Character of the Week: Historical Mom Names

With moms on the brain, I chose this Character of the Week.

Female, 37
The story takes place in 1900 in New York City.
Her father was a fairly wealthy, conservative businessman. Her married name is Patterson.
Shes a stay-at-home mom of three (two boys and a girl); however, shes too ill to care for them so she hired a nanny. Shes reserved but polite, and looks after Elisabetta (MC/nanny) once theyre better acquainted. She’s very generous and very ladylike (the prim and proper type).
Historical Fiction

Naming a historical character is an interesting challenge. The name has to be accurate to the times and it has to suit the character, but it also has to have the right feel for modern ears.

For a young character, early-20s or younger, I would generally choose a name that would sound current. And especially in this case, where the 100 year rule could help, for a young character I would chose a name that is popular once again (something fresh like Elisabetta). However, this character is older and she is a mom. The name I was looking for was something that would feel “middle aged” (37 isn’t old now, but then it was more “past your prime”). Also, while with a main character I would chose something that has a modern vibe (for relatability), for this second tier character I wanted a name that would give the reader more of a feeling for the times the novel is set in.

  • Delina Patterson
  • Allene Patterson
  • Lucina Patterson
  • Fidelia Patterson
  • Clarinda Patterson

The writer replied: Thank you so much! I’m using Clarinda for the mother and I think I’ll take Delina for one of her daughters.

It’s kind of cute how the writer “claimed” the second name, as though she thought someone may come along an use the names she didn’t chose. Seriously, though, I’m glad the writer chose to use two of the names for second tier characters. I hope she continued to populate the world of her novel with names which will give the readers a sense of time and place.

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