She won Olympic gold in ’56 at Cortina d’Ampezzo, with an unusual given name that sounds just right in 2014.
Inspired by the website established by Ms. Albright, our Baby Name of the Day is Tenley.
Tenley Albright was born back in 1935, ages before names like Hailey, Kaylee, Riley, Kylie, and Bailey were all the rage. She once asked her mom where she found the name, and apparently Mrs. Albright replied that she couldn’t remember, but she “just liked the sound.”
Clearly her parents were ahead of the curve! It could be that she heard it as a surname. Variations like Tineley and Teenley are heard, too, in both cases with the -ley derived from leah – clearing.
The most famous place on the map is probably Tenleytown, a Washington DC neighborhood home to American University, and Tenley Circle, too. The metro station is called Tenleytown-AU. The area almost certainly takes its name from John Tennally, a tavern keeper from the late eighteenth century, though there’s some debate. Streetcars still listed their destination as Tennallytown into the 1920s.
There’s no question that the figure skater boosted the name. She first made headlines at the 1952 games in Oslo, winning silver. In 1953 and 1955, Miss Albright won the World Championship, and then, in 1956, she finally brought home the gold medal – the first American female skater to do so.
Prior to 1953, there were never more than five girls given the name. But in 1953, we welcomed a dozen baby girls called Tenley. In 1956, that number jumped to 25.
But it wasn’t Tenley’s time.
After winning Olympic gold, Miss Albright went on to Harvard Medical School, and had a long career in medicine. She never disappeared from the spotlight entirely – occasional appearances at benefits, television commentary during other Olympic games.
But her name faded. Not completely – a dozen or so girls received the name most years, until 2001. There was a tiny uptick in 2001.
That’s when Jessica Biel played a character called Tenley in the light-hearted romcom Summer’s Catch. She was the love interest of an up-and-coming baseball player, played by Freddie Prinze, Jr. The flick was a flop, but 59 newborn girls received the name, some inspired by the movie.
Then along came Tenley Molzahn, a contestant in season 14 of The Bachelor. Miss Molzahn vied for the affections of Jake Pavelka, and while she didn’t win, she made it all the way to the finale before losing to Vienna Girardi. What’s more, Molzahn managed to seem like a pretty nice girl throughout the competition – not something that can be said for every contestant. Molzahn went on to spin-off series Bachelor Pad with other former contestants.
The Bachelor contestant, the 2001 movie, and the Olympic medalist all inspired namesakes. A few answer to Tenlee and Tenlea. They’ve added their stories to Tenley Albright’s website, My Name is Tenley, and many are planning to gather for a summit of the Tenleys this summer.
In 2010, there 672 newborn baby girls by the name, and another 735 in 2011.
Parentdish named her the #1 fastest rising girls’ name in 2010. Their list seems prescient: Everly, Harper, and Eloise also rank. But so do Navi, Sookie, and Leighton. And that raises the question – will Tenley continue to climb?
In 2012, she fell to #520, down to 579 girls.
If you’re looking for a current-sounding name less common than Hadley or Marley, this makes Tenley a good bet. She has more history than Briley or Miley. And her ties to the Olympic athlete are a bonus, too.
Call Tenley a modern-sounding name with a story to tell