In the early 20th century, The Bystander published a series of articles entitled "The World of Women" written by a woman under the nom de plume Calpurnia with a decided feminist outlook. The header prefacing the articles speak for themselves.
The article below, published on Wednesday 24 August 1904, discusses fashions in names, how they shift in generations, and the (all too modern sounding) dilemma of naming with a partner.
On Christian Names
I went to see a friend the other day who was puzzling her brains to find a name for a small daughter who had just come into the world. If it had been left entirely to her she would not have had much difficulty, but she was blessed with a husband— a gentleman whom I do not like and invariably escape if possible — and her husband was troubled with ideas which made the choosing of a name a matter of some difficulty. In the first place, he refused to have any of his children called after anybody else. No reason was given for this remarkable fad. "John didn't like it," and there was nothing more to be said. I suggested "Mary," which I think is the most beautiful of women's names, but "John says that sounds like servants'," was the objection here, and John being the sort of snob indicated by that remark — all the simple, old-fashioned English names were barred out. "Well, what sort of name does John like I asked. He would like to call baby Theodora,' said my friend he says it means the gift of God."' "Then why doesn't he?" I asked. Because he says all the children are gifts of God," was the reply, "and it wouldn't be fair to give the name to this one only." This objection seemed to me so fatuous that I refrained from offering any further suggestions, and the child was eventually christened "Yseult," a charming name in itself, but not one that goes well with the surname of Diggle, which was John's patronymic — or something like it.
I wonder if my readers have ever noticed how names, especially women's names, go in generations. Our grandmothers were called Anne, and Emma, and Susan, and Ellen our mothers Adelaide, Louisa, Henrietta, Caroline our own con temporaries--I am speaking of women in middle-age are Winifreds, Hildas, Ethels, and Muriels; our daughters are mostly Dorothys, Dorises, Veras, and Sheilas while for the little grandchildren who are beginning to appear on the scene, we are getting back again to the old-fashioned names of Betty, Nancy, Joan, and the like. To say that one prefers the names that are being conferred on the rising generation is nothing more than to acknowledge one's self influenced by the current fashion, but the taste does rest on a worthy love of simplicity and directness, old English virtues, which the fancy collection of names of the Yolande variety does not. I think that the taste will go further still, and we shall get back to Elizabeth, Sarah, and Anne again. We may leave it to people of the habit of mind of my friend's husband to object to these names, because they sound like servants'." All the servants will be christened Victoria by that time.
Boys' names do not seem to exhibit the same change as those of girls. There always have been, and always will be, plenty of Johns, Edwards, Williams, Richards, and Roberts. I have the greatest objection personally to christening boys with fancy names, however allowable it may be in the case of girls. But, perhaps, this is only a fad, as foolish as John's objection to naming children after somebody else. It is curious to notice how many men's names come out of the Bible. All the Bible names of men are far more used than those of women but here is another curious fact, that all the names used to-day are those of good men those of the questionable characters are seldom, if ever, copied. 'Jude' is sometimes found, but Judas never. There have been plenty of Abels, but no Cains, and nobody has ever heard of an Ahab or a Balaam, or a Naboth or a Pilate.