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In US, Few Places Named for Women

  • Ted Landphair

Dolley Madison, wife of the nation’s fourth president, was a renowned hostess and is perhaps the most famous First Lady in U.S. history. But so far as we know, almost all the “Madisons” are named for her husband, and none for her. (Wikipedia Commons)

Dolley Madison, wife of the nation’s fourth president, was a renowned hostess and is perhaps the most famous First Lady in U.S. history. But so far as we know, almost all the “Madisons” are named for her husband, and none for her. (Wikipedia Commons)

There are millions of “place names” in America, as elsewhere. Names of cities, neighborhoods, streets, and so on.

Some, such as “Springfield” and “Mountain View,” reflect local geography, although often these names are chosen just because they sound pleasant.

A lot of the names are taken from U.S. presidents and other “founding fathers” of the nation, such as the notable printer, writer, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin.

Many more recognize the names of people who discovered a place or started a town there.

That’s why there are a lot of “Gainesvilles” and “Smith’s Corners” and the like.

The continent’s earlier inhabitants - American Indians - get respect via place names such as those for the states of Kansas, Iowa, Utah, and Illinois.

Sometimes, though, those just sound a little like the original Indian names and aren’t even close to what they actually called them.

Do you notice a category missing?

Even though they constitute a bit more than half the U.S. population, women have inspired relatively few place names, and even fewer once you eliminate saints, Greek goddesses and foreign queens.

Amelia Earhart, for instance, was a pioneer aviator and role model for American girls - but we couldn’t find even a small town named for her.

Other places, such as Susanville, California, do carry women’s names, but only because the town founders named them after their wives or daughters.
Jenny Lind is said to have sung like a bird. Or squawked like one, depending on one interpretation of the inspiration for the naming of Jenny Lind, California. (Wikipedia Commons)

Jenny Lind is said to have sung like a bird. Or squawked like one, depending on one interpretation of the inspiration for the naming of Jenny Lind, California. (Wikipedia Commons)


There are a few - a very few - female-centric U.S. place names:

Dare County, North Carolina, is named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World.

Barton County, Kansas, honors Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross.

There are two Pocahantas counties - in Iowa and West Virginia - named for a famous Indian princess who helped English settlers.

And the little town of Daisetta, Texas, is named for two women, early settlers Daisy Barrett and Etta White.

And there’s a little dot of a place in the gold-mining area of California’s Sierra Mountains.

It’s called Jenny Lind, and there’s some dispute about it. One story says it is named for a popular opera singer known as the “Swedish nightingale,” who toured America in the 1850s.

But another swears the name was taken from the braying of miners’ mules, which, to them, sounded like Jenny Lind’s singing.
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