Today’s feature is part Irish-heritage choice, part-Hollywood name.
Kara’s week continues with Maureen as our Baby Name of the Day.
You’ll sometimes see Maureen’s meaning given as little Mary, and that’s not inaccurate. In Irish, Mary became Maire, and Mairin was a diminutive form. In English, Mairin became Maureen.
Maureen first appease in the US Top 1000 in 1907, though it is possible she was in use far earlier. Irish immigration to the US started in the seventeenth century, so plenty of women recorded as Mary might have answered to Maureen on a daily basis.
One of the most famous bearers of the name was Maureen O’Hara, born Maureen FitzSimmons, outside of Dublin. She studied acting and voice, but her dad had his hesitations, and she also went to business school to study typing.
As it happened, the acting lessons paid off. In 1939, she appeared in an Alfred Hitchcock film. By 1939, she was cast as Esmerelda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. O’Hara’s career also included How Green Was My Valley and Miracle on 34th Street.
Maureen was already on the rise when O’Hara’s career took off. In 1931, Maureen ranked #222. By 1946, the name was in the Top 100, and would remain there through 1955.
Credit part of her popularity to the actress, and some to her sound. Baby Boomer names are rich with the –een ending: Kathleen, Eileen, Darlene, and Irene were among the most popular, with choices like Colleen, Charlene, Doreen, Noreen, Marlene and Arlene also seeing lots of use.
Other notables include:
- New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.
- The actress better known as Marcia Brady from 1969 through 1974, and again on countless Brady Bunch reunion specials.
- Academy, Tony, and Emmy Award-winning actress Maureen Stapleton, whose Broadway debut came in 1946 near the height of the name’s popularity.
- The actress who played Jane opposite Johnny Weissmuller in the Tarzan movies was Maureen O’Sullivan.
- Ages before he left Hollywood, future president Ronald Reagan and fellow young actor Jane Wyman married and gave this name to their firstborn.
- Beatles drummer Ringo Starr married a Maureen – though she was born Mary.
- The Velvet Underground’s drummer Moe Tucker was also a Maureen.
- If you’ve seen Rent, you might immediately think of the flamboyant performance artist from the show.
- Speaking of fictional characters, this was the given name of the biochemist matriarch in the Robinson family in Lost in Space. June Lockhart played her in the television series.
I could go on – the name was popular enough for long enough that many accomplished women answer to Maureen.
But today, she’s doubly dated – we expect Maureen to be grandmotherly, but even if we don’t know anyone by the name, the sound instantly tells us that she’s dated. That’s not quite the case for Deborah or Barbara – if they hadn’t been so popular previously, they’d be ripe for discovery right now.
Maureen still needs some time to hibernate. Possibly that’s why just 55 girls received the name in 2012, and 43 in 2012. She lasted appeared in the US Top 1000 in 1997.
If you’d like to honor a beloved Maureen, options abound. Nearly any Mary name works, as would Maura or Moira, both of which feel more current.
Still, chances are that Maureen will be back – right about the time we trade Kaitlyn in for Kathleen.
What do you think of Maureen? Is she due for a comeback?