This being the first day of June, it’s the perfect time to take a look at her namesake. Never as high profile as other month names April or May—or, for that matter, cousins Jane, Jean or Joan— June just might be ready for a quiet comeback.
June is a name that has suffered from, more than anything else, having a goody-goody/perfect mom image. This was formed in midcentury America via June (born Ella) Allyson, who played a succession of sunny, saucy ingenues and adoring, long-suffering movie wives in the 1940s and 1950s, along with ideal mom June Cleaver on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver, whose name became symbolic of the archetypal sympathetic suburban, stay-at-home mom of the 1950s, and June Lockhart, who played another quintessential midcentury parent as Timmy’s mother on the long running Lassie TV series. June Haver was another wholesome midcentury star—so wholesome that she actually entered a convent for a while in the middle of her career.
The few other well known Junes include actress June Havoc—the famous Baby June in Gypsy, whose birth name was actually Ellen–and singers June Christy (born Shirley), June Carter Cash and June Pointer. In literature, June was the defiant daughter of Young Jolyon in John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga, and it has appeared in movie titles like Henry and June and Happy Birthday, Wanda June. June has started to make inroads into the celebrisphere as well: Balthazar Getty named his daughter June Catherine in 2007, and just about a month ago, Amanda Peet used it in middle place for her daughter Molly.
Although the name is based on an ancient Roman goddess, June didn’t start to be used as a first name until the turn of the last century, when month and flower and jewel names were coming into vogue. It was already in the top 500 in 1880, when Social Security records began to be kept, was in the top 100 from 1915 to 1941, was the 46th most popular name of the 1920s. June dropped off the list completely from 1986 to 2008, when it reentered at #867, climbing 205 places this past year to #662. So even if June isn’t busting out all over, as the song says, signs of a revival are stirring.
And if you’re not ready to consider June, there are three other names connected to the month. Rose is the flower for June, Pearl is its jewel, and then there’s the original Roman goddess name Juno which burst onto the scene with the eponymous 2007 hit movie of and was used for one of his twins by Will Champion of Coldplay.