Want to give your baby girl a name that will inspire her forever? Look no further than these names based on historical and modern feminists:
Who’s the most badas* Ruth ever? Ruth Bader Ginsberg, of course. As an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, she was the second female justice and one of four female justices ever appointed to the Supreme Court. The name Ruth means “compassionate friend.”
Michelle may be the belle of a famous Beatles song, but most recently it brings to mind America’s much-loved former First Lady, Michelle Obama. A lawyer and writer, she used her platform to advocate for women’s and LGBTQ rights, education, arts and nutrition. The name Michelle means “who is like God.”
This soft-sounding name lead a huge movement during the Second World War when an icon known as Rosie the Riveter became the face of feminism and economic power during this era. Rosie the Riveter appeared in posters (most famously flexing her bicep and roaring “We can do it!”) representing the factory-working women who contributed munitions and supplies to the war effort. Rosie is the shortened version of Rose, the flower.
Mexican-born visual artist Frida Kahlo was born in 1907 and lived only until 47, but she remains one of the most celebrated feminist icons. Best known for her colourful yet often emotionally dark self-portraits, Kahlo captured the female experience and form through her paintings. The name Frida means “peaceful.”
One of the most celebrated American poets, memoirists and civil rights activists, Maya Angelou worked alongside Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and was deemed by Oprah Winfrey as her “mother-mentor-sister-friend.” She was a voice for the black community and for women, and has inspired countless people around the world. Maya means “water.”
Name your little leader after the first female party leader in Canada, Audrey McLaughlin. She was at the front of Canada’s New Democratic Party from 1989 to 1995. The name Audrey means “noble strength.”
Are you with her? The first female candidate to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party, Hilary Clinton’s platform strongly advocated for women’s equality in the workforce. The name Hillary means “happy” or “cheerful.”
Not only was Emma the third-most-popular name in Ontario in 2020, it’s the name of the young actress, activist and feminist Emma Watson. After graduating from Brown University in 2014, Watson was appointed a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and helped launch the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which calls men to advocate for gender equality. The name Emma means “universal.”
Have you heard of Evelyn Lett? She was a Canadian women’s rights pioneer—one of the first women to graduate from the University of British Columbia, she also helped win female UBC students the right to vote in 1914 before women were able to vote in Canada. She was also named an Officer of the Order of Canada for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a seniors’ facility and daycare centre for the university. The name Evelyn comes from the old French word “aveline” which means hazelnut.
Nellie might not be a super common name, but it should be. One of Canada’s most important feminists, Nellie McClung was an activist, politician and author, and was a member of the The Famous Five, a group of women who fought for their right to sit in the Canadian Senate. A diminutive of Nell, the name means “bright, shining one.”
This musical moniker was the name of Viola Desmond, a Canadian businesswoman and activist who is often referred to as “the Rosa Parks of Canada.” Desmond challenged racial segregation in a Nova Scotia theatre when she refused to leave a whites-only seating area and move to the balcony. For her contributions, Desmond is set to be the first Canadian woman featured on a Canadian banknote in 2018. The name Viola comes from Violet, which can represent the colour or flower.
While Buffy the Vampire Slayer kicked some serious undead butt, Indigenous Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist and educator Buffy Sainte-Marie is another reason to love this name. Sainte-Marie is a strong advocate for Indigenous peoples and focuses her art on the subjects of love, war, religion and mysticism. The name Buffy is the diminutive of Elizabeth, meaning “pledged to God.”
Ashley Callingbull is the first Canadian—and the first First Nation woman—to win the Mrs Universe title. Callingbull, who is from Alberta’s Enoch Cree Nation, won the pageant title in 2015 and used her platform to advocate for First Nations issues in Canada. The name Ashley means “dweller near the ash tree meadow.”
The name Bertha may not scream “adorable baby” to you, but it’s a strong name with an impressive history. Bertha Wilson, the first female Canadian Supreme Court justice, helped to shape the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and played a role in striking down Canada’s abortion ban in the 1988 Morgentaler ruling, giving women the right to choose. The name Bertha means “bright” and “glorious.”
She shoots, she scores! Angela James was the first Canadian woman to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Throughout her 20-year career she played for numerous teams in the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Hockey League and named MVP six times. Angela means “angel.”
This next name is out of this world. The first Canadian female astronaut and the first neurologist in space, Roberta Bondar went on to receive many honours including the Order of Canada, the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and the NASA Space Medal, as well as more than 22 honorary degrees. The name Roberta means “bright fame.”
Feminist baby name inspiration can come from anywhere—even a music festival. Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan founded Lilith Fair, a tour that launched in the summer of 1997 featuring all female artists and female-led bands, after she became frustrated by concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians in a row. McLachlan was inspired by the Jewish legend of Lilith, Adam’s first wife. The name means “ghost” or “night monster.”
One half of Canadian Indie Pop duo Tegan and Sara makes our list as it’s super unique. These identical twin sisters have been rocking Canada since the late ’90s and have seen major success since their humble beginning in Calgary. They’ve used their stardom to advocate for the LGBTQ community, music, education and women’s equality. Tegan means “beautiful.”
Deemed a voice of her generation, Canadian feminist poet Rupi Kaur has moved many with her writing. Her poems cover themes such as violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity. A name of Indian origin, Rupi means “beauty.”
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