The Debut of Lajeune

lajeune, baby name, 1960
La Jeune, Sepia magazine, Sept. 1960

The name Lajeune appeared in the U.S. baby name data for three years straight at the start of the 1960s:

  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 5 baby girls named Lajeune
  • 1961: 7 baby girls named Lajeune
  • 1960: 17 baby girls named Lajeune
  • 1959: unlisted

The source?

African-American model La Jeune Hundley of Virginia. In May of 1960, she was voted “Miss Festival” at the Cannes Film Festival in France. During the last half of the year, she was featured heavily in African-American magazines and newspapers. For instance, she was on covers of Sepia in September, Ebony in October, and Jet in November.

Notably, she was the second African-American woman to win the title. The year before, Cecilia Cooper of New York City was the winner. At the time, black women were still not welcome in most American beauty pageants. (Clearly they could win equivalent titles overseas, though.)

In 1962, La Jeune was one of the woman pictured in Life magazine alongside a short article about black models becoming more visible in high fashion.

Her name may have been inspired on the French surname Le Jeune, which means “the young” or “the younger.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name La Jeune?

Source: “Negro Models–a Band of Beautiful Pioneers.” Life 29 Jun. 1962: 87.

The Emergence of Jovon

baby name, jovon, actress, 1960s
Jovon Monteil

When I first noticed the name Jovon popping up in the U.S. baby name data, I thought of Jovan Musk. But the Musk was from the ’70s, and the name popped up a decade earlier:

  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Jovon
  • 1960: 10 baby girls named Jovon [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted

So, what put it on the map?

An actress named Jovon Monteil, who was making guest appearances on TV in the late 1950s and early 1960s. (The image is from Sea Hunt.) She was also in one movie: Born Reckless (1959).

Jovon’s real name was Louise Davis and she was originally from Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Journal noted in late 1957 that “Jovon Monteil” was “her newly chosen professional name.”

By the end of 1960 she was married and had a baby (named Michelle), which is likely why she stopped pursuing a career in entertainment.

The names Jovon and Jovan both saw a steep rise in usage in the ’70s thanks to Jovan Musk, put out by the Chicago-based Jovan company. (Here’s a long list of perfume-inspired baby names.)

Sources:

  • “Jovon Monteil Completes Part in ‘Born Reckless’.” Albuquerque Journal 22 Dec. 1957: 15.
  • “Beauty Contest Winner.” Albuquerque Journal 21 Jan. 1962: 15.

The First Appearance of Phaedra

phaedra, movie, 1960s, baby name

The ancient name Phaedra was the highest-debuting baby name of 1963:

  • 1967: 21 baby girls named Phaedra
  • 1966: 22 baby girls named Phaedra
  • 1965: 32 baby girls named Phaedra
  • 1964: 29 baby girls named Phaedra
  • 1963: 70 baby girls named Phaedra
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted

Why?

Because of the film Phaedra, released in late 1962. It was a flop at the U.S. box office, but had a big impact on U.S. baby names nonetheless.

The title character Phaedra (played by Greek actress Melina Mercouri, who’d played Ilya in the hit Never on Sunday) was the second wife of a wealthy man named Thanos. She initiated a forbidden romance with her husband’s adult son, Alexis, and then both of them had to suffer the consequences.

The movie is one of the many modern versions of the ancient Greek tragedy Hippolytus by Euripides.

In the film, the name Phaedra (based on an ancient Greek word meaning “bright”) is pronounced FEH-dra, with a short E. (Say “Ephedra” without the initial vowel.) Looking at online discussions about the name, though, it’s clear that people use various pronunciations, including FAY-dra and FEE-dra.

What are your thoughts on the name Phaedra? Which pronunciation do you prefer?

Source: Phaedra (1962) – TCM

The Height of Coretta

Coretta Scott King © 1969 LIFE

The baby name Coretta was the fastest-rising baby name of 1968:

  • 1970: 146 baby girls named Coretta
  • 1969: 194 baby girls named Coretta
  • 1968: 336 baby girls named Coretta
  • 1967: 13 baby girls named Coretta
  • 1966: 16 baby girls named Coretta

The name also saw it’s highest-ever usage that year, as did the variant spelling Corretta. And another spelling, Koretta, appeared for the very first time in the data in 1968.

What was bringing all this attention to the baby name Coretta in 1968?

Coretta Scott King. She was the wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., until his assassination on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. This event put Coretta and her children (Yolanda, Martin, Dexter, and Bernice*) in the national spotlight.

Not long after the death of her husband, Coretta took Martin’s place as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. She was instrumental in establishing the national holiday Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — which happens to be today.

Coretta Scott King was named in honor of her paternal grandmother, Cora. The name Cora is a Latinized form of the ancient Greek name Kore (“maiden”), one of the epithets of the goddess Persephone.

*Usage of the names Yolanda and Dexter increased markedly in 1968. The usage of Martin, which had been declining, saw an uptick that year. (Peak usage was in 1963, the year of MLK’s legendary “I have a dream” speech.) The usage of Bernice was seemingly unaffected by the assassination.

Incidentally, in her 1969 book My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King talked about the naming of her daughters Yolanda (nicknamed Yoki) and Bernice:

I chose the name Yolanda Denise, but my husband had reservations about it. He questioned whether people would call her Yolanda or would mispronounce the name. He was right. Her name is so frequently mispronounced that it bothered her when she was growing up.

There is a tendency among middle-class African Americans to give their children unusual names. Perhaps they are seeking elegance or some special identification. I fell victim to this custom, rather than following the sensible practice of naming the baby after a member of the family. Later Martin said, “If we ever have another baby girl, I’m going to give her a simple name like Mary Jane.”

When we did have another daughter, we called her Bernice Albertine, after her two grandmothers. Her name was not quite Mary Jane, but at least she was named for members of the family.

Sources: Coretta Scott King – Wikipedia, Cora – Behind the Name