About Names: Gentle “Mildred” waits, patiently, for revival

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 8th column, he looks at the history of the name Mildred.

Will you see Mildred’s billboards? “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a dark comedy in which Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, who erects billboards blaming a local sheriff for not solving her daughter’s murder, opens Friday.

In the seventh century, King Merewald and Queen Ermenburg of Mercia in England had three daughters: Mildred (“gentle strength”), Mildburg (“gentle fortress”), and Mildith (“gentle battle”). All became abbesses and were proclaimed saints. Mildith was least famous. Her name died out in England by 1350. Mildburg, said to have miraculous healing powers, lived in Shropshire. Her name became Milbrough there. Brought to America in Colonial times, it shifted to Milbrey. Though very rare, Milbreys are still found in North Carolina and Tennessee.

When Social Security’s yearly names lists started in 1880, Mildred ranked 121st. “Mildred Keith” rocketed it upward. Mildred peaked at sixth between 1912 and 1920.

Though Joan Crawford won a best actress Oscar in 1945 for the title character in “Mildred Pierce,” this tale of a wealthy restaurateur who spoils her murderous daughter didn’t help the name’s popularity. Mildred dropped below the top thousand in 1985.

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