Sunday, July 12, 2009

Secret 5: The uproar over my name

This is the woman I was named for. She was a suffragette and a poet. At the time of my birth my parents thought I should be named for a family member. There was a great-grandmother on my mother's side and a great-great-grandmother on my father's side named Sara. My great-great-grandfather, also in the picture, was a historical figure in Oregon whose name is recognized by many people today and it seemed appropriate that I should be named for his wife. After the naming of me it came out that Sara was not actually his wife, however, as his first wife had never granted him a divorce. After the ink was dry on the birth certificate it became known that I was named after his mistress. Some accounts that I find online of his life call her his second wife and say they were married in the 1930s after the first wife had died. However in the text of an interview with Sara after his death she says that she told her mother that they were married in Europe to keep from upsetting her (and says this was probably the only lie she ever told) and other people just assumed that they were but she never mentions actually getting married... I'm still googling for more on that in any event as there is a specific date mentioned.

Anyway, several family members were extremely upset at my being named after his mistress and when my little sister was born a year later they named her after the actual wife's daughter for her first name and for her middle name she was named for a prominent family member still living. It drove my mother a little crazy because to of all of us sisters she had given names that didn't have shorter nicknames (she never liked being called by a nickname and wanted to make sure we didn't have one) and now Little-Little's first and middle names could both be shortened (and starting in high school she went only by the nickname).

I used to tell my mother that all of the trouble I got into in high school wasn't my fault. I was just highly spirited like my namesake and what did she expect? Though truly I was highly spirited, I think, because I am my mother's daughter.


  1. That's a great story! And, it's a beautiful name! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kind of funny you were named after his mistress. Really though it's not like he was hiding it. What was he supposed to do, his wife wouldn't divorce him.

  3. It's hard to really imagine people actually getting upset about a newborn, innocent baby being named after a long-gone mistress, on accident. People are funny. ; )

    ps - The name Sara has always made me think of sweet things, don't know why.


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