How did “Gone with the Wind” influence baby names?

The character Melanie Hamilton (played by Olivia de Havilland) from the movie "Gone with the Wind" (1939).
Melanie from “Gone with the Wind

We already know that Gone with the Wind had an effect on the usage of Scarlett and Tara. But what other baby names did it influence?

The main character, Scarlett O’Hara, had sisters named Suellen (a contraction of “Susan Elinor”) and Carreen (“Caroline Irene”). She also had a a sister-in-law named Melanie Hamilton. All three of these names were given a double-boost by Gone with the Wind — first, after the release of the book in mid-1936, and, second, after the release of the film in late 1939.

Suellen

Here’s the U.S. usage of the name Suellen. (In the movie, the character was played by actress Evelyn Keyes.)

  • 1942: 144 baby girls named Suellen
  • 1941: 159 baby girls named Suellen [peak]
  • 1940: 141 baby girls named Suellen
  • 1939: 40 baby girls named Suellen
  • 1938: 31 baby girls named Suellen
  • 1937: 30 baby girls named Suellen
  • 1936: 5 baby girls named Suellen [debut]
  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted

The name saw peak usage in 1941 — also the year that variant form Sueellen debuted. After that, usage petered out.

Carreen

Here’s the U.S. usage of the name Carreen. (In the movie, the character was played by actress Ann Rutherford.)

  • 1942: unlisted
  • 1941: 8 baby girls named Carreen
  • 1940: 6 baby girls named Carreen
  • 1939: unlisted
  • 1938: unlisted
  • 1937: 8 baby girls named Carreen [debut]
  • 1936: unlisted
  • 1935: unlisted
  • 1934: unlisted

The name Carreen appeared in the data a few more times in the ’60s and ’70s, but that’s it. Interestingly, the variant form Careen, which debuted in 1936, has seen more usage in the U.S. overall.

Melanie

Here’s the U.S. usage of the name Melanie from the mid-’30s to the early ’40s. (In the movie, the character was played by actress Olivia de Havilland.)

  • 1942: 388 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1941: 308 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1940: 200 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1939: 57 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1938: 53 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1937: 39 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1936: 13 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1935: 9 baby girls named Melanie
  • 1934: 9 baby girls named Melanie

The name Melanie is quite old — it comes from an ancient Greek word meaning “black” or “dark” — but its usage was revived by Gone with the Wind. It went on to crack the top 100 for the first time in 1968 and has been popular ever since. It ranked 82nd in 2010.

6 thoughts on “How did “Gone with the Wind” influence baby names?

  1. I wonder how many Sues and Susans were Sue/Susan Ellens, especially after the movie. I wonder about alternative spellings of Carreen, too.

    Given my mother’s love of GWTW, I’m surprised I wasn’t named Melanie (Scarlett or Carreen wouldn’t work well with our last name). My sister does have a Su- double name similar to Suellen, though.

  2. Just wondering, but the character Suellen on Dallas didn’t have any effect on the name popularity in the 80s?

  3. @C in DC – Both Susan and Sue shot up in popularity during the ’30s. Some of that could have come from GWTW. (They were both on their way up anyway, though, so who knows how much of an influence the book/movie really had.)

    Susan:

    • 1944: 16,328
    • 1943: 14,886
    • 1942: 12,017
    • 1941: 8,887
    • 1940: 6,757
    • 1939: 4,887
    • 1938: 3,554
    • 1937: 2,643
    • 1936: 2,156
    • 1935: 1,801

    Sue:

    • 1944: 4,036
    • 1943: 3,846
    • 1942: 3,630
    • 1941: 3,363
    • 1940: 3,105
    • 1939: 2,621
    • 1938: 2,589
    • 1937: 2,503
    • 1936: 2,223
    • 1935: 2,023

    I found a few names like Carreen. Karine, for example. None seemed to be influenced strongly by either the book or the movie, though, so it’s hard to know if any were used as variants of Carreen.

    @Alecia – Here are the numbers for Suellen and Sue Ellen (respectively) during the years Dallas was on the air. (Wikipedia tells me the character spelled her name “Sue Ellen.”)

    • 1991: 5; 5
    • 1990: not listed; not listed
    • 1989: not listed; 6
    • 1988: not listed; 7
    • 1987: 5; 5
    • 1986: 8; 14
    • 1985: 7; 7
    • 1984: 6; 8
    • 1983: 14; 8
    • 1982: 21; 12
    • 1981: 9; 21
    • 1980: 20; 23
    • 1979: 19; 10
    • 1978: 12; 7
  4. I seem to remember that both Suellen and Carreen were nicknames formed by smashing together their two formal names and I was wondering if those names were influenced by the book and movie, so was glad to see you check on Susan, which I thought was probably Suellen’s first name.

    Okay, I just checked Wikipedia and Carreen was Caroline Irene. Suellen was Susan Elinor.

  5. Ah! I didn’t even think to check that. Thank you.

    Here are the numbers for Caroline:

    • 1944: 1,212
    • 1943: 1,353
    • 1942: 1,391
    • 1941: 1,172
    • 1940: 1,161
    • 1939: 1,005
    • 1938: 1,115
    • 1937: 1,093
    • 1936: 1,075
    • 1935: 1,048

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