Heroine Names: Worthy Women with Notable Names, Part 2: Cultural Icons

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.

WRITERS

AGATHA Christie

ANAIS Nin

APHRA Behn (also seen on the trailblazer list)

AYN Rand

CARSON (born Lula) McCullers

CHARLOTTE Bronte

COLETTE (born SidonieGabrielle Collette)

DJUNA Barnes

EDITH Wharton

EUDORA Welty

FLANNERY (born Mary) O’Connor

FREYA Stark

GWENDOLYN Brooks

HARPER (born Nelle) Lee

IRIS (born Jean) Murdoch

ISABELLE Allende

ISAK Dinesen (born Karen Blixen)

IVY Compton-Burnett

JESSAMYN (born Mary) West

JAMAICA (born Elaine) Kincaid

LETITIA Landon

LOUISA May Alcott

MAEVE Binchy

MAYA Angelou (born Margueritte Johnson)

NADINE Gordimer

NATALIA Ginzburg

PENELOPE Fitzgerald

RUMER (born Margaret) Godden

SAPPHO

TILLIE Olsen

URSULA Le Guin

VIRGINIA Woolf

VITA Sackville-West

WILLA Cather

ZADIE (born Sadie) Smith

ZORA Neale Hurston

ARTISTS

ARTEMISIA Gentileschi

BEATRIX Potter

BERENICE Abbott

CAMILLE Claudel

DOROTHEA Lange

FRIDA Kahlo

GEORGIA O’Keeffe

IMOGEN Cunningham

MARISOL

ROMAINE Brooks

ROSA Bonheur

ROSEALBA Carriera

SONIA Delaunay

TAMARA de Lempicka

MUSICIANS AND DANCERS

ADELINA Patti

ALBERTA Hunter

ALESSANDRA Ferri

ALLEGRA Kent

BILLIE Holiday

CECILIA Bartoli

CLARA Schumann

DINAH Washington

ELLA Fitzgerald

ETTA James

FREDERICA von Stade

GELSEY Kirkland

ISADORA Duncan

JOSEPHINE Baker

KIRI Te Kanawa

LENA Horne

LEONTYNE Price

LOIE Fuller

MONSERRAT Caballe

MAHALIA Jackson

MARGOT Fonteyn

NADIA Boulanger

NINA Simone

PIERINA Legnani (considered the first Prima Ballerina)

TAMARA Tourmanova

TANAQUIL LeClerq

TWYLA Tharp

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11 Responses to “Heroine Names: Worthy Women with Notable Names, Part 2: Cultural Icons”

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Jill Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 10:05 pm

How about Cassatt or Barrett as first names or middle names for girls? Not to my personal taste, but def. fitting in with current trends.
Maybe not Browning, but just b/c it makes me think of guns.

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 2:25 am

Great list!

I submit Dorothy Leigh Sayers, probably second only to Agatha Christie when it comes to famous authors of the Golden Age of detective fiction. She was not only one of the first women to receive a degree from Oxford, but was also a respected scholar and translator (of Dante’s Divina Commedia), hanging out with the likes of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Emz Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 7:11 am

I’ve always thought Angelou would make a very pretty name, with a very obvious and worthy namesake. It’s a gorgeous word.

abbey Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 7:52 am

Some of my absolute favourites up there – Agatha (everyone always thinks I’m utterly mad for loving this name), Beatrix and Ursula.

pippa Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 9:49 am

Love many of these, Ursula and Isadora being among my top choices for a girl!

rg Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

It’s Isabel (not Isabelle) Allende

peach Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

Isadora is one of my super favorites! I also like Clara, Twyla (although I’ve heard too many negative stories about the real person so I wouldn’t use it), Margot, Beatrix, Marisol, Natalia, Louisa, Colette.

FYI, Margot Fonteyn was a stage name; She was born Margaret Hookham.

The head of the Royal Ballet and very famous dancer in her own time of The Ballet Russes, Ninette de Valois (born Edris Stannus) has a name worthy of including in this list. More famous ballet dancers with interesting names include: Beryl Gray, Moira Shearer, Antoinette Sibley, Nadia Nerina, Alicia Markova.

Berthe Morisot, Impressionist painter, is another worthy addition.
Great lists (both parts) and posts!

Kat Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 3:57 pm

No actresses? Some of them were/are fabulous role models.

Sarah Bernhardt
Katharine Hepburn
Joan Fontaine
Meryl Streep
Vivien Leigh
Bette Davis
Barbara Streisand
Julianne Moore
Cynthia Nixon
Bernadette Peters
Kristen Chenowith
Calista Flockhart
Hilary Swank
Judy Dench
Helen Mirren
Kate Winslet

I included women who use their free time to help others, strong women who paved the way in the business for others (whether it was film or Broadway), those who didn’t take the gender bias lying down, and women who are simply incredibly gifted at their craft. All good role models in their own way…certainly more so than Billie Holliday, Josephine Baker, or Gelsey Kirkland, who engaged in chronic drug use, eating disorders, and co-dependent abusive relationships most of their lives.

I agree with Emz about Angelou – what a great idea!

dancer4life Says:

November 3rd, 2009 at 10:02 pm

ballerina w/ the royal ballet: marianela nunez. I think that’s a pretty cool name. Also, I am in love w/ Margot Fonteyn, the name and the person. She is probably my biggest role model in the world of ballet and I’m glad to see that she’s mentioned

gingerkid Says:

November 19th, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I second the Marianela Nunez nomination! She is from Argentina and an amazing dancer, very beautiful, and seems very sweet. 🙂

I also love Margot Fonteyn…the person and the name. I’m fairly certain it’s only because of her that I love the name Margot.

As for who was included and who was not, isn’t the point the names, and not whether or not they were good role models? Granted, I love Margot because I associate it with someone I greatly admire. But if the name is very common (ie., Sarah, Kate, Kristen), then the association is watered down…Kate Winslet’s a fantastic actress and all, but I don’t think many people are looking at this blog and deciding they’re going to name their baby Kate after her.

Gelsey Kirkland certainly does belong on this list…she was an incredibly gifted dance artist. Yes, she had an eating disorder and abused drugs…and? Her name is unique, and she had a huge impact on the world of dance. And not that it matters with regard to this blog, but she has turned her life around and is a very sought-after ballet teacher and coach.

Other dancers with interesting names:

ALTYNAI Asylmuratova: Born in Kazakhstan, former ballerina with the Kirov Ballet in Russia. (Also happens to be my favorite ballerina)

GHISLAINE Thesmar: Former ballerina with the Paris Opera Ballet

XIOMARA Reyes: Ballerina with American Ballet Theatre

PALOMA Herrera: Ballerina with American Ballet Theatre

STERLING Hyltin: A (female) Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet

TATIANA Terekhova: A former ballerina with the Kirov Ballet

SYLVIE Guillem: Trained at the Paris Opera Ballet, and has danced all over the world

MARTINE Van Hamel: Former Principal with American Ballet Theatre

SILJA Schandorff: Former ballerina with the Royal Danish Ballet

VIVIANA Durante: Former ballerina with the Royal Ballet

I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t thought of, but I couldn’t help adding a few more!

linda Says:

November 19th, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Thanks for this, gingerkid–great additions to the list and thanks for reminding people that is was realy about interesting names as much as inspiring heroes.

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