovered in the data.

Sharlie, Take Two

Sharlie debuted rather impressively as a girl name in the SSA data in the year 1933.

Initially, my best guess regarding Sharlie’s sudden appearance was the trendy radio catchphrase, “Vas you dere, Sharlie?”

But a few months ago, I serendipitously discovered a much better explanation: a serialized newspaper story simply called Sharlie. It was written by Beatrice Burton and appeared in the papers in late 1932 and early 1933. The main character was “pretty, vivacious Sharlie Dunn.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned researching thousands of pop culture-inspired baby names over the years, it’s this: personification is key. A name attached to a person (real or fictional) carries far more weight with the baby-naming public than a free-floating name/word.

So, while I don’t doubt that the catchphrase did indeed draw attention to “Sharlie” back in the early 1930s, I think the female character was what helped expectant parents see “Sharlie” as a potential baby name. And that makes all the difference.

What are your thoughts on this?

P.S. I had to update my theory on the name Normandie for the very same reason. It’s much more likely that it was influenced by the comic strip character than by the ocean liner.

More Literary Baby Names: Alayne, Jalna, Renny

baby name, alayne, book, movie, 1920s, 1930s
Alayne Archer, character in the movie Jalna (1935)

Canadian writer Mazo de la Roche found fame in her late 40s when her third novel, Jalna, won first prize (and $10,000) in the first “Atlantic Novel Contest” in 1927. The book was serialized in Atlantic Monthly, then released as a standalone volume.

The book’s main characters were members of the prosperous Whiteoak family. They lived at an estate in southern Ontario called Jalna. The estate had been built by family patriarch Capt. Philip Whiteoak, a retired officer of the British Army in India. He’d named it “Jalna” after the garrison town in India where he’d met his Irish wife, Adeline.

The book was a top-10 bestseller in the U.S. in both 1927 and 1928. It was such a big commercial success that the author kept writing novels about the Whiteoaks. She ended up with a total of 16 books, now known as the “Whiteoak Chronicles,” which cover four generations (1850s-1950s) of the fictional family.

Many of de la Roche’s character names — which included Finch, Pheasant, and Wakefield/”Wake” — came directly from from gravestones in Ontario’s Newmarket cemetery.

Given the popularity of the book, and the distinctiveness of the character names, it’s not too surprising that Jalna had an influence on U.S. baby name data in the ’20s and ’30s…

Alayne

Character Alayne Archer was introduced in Jalna when Eden Whiteoak, an aspiring poet, traveled to New York City to meet with a publisher. Alayne was the publisher’s assistant, and she and Eden became romantically involved.

The debut of the baby name Alayne in 1929 was due to the much-anticipated follow-up book, Whiteoaks of Jalna — specifically, to the book reviews that ran in newspapers throughout the U.S. during the second half of 1929. Many of them mentioned Alayne.

  • 1937: 19 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1936: 23 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1935: 16 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1934: 9 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1933: 5 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1932: 5 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1931: 9 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1930: 7 baby girls named Alayne
  • 1929: 11 baby girls named Alayne [debut]
  • 1928: unlisted

Notice how usage rose during the mid-1930s. This was due to a related reason: the movie Jalna (1935), which was based on the first book and featured actress Kay Johnson as Alayne. (By 1935, five of the 16 books were out.)

Jalna & Renny

The year after the movie came out, two more Jalna-inspired names emerged in the data. One was Jalna itself, which didn’t stick around long:

  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 9 baby girls named Jalna
  • 1936: 6 baby girls named Jalna [debut]
  • 1935: unlisted

(You could compare to Jalna to Tara, the plantation in Gone with the Wind.)

The other was Renny, from Eden’s half-brother Renny Whiteoak, who became Alayne’s love interest after Alayne and Eden grew apart.

  • 1941: 8 baby boys named Renny
  • 1939: 5 baby boys named Renny
  • 1937: 8 baby boys named Renny
  • 1936: 9 baby boys named Renny [debut]
  • 1935: unlisted

Another factor that could have given Renny a boost that year was the fifth book in the series, Young Renny, which focused on that character specifically.

…So how did Mazo de la Roche come by her own unique name?

She was born “Mazo Louise Roche” in Ontario in 1879. She added the “de la” not (necessarily) to sound noble, but to reflect the historical spelling of the family name. And here’s what she said in her autobiography about her first name:

When my father saw me he said to my mother, “Let me name this one and you may name all the others.” And so he named me and there were never any others. Mazo had been the name of a girl to whom he once had been attached.

For more baby names inspired by old books, check out the posts on Trilby and on Nedra, Gerane, Doraine, etc.

Sources:

The Introduction of Ilomay

ilomay bailey, 1933, radio mirror, radio, baby name
Ilomay Bailey, 1933
The curious name Ilomay appeared in the U.S. baby name data several times in the 1930s:

  • 1937: unlisted
  • 1936: 5 baby girls named Ilomay
  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted
  • 1933: 7 baby girls named Ilomay
  • 1932: 5 baby girls named Ilomay
  • 1931: unlisted

The similar name Ilomae popped up for the first time in 1932 as well.

Where did these names come from?

A long-forgotten radio singer named Ilomay [eye-loh-mae] Bailey. She could be heard with her husband, pianist Lee Sims, on a weekday radio show called “Piano Moods” (NBC) during the early 1930s.

Ilomay was a Julliard-trained soprano originally from Kansas. She met Lee in Chicago (she took piano lessons from him) and they ended up becoming a team, both professionally and personally. The couple also performed on other radio programs, on stage, and sometimes in films:

Do you like the name Ilomay?

Source: Lee Sims – Wikipedia

Christopher as a Girl Name?

Orson Welles, his first wife Virginia, and their daughter Christopher (1938)
Legendary actor Orson Welles was married three times and had one daughter per marriage. The last two daughters had conventional names (Rebecca and Beatrice), but the first had an unexpected name: Christopher.

On the day Christopher Welles arrived in March of 1938, her father sent out a short telegram that read: “Christopher, she is born.” The name Christopher was chosen simply because “Orson liked the sound of the name.”

The same year, the baby name Christopher appeared as a girl name for the first time in the SSA data:

Year # Boys Named Christopher # Girls Named Christopher
1940 500 7
1939 359 5
1938 308 8 [debut]
1937 294 .
1936 277 .

My hunch is that Orson Welles’s daughter was the main influence behind the debut. That said, the name Christopher was on the rise (as a boy name) in the late ’30s, so it’s possible that some of these female Christophers were simply miscoded male Christophers.

As it turns out, Christopher Welles did not like her name as a child: “I was teased mercilessly in school and was quite miserable as a result. I wanted to change it to Linda.” As an adult, she went by the shortened form Chris.

The name Christopher was in the top 10 for boys from 1967 to 2009, ranking #2 for many years from the ’70s to the ’90s. But it also ended up in the girls’ top 1,000 for 24 years, from 1967 to 1990.

What are your thoughts on Christopher as a girl name?

Sources: Orson Welles – Wikipedia, In My Father’s Shadow: a Daughter Remembers Orson Welles by Chris Welles Feder: review, Daughter of Orson Welles: daddy never let me hold him back