Where did the baby name Theonita come from in 1957?

Chicago debutante Theonita Cox on the cover of Jet (Feb. 7, 1957).
Theonita Cox

The name Theonita has appeared in the U.S. baby name data only once:

  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted
  • 1957: 17 baby girls named Theonita [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted

That’s pretty high for a one-hit wonder. What’s the explanation?

Looks like it’s debutante Theonita Cox, who graced the cover of Jet magazine in February of 1957. Beside her photo is the headline: “THEONITA COX: Pretty Chicago teen-ager was among 20 in society debut.”

A later issue of Jet reveals that Theonita’s father’s name was Theophilus. And the 1940 U.S. Census says her mother’s name was Juanita. So it’s likely that Theonita’s parents created her name by combining their own.

Theonita Cox boosting the popularity of the baby name Theonita came nearly two decades after a more high-profile debutante, Brenda Frazier, did the same for the name Brenda.

Source: Major, Gerri. “Society World.” Jet 1 Feb. 1962: 39.
Image: © 1957 Jet

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