If there is one genre that has never seemed to lose its charm, it would be America in the 1920’s. It was a time of dramatic change both socially and politically. This era is known as “the Roaring Twenties”, and is accompanied by the images of beautiful women in flapper dresses who drink bourbon and dance in clubs. These women created a new persona for what a female could do; what she could be. They were chic, classy, and pushing the norms in ways that women had never done before.
The 20’s was a time of revolution; certain freedoms and expressions were being increased while others were being taken away. These were the days of prohibition, jazz concerts in dark Speakeasy’s, and people coming together to fight for what they believed to be their basic human rights.
The names of these women may sound familiar—we have all probably heard them in passing or read about them in classic literature. They represent an amazing time period in the American history. They are coming back-- maybe it is due to women demanding their power and looking into the past for inspiration, or perhaps it is because these names are beautiful no matter the sentiment.
Evelyn is English and French and means “wished for a child”. Although it has never fully lost its luster in the name-game, it is rapidly climbing in popularity. Parents are loving the chic names of the 1920’s and Evelyn is a perfect example. This name reminds of tight blond curls and woman who emanates panache.
There were many famous actresses in the early 1900’s who exemplified this name including Evelyn Venable, Evelyn Keyes, and Evelyn Preer. All were attractive, dashing women who exuded not only beauty but smarts, as well.
This is a good name choice for parents who love to harken back with an older name while also keeping up with the times. This name has been stylish since its inception, and will likely be so for all of time.
Jean is derived from the French name “Johanna” which means “God is gracious”, but was very popular among English and Scottish families. It was the female equivalent of John; both strong, solid names.
If you are looking for some inspiration from the past than look no further—let me introduce you to Jean Harlow, who some refer to as the “Original Blonde Bombshell”. Jean Harlow was pre-Marilyn Monroe and was given the status of a sex symbol in Hollywood. She was only 26 years-old when she passed away, and yet she managed to attain fame to last a lifetime. She was not only known for her looks for also for her quick wit, which landed her comedic roles that were rarely given to women.
Jean is a classic name with an amazing history.
Rose is from Latin and literally means “rose, a flower”. Though the name itself might sound obvious, the women who have held it are anything but. They are deep, sophisticated broads who were forces to be reckoned with in their time.
Take Rose Kennedy, who was a female politician in the days where that was not the norm. Or Rose O’Neill, a famous female illustrator who broke into the industry that was only open to men. There was Rose Reid, a fashion designer in the mid 1900’s, Rose Maddox the country singer, and Rose Gacioch who was a baseball player.
This name has been held by strong women who do anything but be the dainty flower that their name implies. I love the dichotomy of sweetness and sass. It is refinery mixed with spirit.
Elsie is a version of “Elizabeth” and it means “pledged to God”. This name was very popular in the 1920’s, and Elsie’s would pour out of Speakeasy’s across the country at midnight on a Tuesday.
However, Elsie has not been wildly popular since Borden, the dairy company, named their mascot “Elsie the Cow” in 1936. That seemed to really put a damper on parents naming their children after a bovine.
This name is beginning to catch on again, and it is climbing the ranks in both US and the UK. If you want to get ahead of the swell, now is the time to jump on the Elsie train. As long as no other company ruins this name’s image in the near future—this name is going to be huge.
Ruby is from Latin and means “deep red precious stone”, just like the gem. Ruby tends to be one of those names that invoke a love so deep in men that they write ballads after it. The Rolling Stones big single “Ruby Tuesday” displays this perfectly, describing a woman who is elegant and fashionable—and free. In it Mick Jagger says:
If you are parents with excellent taste in music who are looking for a chic throwback to one of the best bands of all time, than Ruby is an excellent choice for you.
Emma is German and means “universal”. This meaning makes sense because Emma is universally popular in every county, during every time, as a name for baby girls.
During the Roaring Twenties Emma’s popularity only increased—it was a name that signified femininity and grace. It is one of the few names out there that has managed to withstand the test of time and has been current in every generation of girls.
Emma was immortalized as the star of Jane Austen’s “Emma”, which was later made into a motion picture film. This only helped to escalate its trendiness. Next in pop culture, Rachel and Ross from the hit show “Friends” named their baby Emma, kicking it up a notch again.
In fact, in 2016 Emma ranked at #1 in popularity—three years in a row!
Joan is English and the name only brings forth the imagery of a strong, chic woman. Although the name is simple, it seems to embody endurance and passion.
Joan of Arc ( also known as “The Maid of Orleans”) was perhaps one of the first examples of a lady who knew what she wanted. She is hero in France for her role in the “Hundred Years’ War”.
There are other noteworthy examples of amazing Joan’s throughout history like Joan Crawford, Joan River, Joan Baez, and Joan Jett.
In very modern times, Joan Holloway is a strong woman character in the hit show “Mad Men”, in which she portrays a fierce but fashionable secretary.
If you want a name for your baby that has held its vigor for decades and personifies elegance, choose Joan.
Clara is Latin and it means “bright, clear”. Clara is one of the those sweet names that we have all read once-upon-a-time but have not seen a lot of in recent years. But Clara is rapidly climbing the ladder in popularity, so if you want to get ahead of the trend—now is the time!
One of the most famous, and industrious Clara’s of history is Clara Barton—the nurse who founded the American Red Cross. Clara was a nurse during the civil war that was self-taught, as many were at the time. Inspired with her experience after the war, Clara began to lecture across America. She became a part of the women’s suffrage movement and was involved with the fight for civil rights.
History buffs—this one is for you!
Grace is English and its meaning is the literal virtue of Grace. This name has always been trendy and has an air of elegance that surrounds it.
One famous example this is Grace Kelly; the American actress who gained great success and married a prince! Grace Kelly began her acting career in her early 20’s and quickly found fame. She was nominated for many awards and represented the class and elegance of her time. She retired young as the Princess of Monaco and went on to live a quiet, happy life.
This name is perfect for lovers of black and white film who want to recognize what talent and beauty looked like in the age of Grace Kelly. Naming your daughter this will destine her for greatness—no matter her chosen profession.
Virginia is Latin and means “virginal, pure”. This name was popular in the 1920’s, inspiring a generation of women. Arguably one of the most famous of the era was Adeline “Virginia” Woolf. She was educated King’s College in London and rose to fame in the early 1900’s, perhaps inspiring a generation of her namesakes. Her work encouraged the feminist movement of the 1970’s, with women recalling passages of her writing to exhilarate the need for equality. One of her most famous aphorisms was, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
Whether you are a hipster yearning to give your child a name with immense history or an English major passing down passion to your daughter, this name will suit you will.
Doris is Greek and it means “gift of the ocean”. It harkens to those names of more popularity in the early 1900’s like Dorothy and Dorothea, but adds a twist of individualism.
One of the most famous examples of Doris is Doris Day-- the American actress and singer who was known for her elegance as well as her activism. Doris Day began her career as a big band singer and recorded more than 600 songs. Her popularity in music led her to the big screen where she starred in movies directed the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, alongside stars Clark Gable and Cary Grant.
Doris is the epitome of chicness of the 1920’s, and still brings to mind the beautiful songbird Doris day in all of her glory. Choose this name for a little darling destined for fame.
Frances is a classic; it was most popular almost a century ago but it is making a comeback. Frances derives from Latin and means “from France or free man”. Many modern day parents are naming their daughters Frances and calling them “Frankie”, a spunky nickname that has been used by stars like Kate Spade and Amanda Peet for their own children. But one might say the most recent famous Frances would be Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of late-great Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain.
But from the modish era of the 1920’s, the best example would be film actress Frances Farmer who embodied all the drama of a star by getting institutionalized early on in her career. After treatments, Frances managed a comeback in her career in the 1950’s, making a name for herself once again.
Shirley is English and means “bright meadow”; an ample meaning to the history lesson I am about to give you.
Shirley may be on the most famous names from the 1920’s on this list—for who does not know the cutest child actress to ever grace the big screen: Shirley Temple. She is credited with lifting America out of the Great Depression with her tight curls and dimpled smile. She attracted audiences of all ages and social status’, who only wanted some distracted from the darkness of the time.
According to Nameberry, in 1935 alone, there more than 42,000 babies named after Shirley. (Oddly enough, Shirley was used a male name in the 1800’s.) If you want to name your baby girl after a true American class—this is the name for you.
Irene is of Greek origin and means “peace”—what a wonderful connotation to give to your precious baby girl.
Irene, as you might have guessed, was super popular in the early 20th century; it was in the top 20 names from 1915-1925. This stemmed in part by the wild success of Irene Dunne, who was nominated for Best Actress FIVE TIMES. She began her career on Broadway, dabbled in opera, and found great success in Hollywood in her thirties—what was considered to be ancient even in old Hollywood. Irene avoided questions regarding her birth year to keep in competition with the younger actresses of her time. And it worked.
If you are a soon-to-be-parent who is looking for a chic name with a great story, than this is the one for you!
Florence is of Latin decent and means “flourishing, prosperous”. When you say this name it almost sounds like your mouth is blossoming—it is a strange but cool effect.
There are classic examples of the name Florence making its impact on the world but I would like to focus on a more modern example; Florence Welch. You may recognize her better by her band’s name: “Florence and the Machine”. Florence Welch is the lead singer, with a vocal range that could sink a ship while also making its sailors swoon overboard. She is eccentric, beautiful, smart, and talented.
If you are searching for a name and that has both modishness and elegance, but is also very relevant to today’s musical culture, than choose this one. I can just picture a feisty little toddler called Florence…
Catherine is derived from Greek and it means “pure”. Many parents who want a classic name that is not too far out there go Catherine, as it is swanky but also simple.
There have been many Catherine’s who lend this name strength and elegance: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, is one. She was the longest ruling female (over 30 years) and helped expand Russian territory.
Though spelled differently, it should be noted that Katherine Hepburn helped solidify this name’s legacy. She was an American actress who was known for spirit and elegance, and also for her talent in both comedy and drama. Her spunky demeanor made men love her and women adore her.
My favorite quote of hers is, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
Josephine is French, and is the female version of “Joseph”. This name has been popular on-and-off for decades, and never goes out of style. It is the charm of being simple and elegant, coupled with the fierceness of the sound of the “J”.
Josephine always reminds me the character from Louisa May Alcott’s book, “Little Women”. In it, Jo (Josephine) March is a vivacious young woman who refuses to be confined by the rules for women in her time. One of my favorite quotes of Jo’s from the book is, “I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks; and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end. “
Josephine is perfect for a bookworm parent who wants to give a subtle shout-out.
Lois is Greek and means “most desirable”. But most of us recognize the name from the female portrayal of the brave journalist, also known as Superman’s girlfriend—Lois Lane. Lois Lane is comic book royalty, and was one of the first females every portrayed in a comic. Her looks were based off Joanne Carter, who was a model in the 1930’s, who also ended up marrying Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman.
Lois is not wildly popular but has a huge following among comic book lovers and artists. If you are a parent who wants a name that is more unique than popular, but also encompasses the qualities of elegance and fashion, than this a good choice for you! It is also a great way to introduce some comic book history at a dinner party.
Lucille comes from the French name “Lucilla” which means “light”. There is only Lucille that we will be talking about and I think you know who she is—the bubbly, cheerful Lucille Ball.
Lucille Ball pioneered the way for women in comedy in the 1930’s and 40’s. She fell in love with a rising Cuban star named Desi Arnaz and eventually convinced the studio to cast her and her new husband into a television show. What followed may be one of the most popular and iconic sitcoms of all time: “I Love Lucy”.
Lucille will remind people of laughter and also beauty; strength coupled with class. As an added bonus, you can shout at your little girl, “Lucy, I’m home!” and then laugh hysterically like the nerd that you are.
Dorothy is the English version of the Greek name “”Dorothea” and means “gift of God”.
The iconic image of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, which was released in the 1930’s, may be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this name. Dorothy begins her journey in the movie as a lost, scared little girl who eventually finds herself and becomes a strong woman…not a bad story to instill in your daughter.
We also must take a moment to recall the amazing character of Dorothy Zbornak from the classic show “The Golden Girls” played by Bea Arthur—another archetype of a strong female.
If you’re looking for something chic, with cultural history and a hint of “I am woman hear me roar”, than this is a great choice for you!
Betty is quintessential name from the 1920’s; it encapsulates an entire era in one word. Betty comes from “Elizabeth” and means “pledged to God”. This name has remained fashionable for a century— a feat that is almost impossible to perform. But Betty, she did it.
There were many famous Betty’s that were born during the 20’s and this name is especially popular among famous actresses of the time. There is Betty White, another iconic “Golden Girl” whom has been making audience roar with laughter for decades. Today Betty White is 95 year-old and is still making appearances in person and on television.
Betty Ford, wife of President Gerald Ford, also resulted from this time frame. She, too, made a great impact on women across America with her signature style and political activism.
Margaret is of Greek origin and it means “pearl”. It has been popular since medieval times but burst onto the name scene with a gusto in the early 1920’s. It has also been linked with royalty through various queens and princesses throughout Europe.
Margaret somehow manages to sound modern while also maintaining the charm of its age. It has been bestowed on women throughout the last century who have made their name known; for example, Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom was Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990.
If you are looking for a name for your daughter that is both fashionable but also has strong history, than Margaret is a solid choice. It also comes with a plethora of adorable nicknames like Maggie, Marg, and Meg.
Ruth is of Hebrew origin and it has two meanings’ “companion” and “vision of beauty”. It is short, strong, and yet effortlessly feminine.
There is one shining example to women everywhere of a chic, classy, and fearless Ruth—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, heroic Supreme Court Justice. Ruth was born in the height of the Great Depression and her name embodies this era. Ruth was one of the first prominent female figures to be an example that women can have it all. She raised her children all while studying law at Harvard in a period where women were not the norm.
If you are searching for a chic name that also comes along with a valiant history of women’s rights and breaking the chains of the status quo, than Ruth is a fantastic option.
Louise is the feminine version of “Louis” and means “renowned warrior”. I love giving your little girl a legacy right from the beginning—so should you.
One of the most chicest examples of a Louise is Louise Brooks, who was an American dancer and actress. Louise was known her signature haircut—what we now refer to as “the bob”. She set herself apart from her counterparts by embracing her dark hair and style, and confidently marching into the film industry as if she owned the place.
If you are a parent looking to instill some fight and grit into your baby girl, while also giving her elegance and style, than Louise is for you. Look no further. You will be able to tell your daughter about Louise’s that came before her…
Dolores is Spanish and means “lady of sorrows”. This is one of those times where you can let the literal meaning go and take on instead the cultural significance of people who have donned this name before. There are many examples of famous, influential Dolores that personified chic.
There was Dolores Del Rio, a Mexican-born actress who allegedly had an affair with Orson Welles and was blacklisted in Hollywood for her “ties” to communism. There was also Dolores Gray, Dolores Fuller, And Dolores Costello—all actresses of prominence whose names are callbacks to the Roaring Twenties.
This name is great for parents who want something that is classic but also modish. If you are looking for something that will lend dignity to your little darling, than this is a good choice for you.
Sources: History.com, IMDB, Nameberry, Wikipedia, Ranker, Famous Birthdays, Good Reads
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