If you’ve set your sights on a sight-themed baby name for 2020, and if none of the names on the list of vision-related baby names caught your fancy, here’s a short list of baby names that begin with the word “see“:
Ziegfeld Follies, which appeared on Broadway almost every year from 1907 until 1931, was an extravagant production that included music, dance and comedy.
The biggest draw, though, was the bevy of beautiful showgirls.
It became a popular sport to guess which one would break out and become the next big star, like onetime showgirls Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker, and of course, Marilyn Miller.
Several Follies girls went on to enjoy successful careers in entertainment, but only two — Allyn King and Avonne Taylor — inspired baby name debuts.
In fact, Allyn and Avonne are the 4th- and 5th-earliest actor-inspired baby name debuts that I know of (after Francelia, Ormi and Seena).
Allyn King was born in North Carolina in February of 1899. It looks as though she was named after her father, Allen. (Her sister, Phoebe, was named after their mother.)
Allyn was a Follies girl from 1916 until 1920, and the name Allyn — which was already showing up regularly on the SSA’s list as a boy name — debuted as a girl name in 1918:
1926: 5 baby girls named Allyn
1925: 11 baby girls named Allyn
1924: 5 baby girls named Allyn
1923: 7 baby girls named Allyn
1921: 5 baby girls named Allyn
1918: 7 baby girls named Allyn [debut]
(I can’t include SSDI data for unisex names like this one because the SSDI doesn’t code for gender, making it impossible to know for sure which people are male and which are female.)
Allyn King continued to appear in Broadway shows during the 1920s, and she was in one silent film in 1923.
But the pressure to achieve the skinny, boyish figure that was fashionable during the ’20s proved too much for her. Extreme dieting nearly killed her in 1927, and, after spending almost two years recovering in a sanatorium, she was still so depressed in early 1930 that she jumped out of a 5th story window in New York City. She died two days later.
Avonne Taylor was born in Ohio, also in February of 1899, to parents Clifford and Diana. Her birth name was Evangeline, but she joined the Follies under the name Avonne. (I’m not sure how she came up with it.)
Avonne was a Follies girl from 1920 to 1922, and the name Avonne debuted on the SSA’s list in 1923:
1928: 9 baby girls named Avonne
1927: 12 baby girls named Avonne
1926: 6 baby girls named Avonne
1925: 12 baby girls named Avonne
1924: 17 baby girls named Avonne
1923: 11 baby girls named Avonne [debut]
Though the name was in use before 1923, it was too rare to appear in the publicly available SSA data. Here’s SSDI data from the same time period, for comparison:
1928: 3 people named Avonne
1927: 6 people named Avonne
1926: 2 people named Avonne
1925: 9 people named Avonne
1924: 11 people named Avonne
1923: 13 people named Avonne
1922: 4 people named Avonne
1920: 1 person named Avonne
1919: 2 people named Avonne
(For the SSDI numbers, I only counted people who had Avonne as a first name, not as a middle.)
Avonne Taylor went on to appear in a couple of films — one in 1927, the other in 1931 — and then left the entertainment industry altogether after marrying asbestos heir Tommy Manville. (The marriage lasted about a month.) She died in 1992.
First there was Francelia. Then there was Ormi. And today we have Seena — the third name (I know of) to debut on the U.S. baby name charts thanks to the influence of a silent film actress.
That actress was Seena Owen, and she’s a special case, as she’s the first actress on my list to become popular under a stage name.
Signe Auen was born in Washington state in 1894. Her parents were immigrants from Denmark, and she had older siblings named Lillie (who became a screenwriter) and Audun.
The Scandinavian name Signe can be traced back to the Old Norse name Signý, which is made up on the elements sigr, meaning “victory,” and ný, meaning “new.”
Signe Auen began appearing in films in late 1914.
In 1915, there was an uptick in the number of babies named Signe according to the U.S. baby name data:
Usage of Signe (SSA)
Usage of Signe (SSDI)
51 baby girls
52 baby girls
42 baby girls
67 baby girls [peak usage]
45 baby girls
46 baby girls
43 baby girls
(I added data from the Social Security Death Index as well. For the SSDI numbers — which were declining during the 1910s, after peaking in the 1890s and 1900s — I only counted people who had Signe as a first name, not as a middle.)
Sometime during the last half of 1915 Signe Auen changed her name to “Seena Owen” — the phonetic spelling of her Danish name.
And in 1917, the baby name Seena debuted on the SSA’s baby name list:
Usage of Seena (SSA)
Usage of Seena (SSDI)
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
Numbers from both the SSA and the SSDI show that usage of the name Seena, which has always been relatively low, was at its highest during the 1920s.
This matches up pretty well with Seena Owen’s film career, which lasted from the late 1910s until the early 1930s, when Owen retired from acting due to the advent of talkies.
Which name do you like more, Signe or Seena?
P.S. Did you know that Seena Owen was the first person to wear false eyelashes? Director David Llewelyn “D. W.” Griffith had a wig maker invent the first set of eyelash extensions for Owen to wear in his 1916 epic film Intolerance.