She’s a nursery rhyme staple – and just might be ready for a revival.
Thanks to Lola for suggesting the Medieval Margery and JNE for nominating the Victorian Marjorie as Names of the Day.
Plenty of popular names appear in nursery rhymes – there’s Jack, of course, fellow water-fetcher Jill, Mary Quite Contrary as well as Polly, Peter, Tom, Simon and Cole.
Open any copy of Mother Goose, and odds are you’ll find “See Saw Margery Daw.” First published in the eighteenth century, odds are some version of the rhyme is far older – and, of course, all nursery rhymes invite ongoing debate about their true meanings.
Margery emerged in Medieval England. Thanks to a popular fourth century saint, Margaret – from the Greek margarites, pearl – was widely known in Europe. The French called her Marguerite; when they brought her to England, she became Margery. A Margaret in the official records might’ve been called Margery, but Margery herself became one of the more popular names for women of the era. Variant spellings were common, including Margerie.
Margery Kempe penned The Book of Margery Kempe all the way back in the early fifteenth century. It’s among the earliest first-person accounts written by a middle class woman in Europe – and perhaps the first European autobiography. She spent years on pilgrimmages to distant lands, providing plenty of material.
As for Marjorie, she’s the exact same name – but with a spelling influenced by marjoram, the herb.
The name rings royal thanks to the thirteenth century Marjorie of Carrick, mother of Scotland’s Robert the Bruce. Her granddaughter wore the name, too, as did a bunch of other nobly-born women.
The name’s popularity faded by the 1700s. When she was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, Marjorie was far more popular than her medieval predecessor. The connection to Margaret was all-but-erased, too.
A few literary notables wearing the name include:
- Velveteen Rabbit author Margery Williams;
- Crime writer Margery Allingham, best known for creating detective Albert Campion;
- Herman Wouk’s fictional Marjorie Morningstar, an aspiring actress who ends up becoming a Westchester housewife. The book was an instant bestseller back in 1955 and was adapted for the big screen just a few years later, with Natalie Wood in the title role. Like many a successful film, there’s often talk of a remake.
Sketch comedy Little Britain includes a character known as Marjorie Dawes; there’s also a Japanese anime character called Margery Daw. And silent film actress Margaret House used the stage name Marjorie Daw in the 1920s. (That’s her in the picture above.) And, of course, she of the blue-haired bouffant, Marge Simpson, is also a Marjorie.
Back in the 1920s, Marjorie reached as high as #16 in the US, and she spent 1904 through 1945 in the Top 100. But she disappeared from the rankings entirely after 1993. Margery has never fared as well, though she regularly appeared in the US Top 1000 until 1958.
Today, Marjorie just might be part of the next wave of retro chic baby names. With Hannah and Clara gone mainstream, perhaps some daring parents will dust off Marjorie.
What do you think of Marjorie? Is she ready for revival?