Editor’s note: This post was originally published on February 15, 2009. It was substantially revised and re-posted on November 18, 2013.
Is she a granny chic choice poised for revival, or one best left in the past?
Thanks to Lola for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Edith.
Edith has never fallen out of the US Top 1000. They say it takes a century for a name to sound fresh again, so Edith could be overdue – she peaked at #26 in 1894.
Edith remained quite popular through the 1930s. Maybe that’s the problem – many of us know an aged Edith. And, of course, All in the Family’s Edith Bunker conjures up the image of a housecoat-clad hausfrau.
But consider these medieval bearers of the name:
- Tenth century Saint Edith of Polesworth was born royal, but ended her life as a Benedictine nun.
- Saint Edith of Wilton was the illegitimate daughter of England’s King Edgar. After her brother was murdered, English nobles offered her the crown – but she wasn’t interested.
- The eleventh century King Edmund Ironside married an Edith.
- So did King Edward the Confessor – but his queen was powerful in her own right. When Edward died childless, her brother Harold took the crown.
- The Norman King Henry I chose an Edith descended from the earlier Anglo-Saxon royals for his bride, in order to cement ties to the throne. For reasons which are unclear, this Edith was crowned Matilda.
She slowly fell out of favor, but was revived during the nineteenth century. That’s when our list of famous Ediths resumes:
- Edith Wharton grew up among the most privileged families in nineteenth century America. She chronicled their lives, becoming the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature. That’s her photo above.
- Edith Roosevelt was First Lady of the United States from 1901 to 1909.
- Jewish intellectual Edith Stein converted to Catholicism late in life. Saint Edith died at Auschwitz.
- British nurse Edith Cavell cared for soldiers from all nations during World War I, but was executed after helping Allied forces escape from Belgium.
- French singer Édith Piaf lends the name romance. “La vie en rose” cemented Piaf as France’s greatest singer.
- Costume designer Edith Head won eight Academy Awards – more than any other woman.
- Dame Edith Sitwell was an eccentric, indie darling of a poet.
- Edie Sedgwick was part of Andy Warhol’s artistic troupe.
She begins as an Old English clunker. But she slowly transforms to, as Lola puts it, a bohemian choice. Nickname Edie makes this one as wearable for a child as an adult.
And yet, she’s been eclipsed by Eden. Edith hit an all-time low of #843 in 2009. Since then she’s recovered, charting at #762 in 2012. Still, that’s a far cry from the Top 100 place she occupied from the 1880s into the 1930s.
This could throw open a window to use Edith, confident that she’ll blend in with Hazel and Josephine, Clara and Stella. One of the little girls in the Despicable Me movies is Edith, a sister for Agnes and Margo.
If you’re looking for something a little bit quirky but still undeniably enduring, the regal, heroic and artistic Edith is one to consider.