Tag Archives: Historical Names

Name of the Day: Bayard

Meaning “bay colored” this name was used in a medieval poem for a horse that could change size to accommodate more or less passengers. In some areas it’s become a common synonym for horse. But not where I live, so I shall continue.

Bayard Taylor was a 19th century poet, novelist and travel author. His travels were many, and he did his best to fully immerse himself in the culture. This led to both literature about his journeys and inspired creative fictional pieces. His most well-known travel piece is probably his book on the gold rush, El Dorado. His 2nd novel Joseph and His Friend: a Story of Pennsylvania is considered the first gay novel in America. A smart, adventurous and talented man, he makes the perfect namesake.

Bayard Rustin was a civil rights activist. Many consider him influential in gay rights as well. As an out of the closet gay man, he certainly spoke out in support of gay rights. However, he did not feel comfortable being known as a gay role model. He was outted on accident, he believes a person’s sexual preferences are private and he never had any intentions of letting the public know his. However, the public did know and in the last five years of his life he spoke out more about it. In 1982, since homosexuals had no way of marrying or solidifying their relationship legally, Bayard and his partner took an unconventional step; for themselves and to start discussion. Bayard adopted Walter, so that the law would recognize them as family. Walter was, of course a grown man, but his mother gave up her rights and a social worker had to approve Bayard as an acceptable care giver… the process seems ridiculous… but I wholly admire their desire to do something official! And they didn’t have other options.  In 1986 (a year before his death) he made a speech in support of New York State’s Gay Rights Bill called “The New Niggers are Gays”. In his life he’d seen (and helped provide) many improvements in the treatments of African Americans in our society… but believed gays were now the most vulnerable group.

Bayard was a big proponent of non violence, having worked with Gandhi during his movement in India. He helped Martin Luther King Jr to fully understand the movement, and Martin then brought it more attention. He worked behind the scenes with Martin and many other civil rights leaders and organizers but was rarely a spokesperson. Because he was known to be gay and have a previous association with the communist party he wasn’t a very wholesome figurehead. The list of all that he worked towards for equality is so overwhelming I can’t begin to summarize it in a paragraph. If you’d like to read more, check his Wikipedia page. Interestingly, Bayard was also an accomplished tenor who’s voice can be found on several albums from the 50s-70s.

I love the history of this name but I also love the nicknames Bay and Bear. I wish this name was used more. To appear on the social security list a name must be given to 5 or more babies in a year, Bayard was given to 5 boys in 2014 and has not reappeared since.




Name of the Day: Malcolm

The name of 4 Scottish kings, an Australian prime minister and of course Malcolm X, this name is great for a boy you want to teach to be a strong leader. An old name, with lots of history, Malcolm is pretty uncommon, ranked at #410 in 2016.

I think for my generation the 2 immediate associations with the name Malcolm are Malcolm in the Middle and Malcolm X. Malcolm in the Middle was a fictional show about a gifted boy in a dysfunctional family.. it was funny. It was clean humor without being goody goody and boring. I think it’s a positive association. I have fond memories watching it with my brother on Sunday nights.

Moving to Malcolm X, the real life association. I’m embarrassed to say that my knowledge of Malcolm X from my public school education is very limited. I was taught that he was a civil rights activist, but resorted to violence and anger..  the educators of my youth presented Martin Luther King Jr as the good guy and Malcolm X as the bad guy. As an adult I obviously recognize that they can both be good while having different methods and different journeys. I wonder if my teachers truly thought of Malcolm X as a bad guy, or if they were just scared to teach about his complex and murky history. To summarize my opinion, in case anyone reading this is realizing that their own education on the subject is lacking: Malcolm X had spent his life being treated unfairly. In looking for a fix to the solution, he presented ideas in a compelling manner, with good intentions. Though I disagree with many of his ideas, I can appreciate where they were coming from. By the time of his death has had reformed many of his ideas. He was more peaceful and loving. If given the chance to live a full life, he may have changed his position on other matters, too. He was young and excited and I think, like most young people, he expressed some of his feelings before properly exploring them. Overall, him and Martin Luther King Jr were on the same side, after their deaths, their widows were best friends.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth Malcolm is based of the real life Malcolm III of Scotland. The rightful heir to the throne, this reference combines royalty, leadership and literature in one.

Malcolm Young is one of the founding members of AC/DC, Malcolm Lowry a poet and novelist (best known for Under the Volcano), the list of great namesakes goes on and on… Lastly I think the nick name Mac is adorable!




Name of the Day: Winifred

I don’t think there’s any hope of selling this name to Peter, I’ve brought it up in the past. But I think it’s beautiful and adorable, one of my very very favorites! So, I’m going to try.

Derived from Gwenfrewi, it means blessed peace or reconciliation. I love the nicknames Winnie, Freddie or just Win or Fred! It has a lot of pop culture associations including characters in Hocus Pocus, Tuck Everlasting, Angel, Once Upon A Mattress, Mary Poppins, Jungle Book, and more. Through these associations, it is a name most are familiar with, though probably most don’t personally know a Winifred.

According to the legend of Saint Winifred, when Winifred decided to become a nun she had a suitor. When she told him of her choice, he decapitated her. Of course, her head was reattached, her attacker swallowed by the ground and she went on to do lots of great deeds. This tale makes her the patron saint of unwanted advances… which I think is pretty powerful!

Winifred Brunton was an artist known best for the pieces she made depicting Egyptian pharaohs. This is because her and her husband went on archaeological digs and she based her art of the ruins that they found, making her artwork more realistic than anything seen before on the subject.

Winifred Atwell was a pianist from Trinidad that had great success in the UK and Australia. She was without question the most successful pianist of her time, which is all the more impressive considering she was a black woman. Unfortunately for us in the states, she was never well known here. She was supposed to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, but producers thought the audience would be confused by a British sounding black woman and never recorded the segment (though she did fly in for it). Despite this, Winifred claimed to have not suffered from racism in her own life, but was very outspoken about the issue in society. Particularly, she spoke about the treatment of the aborigines in Australia, the place she called home later in life. She also donated her time and talents to charity concerts to help the needy and orphanages.

Winifred Maxwell was an aristocrat who saved her husband from the death sentence. The guards let her in to say goodbye on the night before his execution, she dressed him in woman’s clothing and escaped. I think that tale is a great example of bravery and love!

Other famous Winifreds include a silent film star, the first woman to earn a PhD in mathematics, several writers, one of the founders of modern speech therapy, educators, politicians and more. It’s a magical name, and if you’re reading this and considering naming your daughter Winifred, please do it!




Name of the Day: Indira

Meaning beauty or splendid in Sanskrit, this name belongs to the wife of Hindu God Vishnu. She is the goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. (She’s also known as Lakshmi.) To me this name is extraordinarily feminine and powerful.

Indira Gandhi was the third Prime Minister of India. To date, she is the only female to hold this position. Her father is the only prime minister who served longer than herself, a record she may have broken had she not been assassinated. In 1999 BBC did a poll which resulted in Indira being named “Woman of the Millennium.”

Indira Devi was an extremely courageous and passionate Indian princess. At 18 years old she broke of her engagement that her parents arranged to marry someone they didn’t approve of. Her parents continued to fight this wedding but eventually gave her permission, though they refused to attend it. She had 5 kids but before their 10 year anniversary her husband died. 2 of her children died while Indira still lived. So full of life herself, it’s sad how much tragedy found her family.

Indira Kadambi is an Indian dancer and choreographer. Indira Freitas Johnson is an Indian artist and nonviolence educator. Indira Naidoo is an Australian journalist. Many more influential Indiras can be found on this Wikipedia page.




Name of the Day: Bronson

Meaning brown’s son, this name has a long history of use as a first name and surname. I love the nicknames Bron, Brons, Bro and of course Sonny.

Bronson Alcott is the father of Louisa May Alcott. He is known himself as an educator, philosopher, abolitionist and an early feminist. (The father of 4 daughters, I suppose it’s not surprising he felt strongly about women’s rights.) He was known for controversial teachings, as he encouraged young students to be self reliant and didn’t agree with many forms of punishment. He asked students whether they thought the stories in the gospel were literal or not, which many found blasphemous, but which I find refreshing. He allowed a black student into his school and refused to expel him despite protests that he do so. His family was often poor, but this is because Bronson refused jobs that he did not agree with morally.

Bronson has also been the name of many athletes, a couple actors, politicians, even the surname of a war hero who received the U.S. Medal of Honor.




Name of the Day: Wolfgang

Wolfgang is a big name that’s not used much these days, but I really think it can be pulled off. German for “wolf’s path”, Wolf or Wolfy would be a cute nickname for a little Wolfgang.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a famous composer, perhaps you’ve heard of him? 😉 He started composing at just 5 years old and though he died at just 35, composed over 600 pieces. His works are still performed today and have influenced the works of many other artists, including Beethoven.

Another famous bearer is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He was best known as a writer, but he was also an illustrator, scientist and philosopher. He didn’t shy away from writing about human sexuality, though it certainly wasn’t as accepted in his day. (He lived from 1749-1832.) His views on religion were also very forward thinking, believing you don’t have to follow a certain denomination of Christianity to be Christian. A true free thinker, I have lots of respect for this man and would love to learn more about him!

Saint Wolfgang is one of the most honored German saints. He must be busy up in heaven because he’s the patron saint of several things, including carpenters, stomach disease and strokes.

Apparently Wolfgang Van Halen is also the current bassist in Van Halen and son of founding member Eddie Van Halen. A famous chef, photographer, film directors, Nobel Prize winners, several athletes… it doesn’t look like such a strange choice when you look at all the influential bearers.