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Strong Mormon Women’s Names

I’ll be having my third and final baby in 5 weeks, and she’s a girl.  I always thought I’d be wading through girls’ names, trying to find just the perfect one.  After all, there are so many lovely options.

But, when I actually had to choose a name, I’ve found that I wasn’t excited about the search I had so looked forward to.  Throughout my pregnancy, I have had a very specific name in mind, and as much as people try to help me broaden my horizons, I remain set on just one name.  My family reads to me from baby naming books, my friends send me links of good baby-naming websites, yet I remain stuck.  I just think this baby should be named Emmeline.

I love it because it’s after a long-time editor and frequent contributor (often under pen names) of Woman’s Exponent and former Relief Society president, Emmeline B. Wells.  I love it because her nickname could be Emma.  Look at that!  Two strong Mormon women covered with one name!  And, I’ll admit that I love it because she has a cousin who will be 13 months older than she who’s name is Eliza.  Seriously, I can hardly wait to get pictures of those two together.

But, perhaps, I’m limiting myself and her by not exploring more options.  And, I’m a little ambivalent about this name because it is so similar to my name, “Emily.”  That’ll make things difficult for the rest of the family.  And, with the current knowledge of famous Mormon women, I suspect that most people will think I was vain and just made up a name that was similar to my own.

I know that I do so want her to share a name with a strong Mormon woman.  I think it is in large part because I hope that such a name will give her power and strength to thrive, grow, even work for change in the Church.  I also want her (and myself) to proudly tell the story of the woman she was named after when the topic comes up; I know I always love to do that with my namesake, Emily Dickinson.

I told this to my husband, and he thought these were good reasons to stick with historical Mormon women.  (Well, that and the fact that the only name I could settle on from the Bible was Jezebel because really, that woman gets a bad rap!)  So, he went through his parents’ copy of History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts in search of some names and came back saying, “Huh, there really aren’t many women in that book.”  It was nice (or naive) of him to think otherwise.

So, in the past couple days, I have felt like I should make one last push.  But, I’m pretty lazy, which is why I turn to you.

What strong names (Mormon or otherwise) have you or would you pick for your daughters and why?  Has your name helped you feel stronger or more confident in your life?  How so?

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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63 Responses

  1. sylvia says:

    Exciting! Another name I like is Zina. Sounds faintly exotic.

  2. Marjorie Conder says:

    I was thinking of Zina also, but ONLY if you decide not to go with Emmeline.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’ve actually been very drawn to the name Pandora. Not a Mormon women’s name, but a strong and interesting one. And I love the meaning – gift to humankind.

    But I love, love the name Emmeline. Go with it, and don’t worry about it sounding like your name. (Consider it, in fact, a practice of historical Mormon women. Weren’t there four Zina’s in a row? And didn’t Lucy Mack have a daughter named Lucy?) Goodness knows men are always having their sons named after them. 🙂

  4. EmJen says:

    We totally went through this with my now-1-month old, since my husband works in the church history department. We had made a deal that if it were a boy I would name him (I wanted to do a cool conglomeration of my siblings’ names first letters, making Jasen) and if it were a girl, he could choose a church history name (and he likes names from the pre-Utah period), but I had to agree.

    But it was harder than I thought. Like you, I’m an Emily so I didn’t want to do “Emma.” And I just don’t really love the name “Eliza”. I actually love “Roxcy,” but he thought it sounded too 20s. I also thought “Lucy” was cute, but he meh’ed it. He also passed on “Polly” (Knight) and “Phoebe” (Woodruff). If I could have gone into the Utah period, I would have liked “Etta” (can’t remember, she was a doctor though) or “Avery” (Woodruff).

    Anyway, the real reason he didn’t like my suggestions is that he already determined the name. He’s majorly interested in Mormon documents, so he went with Willard Richard’s wife’s name (he was a scribe for JS): Jennetta. And it totally fits. Although I sneak and call her “Jetta” for short.

    We don’t know much about Jennetta Richards, but I do love that she’s smiling coyly in her photo and how often do you see that?

    I also love Emmeline B. Wells. My favorite EMW quote: “Only a few are willing to produce in writing a witness of their mind’s individuality.”

    • EmilyCC says:

      Ah! EmJen, I should have come to you and your husband for names! And, I love, love the story of Jenetta and the photo you linked to. Is that your blog?

  5. Caroline says:

    Also, Miriam. I read some feminist theology article about Miriam and how her power and position had been lessened by scribes and editors of the bible. The author posited her as a powerful leader and prophetess.

    Sophia is also a good one, if you’re interested in paying tribute to the feminine divine.

    These aren’t Mormon, of course, but do have powerful feminist messages.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Sophia was my first choice for #1 who turned out to be a boy, but now (I can be kind of snotty), I feel like it’s too popular.

      And, I love Miriam, such a great biblical figure, but I wanted something that reflected our Mormon heritage, and I felt like Miriam was quite Jewish considering we already have a kid named Asher and a mom with a degree in Hebrew Bible 🙂

  6. DefyGravity says:

    I don’t comment on this site often, but I’m an avid reader. I think Emmeline is fabulous. Emmeline was an absolutely incredible woman, and if you feel that strongly about the name, there’s probably a reason for that. People will draw conclusions about whatever name you choose, so go with what feels right to you. Take that for what it’s worth. If we’re sharing favorite Emmeline quotes, here’s mine
    “If there be women in whom the love of learning extinguishes all other love, then the heaven-appointed sphere of that woman is not the nursery. It may be the library, the laboratory, the observatory.”

    • EmilyCC says:

      DefyGravity, I’m so glad you commented!

      I’m so happy to be getting these Emmeline quotes. I just wish they’d quite making me cry 🙂

      Thanks!

    • Rebecca says:

      DefyGravity – I love that quote! To think that we women have heaven-appointed spheres of learning. I think I’ll print that out to keep nestled in my wallet, right next to the precious library card.

  7. Olive says:

    I’ve always liked the name Emmeline, and the historical and religious significance seals it in my book! I think its beautiful and wonderful and you should stick with it. Who says you need to research every book under the sun before you settle on a name? If you like it and it feels right, then go with it.

    Also, I see NOTHING vain in naming a child after you- men do it all the time. I wish I could find a good variation of my name to name a daughter, in fact I’ve seriously thought of just giving her my name.

  8. Anon says:

    I’m only going anon because we don’t usually reveal our kids’ names on the internet and I’m hoping this won’t get traced back to my blog :0 We have two girls, Sophia and Phoebe. My oldest has mostly gone by “Sophie”, but she likes having the choice between the two options. We have always chosen our kids names with their meaning in mind and have given them a Hawaiian middle name with a middle name that complements the meaning of their first name. Sophie’s middle means ‘dew from heaven’ and Phoebe’s is a word for women warriors. We picked Sophie’s name just because we liked both the sound and the meaning, and lately she likes to tell people “I’m very wise because my name means wisdom.” We picked Phoebe’s just because we thought it was cute and also because it was my husband’s great grandmother’s name.

    I’ve always liked the names Miriam and Esther and think they are ‘strong names’. Same thing with Ruth and Naomi–plus they are all generally less common these days. The name Deborah is nice too, and I know people who have named their daughter Ruby with the scripture from Proverbs in mind. I really like the name Emmeline a lot, so you have my vote.

  9. EmilyCC says:

    Anon, I think having an OT girl’s name and a NT girl’s name is so lovely–especially, those two! (And, it sounds like you named your Sophia early enough that she wouldn’t have the problem of the 2-3 per classroom that I’ve been seeing in our preschools.)

    Thanks for more great suggestions!

  10. mraynes says:

    I think it is so important to give girls meaningful, strong names. I love the name we chose for our daughter, Sylvia, not only because its my grandmother’s name but she also shares the name with Sylvia Plath and Sylvia Pankhurst.

    I agree with everybody else, I love the name Emmeline and think it would be perfect for your baby. However, here are a few options: Diantha (Zina’s middle name), Bathsheba (Smith), Susa (Gates), Margaret (Caine), Patricia (Sessions), Lula (Richards), Ida (Smoot), Clarissa (Williams)…

    Ok, so going through all of those, I still like Emmeline best! 🙂

  11. Deborah says:

    Mary (Fielding Smith). Iconic blesser of oxen. Bonus: Mother of Jesus.

  12. anita says:

    I have an Eliza and a Lydia (Acts 16, first convert in Europe), and I love these suggestions! If I had 2 more girls, I’d have a Lucy and an Emma.

  13. Kirsten says:

    I like the name Ellis, for Dr. Ellis Shipp. It’s unique and she was an amazing pioneer in the traditional Mormon sense and in becoming a doctor. However, you have to take into consideration the last name with the first name. “Ellis Curtis”… do you like the sound?
    Emmaline is a great one– there are many shortened versions, from Emma, Em, Emi…
    Other biblical names I love are Naomi, Martha, Julia and Miriam…

  14. TopHat says:

    My daughter’s name is Margaret. There are just so many strong Margarets in the world! It’s quite the heavy name for a little girl. I feel like I have a frivolous name (Heather) and giving my daughter a “real” name was important to me.

  15. Corktree says:

    I think Emmeline is beautiful. Our girls all have somewhat older names, but with some odd spellings (husband’s contribution); Madalynn, Audri (short for Audrianne) and Julia. With our last, when we didn’t know what it was yet, we decided that for a girl it would be Elliette. We couldn’t agree on a boy name, and it took us until he was 4 days old to come up with…..Elliott. 🙂 It seemed meant to be.

    I’m a bit sad that we’re done, because if we ever had another girl, I’m almost positive we would name her Asherah. I know that doesn’t work for you with your son’s name, but I like the idea and sound of it so much now that I wish I could go back in time or re-name one of my girls. Oh well, maybe for the fifth “oops” that my oldest is predicting. (just kidding…that better not happen!)

  16. Emily, was it you to whom I promised a list of baby names? You’ve reminded me that I promised to make a list for someone, and now I can’t remember who it was.

    It seems like most of the strong Mormon women’s names have been co-opted as blogging IDs by Mormon feminists. 🙂

  17. Azucar says:

    Mary Ann (Angell)

    I concur with everyone else: Emmeline is just beautiful. I originally clicked over to suggest Zina as well.

    What about Minerva?
    Louisa, Clarissa, Harriet, Hannah, Vilate, Helen?

  18. Conifer says:

    Emmeline is a really nice name — I think you should stick with it.

    If you change your mind, though, a lot of the old Welsh and Celtic girl names are strong ones. I love Gwenora, Sinead, Moira, Morgan, Fiona, and Maeve. (A lot of those start with M, the first letter of my real name. Maybe I have something subconscious going on.)

  19. Mommie Dearest says:

    I was sorting through old books today and came across my copy of “Sister Saints” and anthology of bios published by BYU Press in the 70’s. Here’s the list for your consideration:
    Eliza R. Snow
    Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball
    Louisa Barnes Pratt
    Susa Young Gates
    Amy Brown Lyman
    Susanna Goudin Cardon
    Lucinda Lee Dalton
    Jane Snyder Richards
    Bathsheba Bigler Smith
    Aurelia Read Spencer Rogers
    Ida Ione Cook
    Mary E. Cook
    Maud May Babcock
    Alice Louise Reynolds
    Stena Scorup
    Patty Bartlett Sessions
    Dr. Ellen Brooke Ferguson
    Dr. Romania Pratt Penrose
    Dr. Ellis Reynolds Shipp
    Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon
    Dr. Margaret Ann Freece
    Sarah Elizabeth Carmichael
    Louisa Lula Greene Richards
    Emmeline Blanche Woodward Wells
    Augusta Joyce Crocheron

    Happy baby-naming!

  20. EmmelineBW says:

    I have to be careful what I read during pregnancy. Hardy and Madsen’s study of Emmeline B. Wells led to my now 3-yr-old daughter’s name: Tess Emmeline. I love both names for her and they suit her perfectly. (At the beginning of my current pregnancy I was reading Lolita–good thing this baby is a boy!)

    Only problem is that while I’ve read a lot about Wells, I never actually heard her name pronounced. In my mind, the name was “Emma-line,” but my husband is pretty sure the 19th century pronunciation was “Emma-leen.” The second pronunciation doesn’t sit as well with me, so we still use the first. Anyone out there know for sure which Wells used?

    • EmilyCC says:

      EmmelineBW, oh, I didn’t know this though I think I like both pronunciations quite well.

      The only name I know of with a different pronunciation is Bathsheba Smith’s and darn it, if I don’t forget it every time I have to say her name outloud!

  21. Heather P. says:

    A couple people already mentioned Susa Young Gates – founder of the Young Woman’s Journal and the Relief Society Magazine, women’s rights activist, writer, editor, etc. I think I like Susa as a first name. Emmeline is beautiful.

    My mom chose a name for me that started with “H” because my grandma’s first name (Hazel) did, and my middle name is the same as my grandpa’s middle name.

    If I had a daughter, I might choose Ruth (my other grandma) or Elizabeth (two grandmotherly figures in my life).

    • EmilyCC says:

      Susa is a great one, too! I’m starting to wonder if I need to get myself some pets to use some of these fantastic names (because heavens knows, I can’t handle anymore children 🙂 ).

  22. Deborah says:

    I’m a descendant of Drusilla Hendricks and I always said I’d name a daughter after her, but in the end we had one daughter and named her Naomi. I don’t regret it, though I still wish I had a Drusilla.

    • EmilyCC says:

      Deborah, I’m loving both Naomi and Drusilla. I don’t think I know who Drusilla Hendricks is. Could you tell a bit more about her?

      • Deborah says:

        Drusilla’s husband was paralyzed in the battle of Crooked River, so she moved him and their many (7?) children around, managed to keep them fed, until he recovered after they got to Utah.

        My favorite story is when her 17yo son wanted to join the Battalion, but she felt like he was finally getting old enough to be useful and said he couldn’t join. The morning the battalion members were to go, she hear the Lord tell her that he should be with them, so she ran home and told him and off he went.

        I can only aspire to have such faith and to instill it in my daughter!

  23. missOlea says:

    I could never call a daughter Drusilla because that is one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters in one of the versions I read as a child – isn’t that silly?

    I love the idea of riffing on old family names. Though I’m not even married, I plan on having a Dorothea (my mum’s mum is Dorothy, but that reminds me of Dorothy the Dinosaur from the wiggles!!) and my mum’s sister’s mother-in-law (complicated much??) is named Angelica so I would love to have an Angeline.

  24. Mommie Dearest says:

    I think Helen is a great classic name that is not overdone. Yet.

  25. ESO says:

    Assuming your family uses traditional American surname conventions, your baby girl will already carry one of her father’s names; I say name her Emmaline boldly–I like the parallelism of having one name from each parent and one of her one.

    As another Emily, it never occurred to me that my daughter Lily’s name would cause confusion. It was only after significant numbers of people who met us at the same time (so people that did not know me pre-children) mixed up our names (calling me Lily and her Emily) that I realized they really do sound very similar. Oh well. Can’t win.

  26. Stella says:

    I got through most of the suggestions, but not all. My middle name is after a long line of strong ladies in my LDS family–Virginia. I love it. Another name that is old in my family and that I love is Isla….oh, and Bronwyn from my Welsh heritage. Love it!

    But Emmeline is AWESOME! Go with that. It sounds right!

  27. Vada says:

    I’ve loved reading all the great suggestions, as well as the stories to go along with a few of them. So fun!

    That said, I think Emmeline is beautiful, and there’s nothing at all wrong with having a daughter with a similar name to yours. Also, there’s nothing wrong with having a particular name in mind at the beginning of your pregnancy and sticking with it. I did for my youngest, and I’m glad no one tried to tell me I should be considering other names (though I didn’t actually advertise the fact that I already knew what I intended to name him, mostly because my husband and I tend to argue about names and I didn’t want that one to get vetoed, so I didn’t bring it up until nearly the end of the pregnancy).

  28. Jessawhy says:

    Way to go, Emily!
    You’ve helped create this thread that will be a resource for Mormon women naming their daughters.

    After reading Dance of the Dissident daughter and learning more about a specific greek myth, I like the name Ariadne. (air-ee-ad-nee) I think there’s a character named that in Inception, as well.

    It’s not Mormon, but I’m adding that name to the list as a resource for future readers 🙂

    If I had a girl (since I have three boys) I would probably give her three or four names since I would only have one.

    I do love Sophia, but DH does not. Good thing I’m not having a baby!

    I like Miriam and there is a woman in our ward named Kiriam, a nice variation.

  29. Erin says:

    My top runner if we ever have a girl is the Welsh name Rhiannon which also shortens to the beautiful nickname of Rhia. (And if you want to pronounce the name properly you almost put the h sound in front of the r sound, but most people would just use the r sound…).

    But I love Emmeline as well and think you have strong reasons for using it, so I’d stick with it.

  30. LilyTiger says:

    I’ve been thinking that Sophronia, the name of Joseph’s sister, is due for a comeback. Or Lucy had sisters named Lovisa and Lovina, which are feminine-but-strong names.

  31. Kristine says:

    Just for the record, Emmeline B. Wells was the 2nd editor of The Woman’s Exponent. The first one was Louisa Greene Richards. (My Lulu is named for her :))

  32. Petra says:

    My mom always wanted a second daughter so she could name her Mary Magdalene. It’s not specifically Mormon, but I think it’s a great strong female name.

    I also love Helen, and if you’re considering Mary as a middle name, Helen Mary would be a nice tribute to Helen Mar Kimball.

  33. Jenne says:

    I had a neighbor named Magdalene and I have to say that I loved the name and considered it for a girl name in our family. I’m glad someone brought it up here, I think its an excellent choice.

  34. Ziff says:

    Thanks for this post, Emily. As you know, my wife is due in a couple of weeks, also with a girl. We’re pretty set on borrowing your name as a first name, but we’re still undecided on a middle name, so it’s great to read all these possibilities I can pitch to my wife.

    Oh, and I also agree with everyone else who already suggested that you just go ahead with Emmeline.

  35. Sijbrich says:

    Apparently a lot of people like to talk about baby names (myself included).

    My daughter’s name is Belén. It’s Spanish for Bethlehem. I originally heard it on my mission in Argentina and fell in love with it. Non-Spanish speakers stumble over it when I tell them her name, but I don’t care. I love its spiritual significance and I figure at some point she will spend some part of her life in Latin America (my husband is from Peru and we visit his family there every year), where people will be more familiar with her name.

    Tabitha is a bit more of an obscure biblical name that I also like. But I’d have to agree with many of the other commenters that Emmeline is sweet and you have my support as well.:-)

  36. Andrea says:

    One of my something-great aunts was named Tranquilla. They called her Aunt Tranny. Not seriously suggesting you saddle an innocent baby with that… I just think it’s funny.

    I love the name Josephine. So many cute nicknames from that too: Josie, Jo, Jojo, Pepa (Spanish nickname for Josefina)… there’s probably more, but I’m tired and can’t think properly.

  37. EmilyCC says:

    Oh, the suggestions just keep coming! I love it! Thank you for more great names, everyone.

    Kristine, ack, you’re totally right! I’m correcting the post now…thanks!

    And, Aunt Tranny, well, that just made me laugh out loud.

  38. Christine says:

    My oldest daughter is named Caroline, which I LOVE (we call her Carlie for short) and I named my youngest daughter Emma (which I also love) but have often wished I had chosen Emmeline instead, there are so many Emma’s nowadays and Caroline and Emmeline would have been a nice combination. Also, Emma’s middle name is my middle name. I am all in favor of honoring women in their lives and I include myself!

  39. sema4 says:

    Emmaline ( and the proper pronounciation IS ‘Emma-leen’) is lovely .
    Pronouncing it ‘Emma-line’ detracts from the beauty and the history to my mind

  40. Elizabeth says:

    I like my name, Elizabeth. You could call her Lizzie. I love emma too.

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Don’t you dare name her this, but there was a pioneer named Francine (frannie) higonbottom. Just putting it out there…

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