Girl Names: For International Women’s Day
by Linda Rosenkrantz
So what better time than this to salute some of the women who are making history right now in the US political sphere?
When the 116th Congress recently convened, women made up almost a quarter of its voting members—by far the highest percentage in US history. And its freshman class is the most racially diverse, with a tsunami of firsts, including the first Native American and first Muslim congresswomen.
Here are some of the girl names that demonstrate that diversity, all possible baby names. Those in the freshman class are starred.
The high-profile AOC quickly became a star of the Congressional freshman class after winning a startling upset in her primary and then becoming, at 29, the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress. ALEXANDRIA, the geographical variation of Alexandra, now ranks at #257, after being in the Top 100 in the 1990s.
Amata Catherine Coleman Radewagen holds the title of Aumua (talking chief) from the Village of Pago Pago. Upon taking political office in 2015, she became the Republican Party’s highest ranking Asian Pacific federal officeholder, serving on Natural Resources, Small Business and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. The underused AMATA, one of the cool names that mean beloved, has been used by J.K. Rowling in one of her non-Potter books.
The first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, Ayanna Soyini Pressley has introduced an amendment to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. AYANNA, a variant spelling of the cross-cultural Ayana, was on the US pop list from 1971 to 2014, peaking at #361.
Born Rochelle Marie Johnson, she legally changed her name to Chellie as a teenager. As a Maine Senator, Pingree gained national attention by authoring the nation’s first bill regulating prescription drug prices. Other goals include working toward health care reform, women’s rights and clean energy.
*Jahana Hayes—US Rep from Connecticut
Jahana Flemming Hayes, once recognized as National Teacher of the Year, is the first African American woman to represent her state in Congress and is active in educational issues. JAHANA is the female form of Jahan, a Persian word meaning ‘world’ or ‘universe’.
Kamala Devi Harris previously served as California’s District Attorney; in 2016 she succeeded Senator Barbara Boxer, becoming California’s third female US Senator and the first of Jamaican or Indian ancestry. She has recently launched a Presidential campaign. The name KAMALA comes from the Sanskrit word for the lotus flower.
***Kendra** Horn–US Rep from Oklahoma
Kendra Suzanne Horn caused one of the biggest upsets in the midterm elections; she is part of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate and conservative Democrats. KENDRA, now ranking at #431, entered the Top 200 in 2013, before it started to drop. It is the name of Albus Dumbledore’s mother and was also a character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Mazie Keiko Hirono is the Japanese-born American Junior Senator from Hawaii, the first elected female senator from Hawaii and the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate. Her name, the appealingly streamlined spelling MAZIE, had been worn by a fictional Tillie Olsen character. Could join a list of a cool names.
Nita Sue Melnikoff Lowey was elected to the House of Representatives in 1988, later becoming the first Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. As well as being a shortening of Anita, NITA is a Hindi girl name meaning bear. Nita Naldi was an iconic American silent film star.
Nydia Margarita Velasquez Serrano is the first Puerto Rican woman to be elected to Congress and was chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a great advocate for the human and civil rights of the Puerto Rican people and American Hispanics. NYDIA is a Latin name meaning home and makes an interesting alternative to Lydia.
***Rashida** Tlaib—US Rep from Michigan
Rashida Harbi Tiaib, the eldest of 14 children, is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the first Palestinian-American. RASHIDA, an Arabic baby name meaning righteous, is also currently associated with the actress Rashida Jones, daughter of Quncy.
More firsts: Gabbard is the first Samoan-American and first Hindu member of the US Congress. She is seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2020. The name TULSI comes from the Sanskrit name for “holy basil,” a plant sacred in Hinduism.
Xochitl Liana Torres Small holds leadership positions on the Committees on Armed Services and Homeland Security. XOCHITL (pronounced SOH-chee) is an Aztec girl name meaning flower and is commonly heard in southern Mexico. It’s currently #512 on Nameberry.