Frances, a soft and gentle classic, last popular a hundred years ago, seems to be on the cusp of a possible revival, along with other such neglected quiet and serious names. It's been chosen in recent years by such stylish parents as Kate Spade and Amanda Peet (who nicknamed her daughter the spunky Frankie). This year, Frances was Number 442 in England and Wales and Number 602 in the USA.
Frances was a favorite of the Tudor aristocracy after being given to Henry VII's granddaughter. Until the seventeenth century, the spellings Frances and Francis were used interchangeably for both sexes. St. Frances (Mother) Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized.
Someof the best known pop culture bearers of the name were known by diminutives--the Franny of J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Frankie in A Member of the Wedding, Baby in Dirty Dancing and Gidget in Gidget. Traditional nickname Fran feels a bit bland and Fanny, though possessing some eighteenth century charm, is unusable in Britain and Australia where it is slang for female genitalia.
Frances is the endearing badger in the childhood favorite Bedtime for Frances and other Frances books.
Among well known bearers are Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor in the Roosevelt era, actresses McDormand, Dee, Farmer and Fisher, journalist Fitzgerald, and writers Burney and Hodgson Burnett.
Frances was the abandoned first name of Judy Garland, Dinah Shore and Dale Evans.
Some attractive foreign versions are the increasingly popular Francesca, Francoise, Franca, Fanya and Francine.
There has been some speculation that the naming of Pope Francis could have some ancillary effect on the popularity of sister name Frances.
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