While this name was predominantly male in the 1950s — ranked at 111 with an impressive 29,899 boys getting the moniker during the decade — it is now an undeniably cool gender neutral name, often used for girls with the alternative spelling of "Rae."
In addition to being a beautiful name that commands attention (not to mention my lovely mother's name), Marilyn hearkens several great feminists in history. Two spring to mind immediately: second-wave feminist Marilyn French and feminist theorist Marilyn Frye. Ranked the 56th most popular pick during the '50s, it continues to fare well — in 2015, it was ranked no. 426 on Nameberry.
There's an undeniably badass feminist history to this 1950s name. During medieval times, a soldier named Vitalis was buried alive for his belief in Christ. His wife, St. Valeria, was then martyred by pagans for standing beside her husband. On top of that, several other feminists in history share the name: think Valeries Solanas, Smith, and Wise.
As a feminist and a writer, I honestly adore the fact that Lois calls to mind two prominent feminist authors — Lois Banner and Lois Gould. Plus, I'd be lying if I said it didn't also make me think of Superman's fierce (and feminist!) girlfriend, Lois Lane.
During the '50s, both Johnny and Johnnie made the Top 200 names for little boys. However, I'm a huge fan of this gender-bending name for girls! Singer Melissa Etheridge must agree, since she named one of her twins Johnnie Rose. The name Johnny/Johnnie itself means "God is gracious."
Ranked No. 73 in the '50s, Rita is a name that just has a certain flair, don't you think? There's really no shortage of reasons to love it. For starters, it means "pearl," which is pretty great. It also hearkens silver screen siren Rita Hayworth, as well as feminist writer and activist Rita Mae Brown.
Several incarnations of this name were in high demand during the '50s for boys: Leo, Leon, Leonard. And while it would definitely still be considered a gender-defying name, it makes a unique and interesting pick for modern girls. It's got the whole lion thing going for it, you know?
As a big fan of Sylvia Plath's writing, it's no surprise this No. 108 '50s pick would land on my list. Really, there are several cool things happening with this name. It means "from the forest," which makes it perfect for those of us who love being in nature. It was also the name of the mother of twins Remulus and Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome.
Meaning "youthful," Julie is actually a gender neutral name despite being predominantly chosen for little girls. In fact, in the '50s, it was ranked 42 for girls and didn't make the cut for boys at all. I may be a bit biased since it is my name, but it also has serious feminist cred thanks to Julie Zeilinger — the Millennial founder of the feminist blog, The F Bomb, and author of A Little F'ed Up: Why Feminism is Not a Dirty Word.
Admittedly, this moniker sounds very sweet and delicate thanks to its floral namesake. But, hey, every rose has its thorns, right? These flowers are beautiful and tough, not unlike feminists who share the name such as women's suffrage activist Rose Scott and, yep, Rosie the Riveter, too.
True story: I have a friend who just named her daughter Frances, and they call her Frankie Faye. How precious is that! I feel like their kid is just destined to be complex and full of character. This name is gender neutral too, having ranked no. 102 in the '50s for men (Francis) and no. 86 for women (Frances).