Thanks to Fran for suggesting Lenora as Baby Name of the Day.
Lenora is a name hugging the edges. She’s been falling since the late 1800s, when she ranked in the US Top 200. Her steady decline continued into the 1970s, and she disappeared from the Top 1000 entirely after 1975.
And yet, she’s vaguely familiar, probably because of her similarity to a cluster including other sparingly used names formed with the same elements. I wrote about Leora a while back, when I dug up the following names that also appeared in the 1920 rankings:
- Leona (#89 in 1920)
- Leola (#226)
- Leota (#355)
- Leone (#488)
- Leatha (#665)
- Leonora (#666)
- Leonor (#882)
- Cleora (#941)
Lenora was #267 in 1920, and other len- names included:
- Lenore (#324)
- Elenora (#687)
- Lennie (#793)
- Elenor (#961)
- Elenore (#992)
It wasn’t just lesser-used names, either. For boys, Leonard and Leo both charted in the US Top 50. Eleanor charted at #25.
Dare I say it? I suspect len- and leo- were the kay- and jay- of their era. Independently, few of the names seemed especially popular. But tally them up, and the impression is very different. A back-of-the-envelope estimate counts around 14,500 girls wearing some variation. That’s far short of the 70,000-plus newborn girls called Mary in 1920, but depending of how you define related names, you can easily surpass staples like Evelyn, Alice and Irene. If I had included Ellen and Helen in all of their possible spellings, she just might’ve given Mary a run for her money.
Calculations aside, notable Lenoras were not many.
One that stands out was Lenora Mattingly Weber, a mother of six and prolific writer. Much of her work took the form of wholesome short stories for women’s magazines and The Saturday Evening Post. From the 1940s into the 60s, she also authored a series of young adult novels about Beany Malone, a teenager growing up in Denver, Colorado, where Mrs. Weber had raised her brood. The series extends from girlhood into Beany’s married life, and eventually included Beany’s cookbook, too.
If you’re a BBC junkie, you might think of actress Lenora Crichlow. She’s appeared in Doctor Who and the supernatural Being Human, as well as the all-human Material Girl, where she plays a fashion designer. And if you follow politics, there’s third-party presidential candidate Lenora Fulani, the first woman and the first African-American to be on the ballot in all fifty states, back in 1988.
There’s also a tiny city in Kansas called Lenora, and a village in the Czech Republic. Toss in a restaurant, a gracious Southern mansion and a handful of other uses.
Lenora has the feeling of a gentle antique, a logical choice to pair with Clara, Abigail and Violet. She’s an unexpected formal option for Nora or Lena. And she’s an elegant way to honor a grandpa Leonard.
Who knows? Maybe around 2115, Kaylee and Kaylin will be prime candidates for a revival.