Heroine Names: Worthy Women with Notable Names, Part I-Trailblazers

What could be a greater gift to bestow on your daughter than a name with a heroic namesake, someone with an inspiring story to add a layer of pride to your little girl’s  feelings about her name–and give her great material for a school report?

The following is a list of mostly American women of great courage, perseverence and accomplishment—many of whom broke barriers for women– that could fill this bill.  And of course, this being nameberry, the name’s the thing, so apologies to all the equally distinguished Marys, Elizabeths, Sarahs and Anns who haven’t been included: the following  ladies were picked (almost) as much for their interesting names as for their  achievements.

ABIGAIL Adams – The first First Lady to occupy the White House and an  ntellectually equal partner of her husband, President John Adams.

ADA LOVELACE – daughter of the poet Byron whose work in mathematics was (probably) a precursor of the modern computer.

AMELIA Earhart — the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.

APHRA Behn—the first published woman writer in English.

ARABELLA Mansfield—the first woman to be admitted to the bar in the United States.

BELVA Lockwood – the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

CLARA Barton – the founder of the American Red Cross.

CLEMENTINA Rind—Colonial printer who published the works of Thomas Jefferson.

DINAH Nuthead –America’s first licensed woman printer.

ELEANOR Roosevelt –20th century First Lady who championed human rights.

EMELINE Cleveland—believed to be the first woman to perform major surgery.

EVANGELINE Booth—Salvation Army leader.

FLORA MacDonald—renowned for her daring rescue of Scotland’s Bonnie Prince Charlie.

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE – pioneering nurse during the Crimean War, who laid the foundations for modern nursing.

GEORGIA Neese Clarke – first woman Secretary of the Treasury.

GOLDA MeirIsrael’s first woman Prime Minister.

HATTIE CARAWAY—first woman elected to a full term in the US Senate.

HYPATIA — Hypatia of Alexandria was the first woman to make a substantial contribution to mathematics.

INDIRA Gandhi — the first female Prime Minister of India.

JOSEPHINE Bay –the  first woman to head a member firm of the New York Stock Exchange.

JULIETTE Low –the founder of the Girl Scouts of America.

LOVE Rosa Gantt –an influential early woman doctor.

LUCRETIA Mott—important leader in the women’s rights and suffrage and anti-slavery movements.

LYDIA Darragh— Revolutionary War heroine; credited with saving George Washington’s army.

MARIETTA Holly – a popularizor of woman’s rights doctrines.

MERCY Warren — ardent early American patriot known as “the Conscience of the American Revolution.”

OLYMPIA Brown – effective campaigner for the women’s right to vote.

PAULINA Davis –another proto-feminist who led the first Women’s Rights Congress.

PRUDENCE Crandall — an active abolitionist who fought to establish schools for black children.

ROSA Parks — known as “the mother of the Civil Rights movement” and a symbol of the power of nonviolence.

SOJOURNER (born Isabella) Truth—one-time slave, ardent speaker on abolitionist and women’s rights causes.

SOPHIA Smith—founder of Smith College–which opened in 1871 with 14 students.


Part 2 will feature Cultural Heroines, including  some especially great writers’ names.

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22 Responses to “Heroine Names: Worthy Women with Notable Names, Part I-Trailblazers”

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christy Says:

October 27th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

Dinah Nuthead! Oh my.

Elizabeth Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 1:01 am

What about Susannah Wesley?

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 1:48 am

I second Susannah Wesley, famed mother of John and Charles Wesley and frequently referred to as “the Mother of Methodism”.

I would also add Nellie Letitia McClung, early Canadian feminist, politician, and socialist. It was largely through her efforts that women in Canada were first given the right to vote and to run for public office in 1916.

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 1:49 am

Ooops, a correction! Susanna spelt her name without an “h”.

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 2:05 am

I promise this will be my last post!

Avril Phaedra Douglas “Kim” Campbell, first, and only, female Canadian Prime Minister (although I don’t know how much of an honour it would be to be named after her since she was only in office for a few months).

Elsa Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 5:22 am

Just a few great names from inspirational British/British born women (for us Brits here)…

[Dame] Christabel Harriette Pankhurst – suffragette

Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst – suffragette and anti-fascism campaigner

Adela Constantia Mary Pankhurst – suffragette.

[Lady] Constance Georgina Bulwer-Lytton – suffragette/activist/campaigner for votes for women and birth control. Also an instrumental campaigner for prison reform. Constance never married, because her mother refused to allow her to marry the man she loved, because he was a lower social class. She said she could never marry anyone else as her heart belonged to the man she couldn’t marry.

Dorothea Beale – teacher and campaigner for women’s education. Founded St Hilda’s College, Oxford.

Edith Clara Summerskill (Baroness Summerskill) – British doctor and politician. Played a key role in the founding of our beloved National Health Service.

[Dame] Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett (née Rowland) – Victorian social reformer who championed education for those from poorer backgrounds. (Husband was wonderfully named too, Samuel Augustus).

Octavia Hill – Social reform campaigner and instrumental in the development of social housing for the poor. Octavia was also the founder of The National Trust.

Ursula Mellor Bright – suffragette and women’s rights campaigner.

Elea Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 6:47 am

Let’s not forget Emmeline (emma-leen) Pankhurst, pioneer womens rights leader and mother of the above Pankhursts in Elsa’s great list 🙂

alexis Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 7:45 am

And Charlotte Perkins Gilman- famous writer and feminist revolutionary.

Nephele Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 10:56 am

What an inspiring — and empowering — list of names! Great blog! May I add Isadora to your list — for Isadora Duncan? She was truly a free spirit, and a pioneer for modern dance.

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 11:32 am

There’s a part 2 to this blog that will run tomorrow and will include many women in the arts. But great adds….with great names! We’ll save them for another collection down the road.

Jade Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 12:06 pm

What about Coretta Scott King, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama?

teabee Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Ooh, I second Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Isadora Duncan! Great list!

Pamela Redmond Satran Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 3:09 pm

I just want to say again that I hope nobody thinks we’ve overlooked other great women or are saying in any way that women from Susanna Wesley to Michelle Obama aren’t great — of course they are! This is just a selection of great women with great names….and aren’t we lucky that there are so many more.

pdxlibrarian Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 5:32 pm

A few women I would be proud to be named after, popularity aside:

Jane Goodall
Marie Curie
Susan Sontag
Ursula Le Guinn
Louise Bourgeois
Kiki Smith
Julia Margaret Cameron
Cady Elizabeth Stanton
Georgia O’Keefee
Frieda Kahlo
Diane Arbus
Judy Chicago
Simone de Bouvier
Willa Cather
Emily Dickinson
Adrienne Rich
Gertrude Stein

Paige Says:

October 28th, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I love this list. Almost all of my favorite names have been borrowed from some of the world’s greatest heroines.

My favorite is Edith Wilson-First lady who served as President when her husband had a stroke. Her signature can be found on many official documents that were meant only for the president’s signature.

peach Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 2:24 pm

My favorites on this list include Ada, Amelia, Clementina, Evangeline, Hypatia (what an awesome ancient name!), Indira (unfortunately would probably be confused with India), Sophia. Great ladies well named!

karen Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I think Amelia Earhart is one of the reasons I really, really like the name Amelia. As long as we’re adding other names for people to come along and read the “extended version,” I am suggesting Helen Keller.

Charlotte Vera Says:

October 29th, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Ok, I have thought of one other woman whom I greatly admire: Pandita Ramabai. She was was a poet, a scholar, and a champion of improvement in the plight of Indian women at a time when most Indian women were illiterate and had no rights. Among other things, she founded Mukti Mission, an organisation that to this day serves as a refuge, home, and place of education for widows abused by their families, orphaned children, abandoned baby girls, and the blind. The British Raj bestowed on her the Kaiser-i-Hind award (also given to Mahatma Ghandi), one of the highest awards an Indian could receive at the time.

HEROINE NAMES: Worthy Women with Notable Names, Part I … VH China Says:

October 30th, 2009 at 1:02 pm

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Susan Says:

November 6th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

As a Susan…growing up I loved the story of Susan B. Anthony.

alphabetdem Says:

March 6th, 2013 at 1:13 am

I know I’m very late to this thread, but I humbly add Nellie Bly, who was an extraordinary woman and is chronically under-appreciated. She pioneered investigative journalism, had herself committed to a mental health institution in order to revolutionize mental health care in this country, and then sailed around the world, copying Jules Vernes’ novel. She has a cute name AND an important legacy.

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