1. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Listen carefully to your pregnant belly: Can you hear the romantic sighs of a celebrated poet? Then name your daughter Juana or Inés for the 17th-century poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who lived in Mexico City and wrote many kinds of poetry, including somewhat raunchy love poems.
As a child, Juana taught herself a wide range of subjects using her grandfather’s library, and continued her rigorous programme of self-education into adulthood. She eventually joined a convent in order to be left alone with her studies and her ~scandalous~ poetry. She came to be “one of the world’s most daring erotic writers” of her time and ruffled a few feathers in the Catholic church for that reason.
Just think of the feathers your baby Juana Inés will ruffle.
2. The Mirabal sisters
Does your baby possess uncommon courage? Does your baby fill your uterus with equal parts bravery and righteousness? Then name your daughter for Patria,Minerva, or María Teresa Mirabal – Dominican sisters who boldly opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the 1950s.
The three sisters, along with their husbands, participated in constant underground political actions against Trujillo’s regime, and came to be regarded as symbols of resistance and feminist icons known as the “Butterflies”. Even multiple stints in prison weren’t enough to stop their activism. When Trujillo’s government assassinated the sisters in 1960, it sparked a massive public outrage, which was among the catalysts leading to Trujillo’s own assassination just six months later.
Nowadays the Mirabal sisters are commemorated every 25 November by the United Nations, which declared an International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in their honour.
3. Raden Ajeng Kartini
Do you suspect your future daughter to be a famous writer and activist? Of course you do. So name her Raden or Kartini for Raden Ajeng Kartini (1879-1904), who advocated for women’s emancipation and education, and wrote about the need for the improvement of public health and the protection of traditional arts on the island of Java. She also wrote passionately against Dutch colonial rule of Indonesia.
Today she is known in Indonesia as the country’s “first feminist”, and 21 April is celebrated as Kartini Day. So, try to give birth to your baby on 21 April.
(An update from our Indonesian readers: “Raden” is actually an honourific title like “Duchess” or “Sir”. Her given name was “Kartini” – the “Raden” just means she’s ~fancy~.)
4. Hildegard von Bingen
Name your daughter Hildegard for Hildegard von Bingen. (Or Hilda, if you must. Or even Sybil, as she was also known as “Sybil of the Rhine”.) Old Hildy, you see, was an adviser to kings and popes and more. She was a composer and a writer and a mystic and a poet and about 100 other things. She also wrote important scientific and medical treatises because why the fuck not?
Is your future daughter a mystic and a polymath? Then let’s hear it for Baby Hilds.
5. Ida B. Wells-Barnett
R. Gates/Hulton Archive / Getty Images
You couldn’t pick a better name for a baby girl than Ida, if your baby girl is the kind of baby girl who fights tirelessly for justice, i.e. an absolute baby badass.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a brilliant American journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching campaigner who lived from 1862-1931. When three of her friends were lynched in 1892, she investigated the murders in her newspaper, The Free Speech. In response to her work, the newspaper offices were destroyed by a mob. She moved to Chicago where she continued to write on the law and history of lynching, worked with multiple organisations for the advancement of African-American women, and marched in Washington, DC, in 1913 for universal suffrage.
Along with fellow suffragist Jane Addams, she “successfully blocked the establishment of segregated schools in Chicago”. Later, she was a co-founder of the NAACP, and in 1930, she ran for a position on the Illinois State Legislature. Just think what YOUR Ida will do.
6. Artemisia Gentileschi
Look closely at your ultrasound: Is your baby in possession of a fine artistic mind? Then name her Artemisia.
Artemisia Gentileschi was “one of the most famous and skilled painters of the Baroque era” who achieved great artistic acclaim at a time when women were not allowed to attend the artistic academies. Her father, also an artist, had encouraged her artistic training as a child. At age 18, Artemisia was raped by a colleague of her father’s, and went through a brutal trial in which she was tortured to “confirm” her story. Her rapist was convicted, but never served out his sentence.
After the trial, Artemisia painted one of her most famous works, Judith Slaying Holofernes, pictured above on the right, which some see as a “revenge” for her trial. So, name your daughter for this ridiculously gifted master of painting who achieved great renown against all odds. And anyway, Artemisia is a ridiculously beautiful name.
7. Nancy Wake
Nancy Wake was a spy, a journalist, and a hero of the French Resistance during World War II. Would you like your baby to be exceedingly glamorous? Then name herNancy.
Born in New Zealand, Nancy ended up settling in Paris, where she worked as a journalist and passed her time in the enjoyment of “a good drink” and handsome French men. When war broke out, she joined the Resistance and saved the lives of “hundreds of Allied soldiers and downed airmen between 1940 and 1943 by escorting them through occupied France to safety in Spain”, and later joined the British Special Operations Executive as a spy.
One time, Nancy got her parachute stuck in a tree. A nearby Frenchman said he wished all trees could bear such “beautiful fruit”, to which Nancy responded, “Don’t give me that French shit.”
Just think, these could be your baby girl’s first words.
8. Tomoe Gozen
Tomoe Gozen, seen here destroying an oafish, unworthy enemy, was a legendary samurai warrior in 12th-century Japan. She’s described in The Tale of the Heiki like this:
“She was…a remarkably strong archer, and as a swordswoman she was a warrior worth a thousand, ready to confront a demon or god, mounted or on foot. She handled unbroken horses with superb skill; she rode unscathed down perilous descents….She performed more deeds of valor than any of [her commander’s] other warriors.”
What more could you want for your baby than to achieve such mythical heights of badassery? Name her Tomoe.
9. Yaa Asantewaa
Is your daughter liable to be a brave and tireless leader? Yes? Then name her for Yaa after Yaa Asantewaa, who was a leading figure in a war against British colonialists from 1900-1901 in what is today Ghana. The war had broken out when a colonial governor demanded he be given the Golden Stool, a sacred symbol to the Asante, apparently because he was a whiny asshole. Unfortunately for the governor, there was a certain Warrior Queen (who also happened to be a 60-year-old grandmother) who was not having it.
Nowadays Yaa Asantewaa is celebrated in Ghana and elsewhere as “an epitome of African womanhood and resistance to European colonialism”. A great name for a powerful baby, no?
10. Madam CJ Walker
Do you want your baby girl to grow up to be fabulously wealthy? And also a trailblazing businesswoman and a great philanthropist? But, like, a fabulously wealthybusinesswoman and philanthropist? Then name her after Madam CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 – America’s first self-made female millionaire, who made her fortune creating a line of haircare products for African-American women.
Yes, money can’t buy everything – but it can buy you a convertible like the one above. Just look at her driving her friends around town. Look at their fabulous hats.That could be your daughter – little baby Maddy, perhaps.
11. Rosa Luxemburg
Place a hand upon your pregnant belly, and feel for kicking. Are those the kicks of a future leftist revolutionary? Of a little girl who longs for the overthrow of capitalism? Whose dearest wish is a socialism that upholds its democratic ideals?
If yes, then name your daughter Rosa, for Rosa Luxemburg. She was a brilliant Polish-German Jewish revolutionary and political theorist who developed and advocated for “a humanitarian theory of Marxism, stressing democracy and revolutionary mass action to achieve international socialism”. Even when imprisoned, she managed to smuggle out her articles and pamphlets. She also worked “to persuade her women friends to take an independent role in politics, and to free themselves from the domination of their husbands”.
Name your baby Rosa, and watch her grow to overthrow the bourgeoisie.
12. Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians
There are many good reasons to name your daughter for the Anglo-Saxon Warrior Queen Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, daughter of Alfred the Great – but here are the two most important reasons:
1. Your daughter will be named for a warrior queen who, after her husband died, took over to rule from 911 to 918 AD, during which time she fended off Vikings and proved herself a talented ruler respected throughout the land.
2. Your daughter will walk through life with the satisfaction of having not one, but twoof those fun little a and e combination letters in her name.
Name your daughter Æthelflæd (or maybe just…Ethel) and she will never surrender to any man – especially not a Viking.
OK guys, we need to talk about Qutulun.
Qutulun was a 13th-14th-century Mongol princess who “swore that she would only marry a man who could best her in a wrestling match” and “demanded a hundred horses from any contestant who failed”. Needless to say, she amassed a lot of horses in her lifetime. The painting above shows her with her skirts hitched up, wrestling a gentleman caller, horses watching their future owner kick some suitor ass.
Is your daughter a wrestler princess? Yes, of course she is. Name her Qutulun.
14. Nzinga Mbandi
Nzinga Mbandi, the Queen of Ndongo and Matamba (modern day Angola), was a straight-up boss bitch. She took power when her brother Ngola Mbandi died in 1624, and gained international acclaim for her brilliance in diplomacy, military tactics, and giving zero fucks. Her skill in warfare, espionage, trade, alliance-building, and religious matters helped her hold off Portuguese colonialism for the duration of her life.
Nzinga, you literal queen.
15. Murasaki Shikibu
Murasaki Shikibu was a lady-in-waiting in Japan’s imperial court during the Heian period, and wrote what is believed to be the first novel in human history: The Tale of Genji.
Her father apparently praised her intelligence, but lamented that she was “born a woman”. In her diary, she records that she learned Chinese by listening through the door to the lessons her father gave her brother, because women were not meant to learn Chinese.