Babies named for the book “Dorcasina”

"Miss Stanley's surprise at the disaster of John Brown and Dorcasina." Illustration from 1825 printing of "Female Quixotism."
Illustration from “Female Quixotism

Not long after I discovered the name Malaeksa, I went off in search of other long-forgotten best-sellers with unique names in their titles, to see if any of those names had been picked up in real life as well.

The best one I found? Dorcasina.

It comes from the book Female Quixotism, Exhibited in the Romantic Opinions and Extravagant Adventures of Dorcasina Sheldon (original title) by Tabitha Gilman Tenney.

dorcasina sheldon book

At least one literary historian has said that Female Quixotism (1801) was the most popular novel written in America prior to the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852).

The book is “a comic, boisterous anti-romance” set in Philadelphia around the time of the revolution. The protagonist, Dorcas Sheldon, is a young romantic who decides to rename herself:

At this time Miss Dorcas became extremely dissatisfied with her unfashionable and unromantic name; but as she could not easily change it, she was determined to alter and give it a romantic termination. She, therefore, one day, after expressing great dislike to it, begged her father, in future, to call her Dorcasina.

Dorcasina was not character you’d want your child to emulate (“Dorcasina is courted, hurt, and tricked by almost everyone who crosses her path, both friends who wish to protect her and villains who wish to take advantage of her”) and yet a handful of baby girls were named Dorcasina after the book was published, mainly during the first half of the 19th century. Some examples:

  • Dorcasina Bowker, b. 1811 in Massachusetts
  • Dorcasina Hotchkiss, b. 1812 in New York
  • Dorcasina Totman, b. 1820 in Massachusetts
  • Dorcasina Wilkinson, b. 1825 in Kentucky
  • Dorcasina Harlow, b. 1826 in Massachusetts
  • Dorcasina Rolfe, b. 1840 in Michigan
  • Dorcasina Willard, b. 1855 in Massachusetts
  • Ruth Dorcasina Gill, b. 1880 in Louisiana

Other baby girls were given slightly different versions of the name, including Dorcassina and Dorcasine.

What do you think about the name Dorcasina? (Do you like it better than Dorcas?)


4 thoughts on “Babies named for the book “Dorcasina”

  1. The name Dorcasina sounds “very scots” to me, although is is a little weird to put the -ina ending on a name that is already feminine.

  2. To me, Dorcas has pretty abhorrent connotations. A biblical goody-goody name, used for women’s church-related societies or its buildings. It would be the very last name I’d ever give anyone — except maybe my cat.
    Dorcasina sounds rather friendlier. I could live with that.

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