Baby name story: Muriel

In September of 1912, Los Angeles couple Christos Malamatinas (originally from Greece) and Esther May Reynolds got married.

In August of 1913, they welcomed a baby girl.

Cristos wanted to name the baby Helen, after Helen of Troy. Esther, on the other hand, wanted to name the baby Muriel — a name she’d discovered in a novel.

The baby ended up getting the name Muriel Wilhelmina Malamatinas.

When Christos learned that his wife had named the baby Muriel, he left home in protest. He was eventually charged with failure to provide for his family.

In April of 1914, the couple had their day in court.

The judge “rendered a decision that a wife has absolute authority in the naming of children. The husband has nothing to do with it.” He sustained Esther’s choice and “and ordered Malamatinos to pay the family $5 a week.”

…Which of the two names do you prefer, Muriel or Helen?


  • “Greek to Stay in Jail Until Muriel is Helen.” Chicago Daily Tribune 15 Apr. 1914: 14.
  • “Wife Has Absolute Right to Name Children.” Evening News [San Jose] 17 April 1914: 5.

5 thoughts on “Baby name story: Muriel

  1. There should have been a compromise! Muriel Helena or Helen Muriel would have worked well. Maybe middle names weren’t common there. Although, the wife had a middle name. Hmmmm…

  2. Using one as a middle name would have been a smart idea.

    Records show her middle initial at birth as being “W” — I wonder what it stands for.

  3. Whatever last name is being used for the child, the other parent has the deciding vote on the first name.

    My grandmother (who was born in 1917) was named Helen. My best friend’s grandmother (who I also adored) was named Muriel. I love both of these names, but voted for Muriel because it seems that it would have been less common then.

  4. My grandmother, born in 1896, was also a Helen. It was obviously extremely common then. I have never liked the name, so I chose Muriel (which was my mom’s cousin’s name). I don’t know about this case, though. When a couple gets down to complaining in court about their baby’s name, there’s not a lot you can do for them. Maybe give the baby both names and let each parent call her the one they prefer.

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