Category: Leave it to Beaver
By Linda Rosenkrantz
Once upon a time—let’s say pre-Roseanne—the TV mom was the paragon of domestic motherhood, as exemplified and epitomized by the Beaver’s understanding mom, June Cleaver, who famously did her vacuuming in high heels and pearls and pencil-slim skirts on Leave It to Beaver. This idealized image persisted via later near-perfect parents like The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable, who was able to effortlessly combine high-powered career with being the wisest and most compassionate of moms, never losing her cool.
Of course there were blips over the years, such as vibrantly vulgar characters like Roseanne Conner and Married with Children’s Peg Bundy and later cranky (older) moms like Marie Barone and Estelle Costanza, but for the most part television moms set a pretty high—if not unattainable—bar.
So here’s our Mother’s Day salute to those Margarets and Marions, Harriets and Helens of TV Momdom past– and their perfect period names.
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.
January Jones, the attractive star of the hot TV show Mad Men has focused a lot of attention on her (real) name, but what’s the prognosis for the other calendar baby names?
JANUARY, named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and ends, has a real history as a name, dating back to the Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales character in The Merchant’s Tale, a wealthy, elderly knight. Flash forward to the 1970s for a complete image transformation via the Jacqueline Susann soap-operaish novel Once is Not Enough‘s heroine, “the luscious January Wayne.” (The South Dakota-bred January Jones told Town & Country magazine that she was named for the Susann character.) Put it all together, and you have the sexiest month name, and one that has the best chance of catching on.
FEBRUARY. The shortest month of the year has the least potential as a baby name, mostly because of its awkward pronunciation. You could consider its birthstone, Amethyst, instead.
MARCH, named after Mars, the Roman god of war, is the most masculine of the group, and is beginning to be used for boys, particularly as a strong, brisk middle name. It’s also a surname name, exemplified by the beloved March family in Little Women.
APRIL, from the Latin word meaning to open, as in the opening buds of spring, has been in name-style limbo for a a couple of decades, but might be due for an early comeback. Its prominent role in Revolutionary Road, portrayed by Kate Winslet, could breathe new life into it. It also has appealing musical references via songs like I’ll Remember April and April in Paris. Singer Avril Lavigne has drawn attention to the French version.
MAY, which started as a pet form of both Mary and Margaret, was wildly popular at the turn of the 20th century, in both real life and fiction–writers like Henry James and Edith Wharton used it for their pure and innocent heroines. The Mae spelling, as in Mae West, was much saucier. Some modern parents have begun to use May as a sweet, old-fashioned middle name, but others–including actress Madeline Stowe,–have recognized its potential as a first.
JUNE was the midcentury goody-goody girl, exemplified by June Allyson in movies and quintessential TV Mom June (Leave it to Beaver) Cleaver. Some parents might prefer the livelier Juno, but June–recently picked by actor/oil heir Balthazar Getty for his daughter–has the no-nonsense solidity many parents are seeking in these difficult times. A hipster favorite middle name.
JULY, named for Juilius Caesar, has been used infrequently, and then usually as a male name–there was a character named July Anderson in Lonesome Dove. But it could conceivably be an offbeat namesake for an Aunt Julie or an Uncle Julius.
AUGUST, like the word with the accent on the second syllable, has a somewhat serious image, associated with two heavyweight playwrights–Strindberg and Wilson. It has some celebrity cred, having been chosen by Mariska Hargitay, Lena Olin and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Garth Brooks turned August into a female option when he used it for his daughter.
SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER all have limited potential, the Latin Septimus and Octavius having more history as names. On the other hand, hip writer Dave Eggers did name his daughter October….