Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Victorian Smiths - an overview

The Victorian Smiths changed in their naming habits between March 1840 and Dec 1909. Though Mary stayed steadfast at the top throughout most of the Victorian era, by Edwardian times it had been overtaken by Florence, with Doris snipping at its heels.

The number of girls given the top names also decreased - Mary's best period was 1860-4 when 3248 Smiths were named Mary. By 1905, the top name, Florence, charted merely 1250 births. This is an even bigger decrease when you look at the population statistics for England in that time. In 1861, the population of England was almost 18.8 million, by 1901 it was 30.5 million and in 1911 it was 33.6 million. This population growth did not come merely from immigrants - born elsewhere so that their birth and name records would not be counted - it came from more children surviving infancy and so breeding more children to survive infancy - an improvement in healthcare and sanitation, without contraception.

However, I understand that the birth records take into account the births of children who never reached maturity (eg died age 2) and so does not exactly correlate with the population growth (and I think my data also included Scotland and Wales). However, the change is shown over the generations - if one generation has five children (all baptised, all included in my data) but two die before having children of their own, and then the three go on to have five children each then I will note twenty names overall. But if none of the children die, and they all have five children then that gives thirty names overall. So there should be some effect on the names.

Basically, the reduction of Mary (and the top names' in general) popularity from 3000 births to 1000 births is even more dramatic considering that there should be more births.

Anyway, onto graphs. I wanted to see if names that peaked in the same decades had the same arcs of popularity. I think that the graphs speak for themselves.

1840s: Maria (blue), Jane (red) and Caroline (green).

1850s: Eliza (dark blue, diamonds), Hannah (red), Martha (green), Emma (purple) and Harriet (light blue, stars)

1860s: Mary (blue), Elizabeth (red), Sarah (green) and Fanny (purple).

1870s: Emily (dark blue, diamonds), Louisa (red, squares), Catherine (green, triangles), Charlotte (purple, x), Isabella (light blue, star), Ann (orange, circle), Alice (light blue, line), Ada (red, straight), Margaret (green, straight), Clara (purple, diamond), Kate (light blue, square), Frances (orange, triangle), Lucy (light blue, cross), Isabel (pink, cross) and Eleanor (light green, circle).

1880s: Ellen (dark blue), Rosa (red), Ruth (green), Beatrice (purple), Maud (light blue) and Bertha (orange).

1890s: Annie (dark blue, diamond), Ethel (red, square), Mabel (green, triangle), Daisy (purple), Florence (light blue, star), Edith (orange), Elsie (light blue, line), Lily (pink) and Nell (green). Eh, ok something to point out - they all start from nothing.

1900s: Dorothy (dark blue, diamond), Rose (red), May (green, triangle), Jessie (purple, cross), Doris (light blue, star), Gladys (orange), Winifred (light blue, line), Hilda (pink), Ivy (green, straight), Violet (purple, diamond) and Olive (light blue, square). Like 1890s, these come from nothing to their dizzy heights of popularity.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Victorian/Edwardian Smiths in the 1900s

What this is all about. Data.


1 Mary
2 Florence
3 Ann
4 Annie
5 Edith
6 Alice
7 Elsie
8 Doris
9 Dorothy
10 Elizabeth

So Mary has regained or reassured her top position, pushing Florence down into #2. No change until #7 where Elizabeth has slipped down to #10. Ethel has slipped down to #11 and Doris has jumped up from #21 to #9.

A little note before we go onto peakers. It is about Eliza. Whilst we have seen, to an extent, the fall of Mary and Elizabeth, the fall of Eliza has not yet been documented. Eliza was #7 in the 1840s, and remained in the top 10 in the 1850s. By the 1900s, Eliza has the least number of births of any of the names that is seriously being studied (Victoria was merely to see how the name did, and I thought Joan would end up with many more births). Eliza has been pushed away to make room for Elsie and has followed Elizabeth down in popularity - just a little more dramatically. Fun graph (the numbers are the numbers of Eliza Smith births, years along the bottom):

Anyway, onto the peakers: Dorothy, Rose, May and Jessie.

Dorothy was a new entry to the top 10 in 1895-9, and has already been eclipsed by Doris. A Greek name, once pronounced with a hard 't' rather than a 'f/th' sound. Dorothy was fairly popular in the 16th century - it appears on the Redmonds lists consistently between #10-#15 from 1550-1700 so it was fairly antiquated by the Victorian age, and in 1840-4 had been reduced to 25 Dorothy Smith births. I consider Dorothea to be the more Georgian of the Dorothy names - it was borne by George I's wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle, and by his daughter Sophia Dorothea of Prussia. Anyway, back to Dorothy - a notable 19th century bearer was Dorothy Wordsworth (b. 1771), sister of the poet William and author of the Grasmere Journal.

Rose is another in that long line of Victorian flower names. It was previously used (Norman times onwards) as a German name meaning 'horse' or 'fame', but close to the Victorian age it was used much more for the flower rather than the meaning. It's Middle Ages usage may also be due to its association with the Virgin Mary (and may account for its decline in the 16th century onwards in Protestant England, and revival as simply a flower name). Borne by author Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose Wilder Lane (b. 1886) and novelist Rose Macauley (b. 1881) - whose first novel was published in 1906. More on Rose.

May - both a month name, and a nickname for Mary and Margaret etc. which contributed to its popularity (Mary and Margaret both being popular Victorian names). Also a nature name - the hawthorn is also known as the may, mayblossom or maythorn as it flowers in the month of May. In 1900-4, Mary or May of Teck was the Duchess of York then Princess of Wales, and from 1910 she was the Queen of England. May was a childhood nickname that survived to adulthood - relating to her birth month.

Today, Jessie is best known as a nickname for Jessica. However, in Victorian times it was more frequently used as a Scottish diminutive of Janet or Jean then adopted as an independent name in its own right. It was used in literature, Withycombe notes that its early uses in England were as characters in Charlotte Brontë's Shirley (pub. 1849) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford (pub. 1851-3), though there appear to be no particularly notable bearers of the name in the Victorian period.

1 Florence
2 Mary
3 Doris
4 Ann
5 Edith
6 Dorothy
7 Elsie
8 Annie
9 Alice
10 Gladys

You know the 1895 list that I said appeared groundbreaking but wasn't? This 1905 list appears groundbreaking and is. Florence has overtaken Mary with 34 more Florence Smiths being born than Mary Smith. More than that is the rather meteoric rise of Doris - #21 in 1895-9, #9 in 1900-4 and now #3. Elsewehere there is a lot of movement: Edith is into #5 with Annie slipping down to #8, Dorothy up to #5, Alice down to #9, Elizabeth leaving the top 10 to #11, and Gladys rising from #12 to #10.

I was vaguely interested in what would happen for 1910-4 if these birth numbers continued the same way. So I subtracted (or added) the change between 1900-4 and 1905-9 to the 1905-9 numbers and got this:
1 Doris
2 Florence
3 Mary
4 Dorothy
5 Gladys
6 Ann
7 Edith
8 Winifred
9 Elsie
10 Ivy
I'm not saying that that is how the top 10 does look for 1910-4- names do tend to slow down in popularity after a large leap, but I do think that it's quite likely that Doris overtook Florence in some time over that period. This list looks totally different to what I would call the traditionalism of 1840-4.

Anyway, onto the peakers. There are a lots - mainly because some of them may have peaked in later decades, but as they have not been studied then it is difficult to tell. They are: Doris, Gladys, Winifred, Hilda, Ivy, Violet and Olive. To be honest, to me most of these names sound like 'grandmother' names (not Ivy or Violet) - names that haven't been revived. I suppose that is due to being the most 'recent' of the list, and may not have peaked for another 10 years - placing them into the grandmother age range.

Doris is the Edwardian (post 1905, I doubt that I can get away with calling the era Victorian any more) skyrocketer. Doris seems to have come to popularity for a number of reasons - a more 'modern' sounding version of Dorothy, it is a Greek nymph name, a combination of Dorothy and Phyllis (or Iris/Francis/Alice etc.), and an alternative to Dorcas/Dorcis. There doesn't seem to be steadfast reason why Doris became popular.

Gladys is a Welsh name, used in Wales since the Norman Conquest but only taken up in England in the late 19th century. Featured in some (minor - never widely popular) literature - Puck by Ouida (pub. 1870), Gladys of Harlech by Welsh novelist Anne Beale (pub. 1858) and Gladys by Edith M Dauglish (all from Dunkling and Gosling). Continued in popularity until the 1930s and then pretty much disappeared.

Winifred is the second Welsh name - from Gwenfrewi. Used in Wales, but not in England until the 16th century. Most of the Winifreds listed on Wikipedia seem to be born prior to 1905-9 so it's interesting to see it peaking in this 5 year period. Winifred is a name that comes from very few births until 1870 to 771 in 1905-9.

Hilda reminds me of Ethel - a short form of the variety of 'Hild' names (Hildegard, Hildred etc) but unlike Ethel it was actually used independently prior to the 19th/20th century - an example being St Hilda of Whitby, and in the Whitby area it seems that Hilda was continually despite dying out elsewhere in England in the 13th century. Revived in the 19th century - Dunkling and Gosling attribute this revival to Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel The Marble Faun (pub. 1860), of which Hilda is a main character, whilst Withycombe attributes it to the Tractarian revival of Anglo-Saxon names. The reality is that it is probably a mixture of both influences - but the first Hilda Smith was born in 1860-4 (in Halifax, quite a way from Whitby) soon after the publication of Hawthorne's novel. For more on Hilda see here.

I am going to tackle Ivy, Violet and Olive together. Victorian flower names that began the period with very few births and end with much, much more. Ivy is the 'newest' of the three names - not being used at all prior to the Victorian age. Violet was used in Scotland from the 16th century onwards. Olive is related to Livia - used in Roman times, and Olivia - used by Shakespeare, and Oliva - a saints name, and was used sparingly from the 16th century onwards. It was not until the 19th century that it became anywhere near 'common' or 'recognised'. For more on Ivy see this earlier post. And for Olive - here.

And that is it. I think there will be a final post on this subject (with graphs hooray) and then finished!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Victorian Smiths in the 1890s

What this is all about. Data.

Top 10:

1 Mary
2 Ann
3 Florence
4 Annie
5 Elizabeth
6 Edith
7 Alice
8 Ethel
9 Sarah
10 Elsie

Lots of change here. The previous top 4 had Elizabeth and Alice as 3 and 4. These have now been pushed down to 5 and 7 - replaced with Florence (from 5) and Annie (from 7) - a swap. Ethel has entered the top 10 at #8, as has Elsie at #10. Sarah has fallen from 6 to 9, and Ellen and Emily have left the top 10 - though E is still the most popular letter.

A few peakers this time: Annie, Ethel, Mabel and Daisy - a manageable amount to go through. I have reacquired Withycombe from the library, and so can again consult that book's wisdom.

Annie is instantly recognisable as a nickname or diminutive - of Ann (the oxymoron being that Annie - the nickname of Ann - is actually longer than the name it is nicknaming) or of Anna or other 'An-' names. It doesn't really seem to be used independently as a name until the 19th century, and does fall in with the 'nickname' trend of the time - along with Elsie, Nell, Jessie, Kate and Fanny. As Annie has had the most popular thus far of any of the 'nicknames', it can be considered the most 'successful' - Ann (and Anna) are popular names, and unlike Elizabeth - where there are many nicknames - Annie is the easiest and most obvious of the Ann nicknames and so the most commonly used- coupled with the popularity of Ann, making it popular. (A note on Anna - as it is only one letter off Ann, I believe that it was counted, along with Anne, on the BMD counts and that is why it is not noted in these lists - so the popularity of Ann may have increased due to the inclusion of Anna). A few books (Pickering's Penguin Dictionary, in particular) link Annie's 19th century popularity to the Scottish song 'Annie Laurie' popularised in the 1830s. The modern association of the red-headed orphan Annie originated with the 'Little Orphan Annie' comic strips, started in 1924 (though the concept for the title came from the 1885 poem 'Little Orphant Annie'. Another 19th century association is social reformer Annie Besant (b. 1847).

Ethel is a name that is rather maligned in 2008 - a grandmother name on par with Gertrude and Bertha, that hasn't yet reached that vintage chic that Edith now seems to embody. Ethel is indeed a dimunitive - of all those great Angl0-Saxon Ethel-/Aethel- names eg Æthelthryth, Æthelswith, Ethelfleda and Æthelgiva. A little OTT, even for the Victorian Anglo-Saxon revival. I can also (and this is mere speculation) see Ethel as an alternative to Elizabeth. Anyway, it was used several times in literature in the mid-19th century - by Thackeray in The Newcomes (1855) and CM Yonge's The Daisy Chain (1856). Yonge went on to write History of Christian Names in 1884, though she barely mentions Ethel.

Mabel is next. A Medieval name that was never exceedingly popular in Medieval times, that Withycombe states had a resurgence in the late 19th century - as seen here. Once pronounced to rhyme with 'gabble', but now to rhyme with 'able'. Borne by illustrator Mabel Lucie Attwell (b. 1879). Annie Besant, named earlier, also called her daughter Mabel.

Daisy - part of the late Victorian flower name trend. Also helped by the fact that it is a nickname for Margaret (marguerite being French for Daisy). Dunkling and Gosling also state that 'daisy' was a late Victorian nickname for an 'excellent person or thing' - certainly not something that would discourage use of the name. The song 'Daisy bell' was written in 1892, at the height of Daisy's popularity. Daisy Miller - a novella by Henry James, of which Daisy is the heroine, was written in 1878, and was an immediate and popular success.

1 Florence
2 Mary
3 Ann
4 Annie
5 Edith
6 Alice
7 Elizabeth
8 Elsie
9 Ethel
10 Dorothy

First, this list appears groundbreaking - Mary has been replaced at the top by Florence. But...looking at the data, Mary and Florence actually share the top spot - both having 1497 births, Florence is earlier in the alphabet so comes first. Anyway, Florence is extremely popular and has risen from #3. Mary has also fallen from it's untouchable spot in the mid-1850s where it had over 3000 births, down to merely 1500. Elizabeth has slipped down to #7 from #5, and is now far from her #2 and 3 spot held until 1890 - quite a fast fall. Edith and Alice are both pushed up by Elizabeth's fall. Elsie is up to #8 and Ethel is already falling, down to #9. Dorothy is a new entry at #10 (from #12) and Sarah has departed from the top 10, for the first time, to #16.

Quite a few peakers for this period: Florence, Edith, Elsie, Lily, Nell and Victoria.

Florence was really the anme that started this whole study for me - I had known that it was popular in the late Victorian period, but I had wanted to know HOW popular, and to compare it with names like Mary, Elizabeth, nicknames like Annie and Elsie, Anglo-Saxon revivals such as Edith and Ethel, and florals like Daisy and Lily. The most famous Florence, and the woman to whom it's popularity is attributed, is Florence Nightingale - the 'Lady with the Lamp'. Prior to her, it is fairly uncommon: see below:
Nightingale became famous during the Crimean war - 1854-6. I had, prior to this research, assumed that Florence had become popular very, very quickly after the war, but this graph shows that the growth in popularity was quite gradual. Aside from Nightingale, Florence had been used by some as the Anglicised form of the Irish name Finian - as in Florence MacCarthy.

Edith is a name that is experiencing a revival in the UK at the moment - it has a certain 'vintage chic', mainly aided by it's nickname Edie. An Anglo-Saxon name, like Ethel though actually used then. Edith survived into the Middle Ages, but was gradually phased out from the 16th to 18th century. It appears on only one of Redmonds' lists - 1538-49 at #10. It experienced a revival in the 19th century as part of the trend for Anglo-Saxon names. The majority of its bearers had their accomplishmeents after the Victorian period, but Edith (E.) Nesbit (b. 1858) published 'The Story of the Treasure-Seekers' in 1898/9 and (probably her most famous work) 'The Railway Children' in 1906.

Elsie is a nickname for Elizabeth from the Scottish name Elspeth (Elisabeth-Elspeth-Elspie-Elsie). Dunkling and Gosling state that it has been used independently since the 18th century, and was reintroduced into England in the 1870s. It was used by Oliver Wendell Holmes in his 1861 novel Elsie Venner but I can find very little information on this novel so I doubt that it was a complete and lasting bestseller.

Lily is both a flower name and so fits in with the late Victorian trend for flower names, and Lily is a nickname for Elizabeth - or, more strictly, Lillian is a nickname for Elizabeth and Lily is a nickname for Lillian. Lilies also had the Christian association of being symbols of purity. Phew. Like Edith, all of Lily's notable bearers made their impact after the Victorian period. There was, however, a popular music hall song Lily of Laguna that was written in 1898.

Nell is a nickname for Ellen - which has been seen on the top 10 lists for previous decades, and for Helen and Eleanor. Nell Gwynne, mistress of Charles II, is probably its most famous bearer. In Victorian times, it was also known as the heroine of Charles Dickens' book The Old Curiosity Shop, published 1840-1. However, this does not seem to have had an immediate effect (if any) of the Victorian naming habits - no Nell Smiths were born until 1855-60.

Victoria is a name that I have slipped in. It does not actually 'qualify' to be in the lists as it has much fewer than 1000 births - only 216 but I wanted to see how the popularity of the monarch's name changed throughout her reign. Victoria experiences a true peak in popularity from 1885-1905 - indeed this was the part of Victoria's reign when she was most celebrated - with her Golden Jubilee in 1887, Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (which falls in this post's time period) and death in 1901. It took fifty years for Victoria's subjects to embrace her name, and it never soared to the heights of her contemporary Florence Nightingale, but indeed, it did change over her reign.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

An apology

1890s Smiths should be coming soon. Have been quite busy with other projects, but do now have some time and renewed enthusiasm for the project. If anyone wants to request/suggest any posts that I could write afterwards, then please feel free to comment.