About Names: After French saint’s visions, Bernadette saw a rise in popularity

Actor Bernadette Peters

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 16th column, he looks at the history of the name Bernadette.

The most famous Bernadette is St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844-1879), a miller’s daughter whose 1858 visions of a woman calling herself “The Immaculate Conception” were declared valid by the Roman Catholic church in 1862. The grotto near Lourdes in southern France where the visions occurred is one of the world’s most popular pilgrimage sites. Bernadette’s parents named her after medieval French monk St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). After she became a novice of the Sisters of Charity, Bernadette spent hours copying texts related to St. Bernard.

When Social Security’s yearly name lists started in 1880, eight Bernadettes were born, ranking it 634th. The name rose as Lourdes became known to devout Roman Catholics. Newborn Bernadettes almost doubled in 1934 after Pope Pius XI canonized St. Bernadette on Dec. 8, 1933. Hollywood had a bigger impact. “The Song of Bernadette,” starring Jennifer Jones as the saint, premiered on Dec. 21, 1943. Jones got a Best Actress Oscar for the role. In 1942, 373 Bernadettes were born, and 1,321 arrived in 1946, when it ranked 188th, its highest ever.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Bernadettes in history!