With names like Kulture, Cricket, and Blue Ivy, there seems to be an unspoken rule among celebrities that newborns must be given obscure names. Like the trendsetters they are, the general population has begun to follow suit. And sure, a unique name that has no association with anyone else offers the opportunity for a child to create their own legacy. But what about carrying on the legacies of our ancestors?
At a time when everyone is seeking to stand out and make a name for themselves, it can be refreshing to name your daughter after an iconic ancestor. According to an old Jewish saying, a person’s name can illustrate their character. For example, the name Esther literally means “star” and figuratively stands for heroism (like Queen Esther in the Purim story). Ashkenazi Jews traditionally don’t name their children after living relatives, so we created a list of trailblazing Jewish women, gone but not forgotten, to name your newborn after.
If you want a name that encompasses strength and charisma, look no further than Bella. Born in 1920 in the Bronx, Bella Abzug is remembered for her social activism. Nicknamed “Battling Bella,” the Jewish lawyer fought for equality and power for women. In 1970, her first campaign slogan was, “This woman’s place is in the House — the House of Representatives.” In the last decade of her life, she co-founded the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and received the Blue Beret Peacekeepers Award from the U.N a year before she died.
Clara Lemlich Shavelson
Since she was a young babe, this trailblazing woman defied authority in the pursuit of justice and knowledge. Clara Lemlich is remembered as the catalyst of the 1909 Uprising of the 20,000, the biggest women workers strike in the United States. A revolutionary, an activist, and a communist, Clara founded the Wage Earners League for Woman Suffrage and the United Council of Working-Class Housewives. Clara makes a beautiful name for a budding charismatic feminist.
Hedy Lamarr did it all: She sang, acted, and invented the communication system that became the basis for what we now call Wi-Fi (seriously!). Born in 1914, Hedy was a woman before her time, and if you name your child after her, they can be, too!
Gertrude Elion cared more about helping people than making sure she got credit for it. This trailblazing woman is known for developing the first chemotherapy for childhood leukemia and treatments for many other diseases. She was a selfless biochemist and pharmacologist and worked her tuchus off to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine. With a strong name like Gertrude, your daughter will be set for success.
Did you know that this literary genius’ poem, “The New Colossus,” is engraved on the Statue of Liberty? While her first name is ordinary, Emma Lazarus is anything but. She was one of the first celebrated Jewish American poets and is remembered for her outspoken essays that protested anti-Semitism. With her legacy, Emma makes for an honorable and beautiful baby name.
This Jewess was an American dancer and choreographer who heavily influenced the development of modern dance in Israel, Mexico, and many other countries. Anna used dance to bring light to societal issues, like the Great Depression and the Holocaust. Name your daughter Anna and she might follow in her ancestor’s dance steps.
Fanny or Bobbie
Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld
Bobbie Rosenfeld was anything but a conventional woman. The Canadian athlete won a slew of medals at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and was called the “best Canadian female athlete of the half-century.” After retiring from playing sports, Bobbie launched a column in a newspaper and covered female athletes. Whether you fancy Fanny or Bobbie, shake things up and name your daughter after this Olympic winner.
Hannah Greenebaum Solomon
Hannah might be an overused Jewish baby name, but for a good reason. Hannah Solomon founded the original Jewish sorority, better known as the National Council of Jewish Woman, and is remembered for leadership and legendary energy. So go ahead, name your daughter Hannah and she’ll be destined for greatness.
If Hannah’s too basic for your daughter, opt for this ‘H’ name instead. Henrietta Szold founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which is one of the largest international Jewish organizations. A true leader, Zionist, and seeker of peace, Henrietta would make a beautiful name for any newborn.
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe isn’t your typical trailblazing Jewish heroine. Known for her Playboy magazine debut and for playing “blonde bombshell” characters, Marilyn quickly became one of the most prominent sex symbols of her time. The exceptional actress, model, and singer passed away at just 36 years old but left an unforgettable mark in pop culture. Honor the icon and pass her name — Marilyn or Norma, take your pick — on to your daughter.
This Jewish heroine is a household name, but it can also be your baby daughter’s name. Golda Meir wore many hats during her life, but the most notable was serving as Israel’s fourth prime minister, and first female prime minister of Israel. With a name like Golda, your daughter can break some glass ceilings of her own.