Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel, one of nameberry’s favorite guest bloggers, now looks for–and finds– some intriguing names in the world of international espionage.
Fictional spies have glamorous names to go with their stiletto heels and hidden daggers. But for every femme fatale we find in books or movies, there’s a real life Spy Girl who risked all for her cause.
Ian Fleming created legendary super-spy James Bond, but also invented a bevy of Bond girls, some capable, some less so, most with outrageous names. Fleming based at least one character on a real-life spy: Vesper Lynd, she of Casino Royale fame, was modeled on Polish-born British agent and saboteur Krystyna Skarbek, also known as Christine Granville.
This year in celebration of Black History Month we turn for naming inspiration to the cultural heroines of the Harlem Renaissance. These women—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors and musicians– all played significant roles in the movement that flourished from the end of World War I through the mid-1930s, during which a group of writers and other artists fostered an intellectual blossoming that was instrumental in forging a new black cultural identity.
The talented women listed below, some better known than others, would all provide great namesakes and role models for any child.
A’LELIA Walker—an African-American businesswoman who was an important patron of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s.
ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, activist and prominent Harlem Renaissance figure.
ANGELINA Weld Grimké—Harlem Renaissance writer, one of the first black women to have a play performed in public.
ANITA Scott Coleman—Though born in Mexico and later a resident of the Southwest, Coleman published many short stories reflecting the themes of the Harlem Renaissance.
ARIEL Williams—a teacher, musician and published poet.
AUGUSTA Savage—a sculptor known for her bronze busts of Frederick Douglass, W. C. Handy, James Weldon Johnson and other prominent African Americans.
CLARISSA Scott Delaney—onetime secretary to Booker T. Washington, she was a poet whose subjects included Pan-Africanism and bi-racialism.
DOROTHY West — Harlem Renaissance novelist and short story writer, best known for her novel The Living is Easy, about an upscale black family. (shown at right)
EULALIE Spence—an actress, teacher and playwright during the Harlem Renaissance.
GEORGIA Douglas Johnson—a prolific poet and playwright whose Washington DC home was open to the leading black artists of the day, including Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.
GWENDOLYN Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for Poetry in 1950
HELENE Johnson—a Harlem Renaissance poet, cousin of Dorothy West; one of her innovative poems, ‘Bottled,’ appeared in the May 1927 Vanity Fair.
JESSIE Redmon Fauset—called by Langston Hughes a “mid-wife” of African-American literature, she was the literary editor of Crisis magazine and was the first black woman to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
LOIS Mailou Jones—a prize-winning artist who had a long and influential career, and whose work is represented in many major museums, including New York’s Metropolitan.
MARITA Bonner, whose writing dealt with issues of race, gender and class.
NELLA Larsen—a novelist who was the first African-American woman to win a Guggenheim fellowship for creative writing.
REGINA Anderson, New York City librarian who was one of three women to establish a salon for artists and intellectuals; helped found the Negro Experimental Theatre
ZORA Neale Hurston—one of the best known figures of the movement—though she died in poverty—particularly recognized for her 1937 novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Also considered part of the Harlem Renaissance were such entertainers as:
LIL Hardin Armstrong,
NINA Mae McKinney
We looked at trailblazing women in Part One of this blog yesterday—bold and courageous achievers who would prove worthy namesakes for a daughter. Now we turn to those with major accomplishments in the arts—a varied mix of writers, artists, and musicians of the far and fairly recent past—many of whom seem to have appropriately creative names—whether they were born with them or not.
Again, remember that the name’s the thing here—so sorry, Mary Cassatt and Elizabeth Barrett Browning–not this time.
APHRA Behn (also seen on the trailblazer list)
CARSON (born Lula) McCullers
COLETTE (born Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette)