Category: political names

We’re all pretty familiar with the names of  the presidents whose surnames have beeen commonly used for children–Jackson, Jefferson, Taylor, Tyler, Lincoln, Truman, Madison, Wilson, Kennedy et al– and we’re equally  familiar with the names of most of their wives as well.

But less well known are the ones they chose for their children, so I thought this was an appropriate occasion to take a look at them. Putting aside the common Johns and Marys, James and Elizabeths (except if they had a noteworthy nickname), and the number of sons who were named Junior for their famous fathers, here are some of the more interesting choices:


ABIGAIL (nn Nabby) Adams (John)

ALICE (nn Princess) Roosevelt (Theodore)

AMY Carter

ANNA  Harrison, Roosevelt (Franklin)



DOROTHY (nn Doro) Bush (George H. W.)

ELEANOR (nn Nelly)  Wilson

ELIZA (nn Trot) Garfield, Monroe

ELLEN (nn Nellie) Grant

ESTHER Cleveland

ETHEL Roosevelt (Theodore)


HARRIET Buchanan


IDA McKinley

JANE  Jefferson

JENNA Bush (George W.)

JESSIE  Wilson


KATHERINE (nn Katie) McKinley

LETITIA (nn Letty) Tyler

Read More

Martin Luther King Day Names

To commemorate Martin Luther King Day, we honor some of his fellow heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement.  It would be impossible to list all of them, so here are some of the most worthy namesakes.

AMELIA Boynton Robinson – brought Dr. King to Selma in 1953

ANGELA Davis  –radical Black activist, advocate of racial justice

CARLOTTA Walls – youngest member of the Little Rock Nine students who desegregated Central High School in 1957

CHARLAYNE Hunter-Gault –one of the first two African-American students to enter the University of Georgia in 1961

CLARA Luper – activist known as the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’

CLAUDETTE Colvin – refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks did

CORETTA Scott King – Dr. King’s full partner in the civil rights movement

DAISY Bates —  a key figure in the integration of Central High School in Little Rock

DOROTHY Cotton – the highest ranking female in Dr King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT —   a civil rights activist during her husband’s tenure as President.

ELLA  Baker – influential activist, key figure in the NAACP, SCLC and in the creation of the Student Noviolent Coordinating Committee

Read More

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.

Read More

African-American Heroine Names

As Black History Month segues into  Women’s History Month this weekend, we thought we’d take a look at the names of some African-American heroines.

Actually, compiling this list was not as easy as you might think (or as it should be).  Google and book searches tended to turn up only the usual suspects.  And then, late as usual, I bought my 2009 calendar from the bargain bin: A Journey Into 365 Days of Black History — Notable Women.

An array of admirable women are listed there, all of whom would provide wonderful role models (and lovely names) for any child.  The best:

ALICE Dunbar-Nelson — Journalist, poet, author.

BARBARA Jordan — Texas Congresswoman who won fame during Nixon impeachment hearings.

BESSIE Coleman — In 1922, became the world’s only licensed black pilot.  She staged flying exhibitions to fund a school to train black aviationists.

Read More

Presidential First Names

On this momentous day in American history, with a new president exceptional in every way, including being the first to have a precedent-shaking multi-ethnic name, it’s interesting to compare it with previous Presidential names.  We know how influential some of the surnames have been–Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy have become  adopted as first names–but what about the actual given names of these Commanders-in-Chief?  Already we’ve seen a number of celebratory baby Baracks, with undoutedly many more to follow.

The majority of past presidents have had standard issue Anglo-Saxon classic names, including five Jameses, four Johns, four Williams, three Georges (looking back, there’s a certain historic symmetryt here beginning with Washington and ending with Bush) and one and a half Thomases (see below).  Curiously enough, there are only two Old Testament names among them–Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Harrison.  Barack Obama is not the first president to inherit his father’s name–the others, some of whom were actually Juniors and some who weren’t–were John Adams, James Madison, James Buchanan, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Gerald Ford.  Bill Clinton is William Jefferson Clinton III, and President Ford was a double junior: he was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr. and later became Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr.

Although Lincoln was known as Abe and Theodore Roosevelt as Teddy, the true Nickname Era started with Eisenhower, who ran on the slogan “I Like Ike.”  He was followed by Jack Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.  Speaking of Jack, it’s possible that Kennedy added a bit of panache to that form of his name which still lingers today.

It’s interesting to note how many of these men actually reinvented their names.  Eisenhower switched his first two names from David Dwight to Dwight David, as did Stephen Grover/Grover Stephen Cleveland and Thomas Woodrow/Woodrow Thomas Wilson.  Grant was christened Hiram Ulysses Grant, but a clerical error when he was enrolling at West Point listed him as Ulysses Simpson (his mother’s maiden name) Grant, relieving him of the embarassing initials HUG.  Two others whose mothers’ maiden names became their firsts were Millard (always wondered where that came from) Fillmore and Woodrow Wilson.

All in all, presidential first names have not had a huge impact on baby naming–unless you want to count the negative effect on the name Richard after Nixon‘s decline in reputation.  Looks like here, as in so many other areas, Barack Obama will break new ground.

Read More