Bobbie Wayne's Blog
What's in a name?
Roberta is my legal name. My Long Island playmates, whose families hailed from Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx pronounced it, "Ruh-BUR-duh." By Junior High, I answered only to "Bobbie." Cute, American-sounding, unlike my gloomy Teutonic given name, "Bobbie" is a better fit. I wondered if bouncy, two-syllable female names ending in a long E sound inspire the owner to become energetic, witty, and persuasive, so I selected another name, "Dolly," to explore.
Two First Ladies immediately came to mind: Dolley Madison and Dolly Parton. Both are beloved for their graciousness and intelligence which served them well in the male-dominated worlds of 19th c. American politics and the 20th c. Nashville singer/songwriter world. Both women worked within sexist cultures to attain their goals. Dolley Madison's brilliant salons and ladies' gatherings were sources for political information helpful to her husband, James Madison, our fourth president. She managed to turn their chilly, drab house into a handsome residence for the American Head of State, filling the upstairs with relatives and their families.
Dolly Parton, First Lady of Country Music, made her singer/songwriter debut in 1967. She paired with powerful and popular singer Porter Wagner for years while her career blossomed, peaking in the late 1980's. Known for her witty, bubbling personality and steel-trap mind, Dolly tolerated sexist references to her large breasts and big blonde wigs. Rather than acting hurt, Dolly made those features her trademarks; even exaggerating them to draw greater attention.
Feisty Dolley Madison got things done through grit and charm, suing her former brother-in-law over her inheritance in a time when women couldn't own property. In 1814 with the imminent arrival of British troops bent on destruction of the Executive mansion, Dolley single-handedly saved many of the cabinet's papers, the large portrait of George Washington and her favorite red velvet curtains, leaving behind her personal possessions, barely escaping in time.
Dolly Parton runs both the Dollywood Company and the Dollywood Foundation. She runs literacy, education and poverty programs in East Tennessee, raising funds for the Red Cross, HIV/AIDS, and contributed one million dollars to develop Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine. Everyone who knows her claims her heart and her smile are her largest features.
After the War of 1812, Dolley Madison was responsible for founding the Washington Female Orphan Asylum. It was said that even those who disliked her husband's politics loved this kindly, accomplished woman.
"What's in a name?" the Poet asks. I wonder if either woman would have had the same personality had their names been long and hard for people to say correctly. Of course, in the 21st c. in 2023, things have changed. Even our pronouns are different. Maybe who we are has finally become more important than what others call us. These days, it is the fashion to name girl babies with what used to be thought of as surnames: Addison, Ashley, Madison, Reagon, McKenzie… I suppose all of those kids so named will turn out just fine; just look at Taylor Swift.
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