Why did Carson debut as a girl name in 1947?

The character Dr. Carson McVicker (played by Charlotte Manson) from the radio show "The Road of Life" (c1937-c1959).
Dr. Carson McVicker from “The Road of Life

Most of us think of “Carson” as either a surname or a male name, but it popped up as a girl name suddenly in the 1940s (after decades of being a male name exclusively).

YearGirls named CarsonBoys named Carson

The influence was probably the radio soap opera The Road of Life — the very first soap opera with a medical theme. Broadcast schedules indicate that it aired from about 1937 to about 1959. (It was also on TV in the mid-1950s, but only for a matter of months.)

The main character was Dr. Jim Brent, who started out as a surgeon in Chicago, but during 1945 moved to New York City and became a psychiatrist. There, he worked for Dr. Carson McVicker (played by radio actress Charlotte Manson), who was not just the chief-of-staff at the Neuropsychiatric Institute, but also a beautiful heiress. One source dubbed her a “socialite doctor.”

Both Jim and Carson were married, but that didn’t stop them from having an affair. She eventually suffered a nervous breakdown and resigned.

What are your thoughts on the name Carson? Do you like it better as a boy name, or as a girl name?

P.S. Another traditionally male name that started being given to baby girls in the ’40s is Rory.


  • Cox, Jim. The Great Radio Soap Operas. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.
  • Russell, Maureen. Days of Our Lives: A Complete History of the Long-Running Soap Opera. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1995.
  • Soap Operas In The Postwar World – DTTD!

Image: from Manitoba Calling (PDF), Apr. 1946, p. 15 (archived by American Radio History)

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