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Names Inspired by American Heroes

An American hero doesn't have to be a politician. (Perhaps that might work in his or her favor these days!) All that's necessary is an accomplishment that makes us proud to have this person as a representative of this glorious country.

The following American heroes are just a sample of the thousands that can be included in this category. Many of them did have a significant impact on name fashions at various times. Others might spark you to start a naming fashion of your own. Either way, your child would do well to start out standing on the shoulders of these giants:

  • Amelia Earhart, the aviator who gained international recognition as the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and the first to make a solo flight across the Pacific.
  • Antonia Novello, the first woman and the first Hispanic appointed surgeon general of the United States.
  • Cesar Chavez, the Mexican-American migrant farm worker who established the National Farm Workers Association and fought for the rights of agricultural workers to gain fair wages, adequate housing, and decent working conditions and education.
  • Charles Lindbergh, the legendary aviator, who made his first intercontinental flight in 1927.
  • Clara Barton, organizer of the American Red Cross.
  • Daniel Webster, orator and politician.
  • Eli Whitney, who revolutionized agriculture in the U.S. with his invention of the cotton gin.
  • Emma Willard, the founder of the first women's college in the U.S., Troy Female Seminary.
  • Francis Scott Key, author of the words to The Star-Spangled Banner.
  • George Washington Carver, U.S. agricultural scientist and nutritionist who improved and pioneered new uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes.
  • Jacqueline Cochran, who in 1953 became the first female aviator to break the sound barrier.
  • Jane Addams, cofounder of Hull House in the slums of Chicago and credited with starting an American settlement house movement to help the poor; she won the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Jesse Owens, the superior African-American Olympic athlete, who at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games won four gold medals in front of Adolph Hitler and his supposed “master race.”

  • John C. Calhoun, a champion of states' rights and a symbol of the Old South.
  • Margaret Brent, the first woman to claim the right to vote, all the way back in 1647.
  • Martin Luther King Jr., the social reformer, civil rights leader, Baptist minister, author, and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his great work as a leader in the civil rights movement in the United States.
  • Nellie Taylor Ross, who became the nation's first woman governor when she was elected governor of Wyoming in 1924.
  • Miriam (Ma) Ferguson, the second woman to become a governor, who was elected to lead the great state of Texas in the same year that Nellie Taylor Ross won her election.
  • Oliver H. Perry, a hero of the War of 1812, where he defeated the British fleet at the Battle of Lake Erie. And while we're on the topic of Oliver, there's also Oliver Otis Howard, a Union general in the Civil War, who went on to found Howard University.
  • Robert F. Kennedy, brother of John and a noted politician in his own right, who also served as attorney general during his brother's presidency.
  • Rosa Parks, who became known as “the mother of the civil rights movement” when she refused to give up her seat for a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in December 1955. She continued to actively fight for civil rights the rest of her life.
  • Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
  • Stonewall Jackson, the Civil War general, yields two popular names for southern audiences.
  • Susan B. Anthony, the anti-slavery and women's rights leader.
  • Thomas Alva Edison, noted inventor.
  • Victoria Claflin Woodhull, the first woman candidate for U.S. president who announced her intention to run in 1870.
  • Wade Hampton, the South Carolina planter who was an important soldier in the Revolutionary War. His grandson, who also carried his name, fought in the Civil War and later became governor of South Carolina.

More on: Choosing a Name

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


August 29, 2014



Eating a colorful diet or fruits and veggies helps ensure your child is getting the nutrients he needs to keep his brain sharp while at school. Aim to pack three or more different colored foods in his lunch (or for snack) every day.


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