Feminist Names?

I was just enjoying reading this delightful old thread: http://www.babynamewizard.com/forum/philosophy-on-unisex-names?page=1

And was wondering what, if anything, you thoughtful folk might consider feminist names for girls.

Maybe named after a feminist icon? Virginia, Emmeline, Ada?

Or other examples of notable historic or classical women? Something for Sappho? Julian?

Goddesses? Biblical women?

Or perhaps something not from the "named after" category at all--what else might count? Name etymologies?

Also, I posted a few times for help naming our sweet baby girl. We had a terrible time choosing but after she was born decided on Rosalie Catherine. We often call her Ro. I like to think we named her, in part, for Rosalind Franklin (and just avoided the Roz nickname in favor of a vowel sound I found much more pleasing!).


May 23, 2016 9:43 AM

Did you see the movie Suffragette? There were some great names there. I think the main character was named Maud. There were several historical names in that movie that I am spacing right now, but that might be a fun place to start. What a great theme!

May 23, 2016 9:52 AM

I think you hit the nail on the head re: names that are associated with prominent feminists (like Simone and Audre), history (Joan, Harriet, Boudica), strong female characters from literature or mythodology/religion (Maeve, Athena, Rosalind, etc).  Another pathway might be names that have girl-power meanings of some sort.  Like Regina means queen, Sage means wise, etc.

May 23, 2016 4:02 PM

Apropos of that old thread, in addition to the categories you and CM have identified, I would add naming sons after women (family members or personal heroes) and intentionally giving them names perceived as "feminine" (e.g. Robin, Ellery).

May 24, 2016 9:27 AM

I agree with this, especially the first part! I think naming boys after females is something we don't do very often and really should. It is so common to give a girl a feminine version of a man's name, but the reverse is not very common at all. 

May 31, 2016 10:48 AM

Beautiful name choice! I previously have only known a cat namesaked for Rosalind Franklin, but I think she's certainly namesake-worthy.

To me the names that strike me as most feminist when I encounter them are names that belong to notable historic/classical women, but specifically where the names are unusual enough that the association hasn't been diluted by loads of other associations in my personal life. For example, Susan no longer strikes me as primarily being "wow, a feminist name choice!" even though it has a strong feminist namesake, because I know so many other Susans. Ada is still mostly Ms Lovelace to me, even though I know two little ones. I don't know any Emmelines besides Ms Pankhurst, but I suspect I will soon since the name is on the upswing due to its fashionable sounds.

Goddess names are a mixed bag. I think some goddesses are appreciably more girl-power than others in how they are reflected in pop culture... consequently, Minerva, Athena, Artemis and Freya strike me as much more feminist message choices than Aphrodite/Venus (or even Demeter or Hestia), and Diana suffers from the dilution with other associations to the point that I think of the princess before the goddess of the hunt. But the good news is that there are many obscure goddesses unsullied by pop culture baggage to name after, like Idounna (I know a little one with this name, and correctly assumed that she had feminist parents). If you're interested in an impressive listing, Kay Sheard's name book is pretty chock-a-bloc.

Ultimately, what I think makes a feminist name is the meaning that the name has to the parents, and what story they can tell their children about their name selection. Being able to tell your daughter or son that s/he was named after a strong, powerful woman who lived an interesting, rich life, whether that woman is your great aunt Mary, or Artemesia Gentileschi, or a protagonist from a favorite young adult novel, is I think the hallmark of a feminist name. If your son Anthony was named after Susan B. then by gosh that qualifies, even though that backstory is not at all apparent to the world at large.

And, I think another hallmark of a feminist name is not making "baby gets father's bachelor name" a knee-jerk decision, but being at least contemplative of all the surname choices to the extent that they are allowed by local laws.  Not saying it's unfeminist to pick the father's surname at all, but I think at least thinking about the full menu of choices in deciding what surname gets passed to the next generation is I think the feminist thing to do. (The lack of reflection is most obvious in cases where Mr Bottomwipe and Ms Olivetti cheerfully and automatically become the Bottomwipe family... I have invented example names for the privacy of certain acquaintances, but I am sure we all know examples like this, where a truly unfortunate surname gets passed on over a really lovely one, just because it's borne by the Y-chromosome-bearing lineage.)