E is for Esther

There was a woman in my church named Esther who recently moved from the United States to Japan to be closer to her husband. So it got me thinking about women named Esther.


The first one that came to mind was Esther Williams. The swimmer and actress turned 88 this month. According to the Wikipedia, “She was National AAU champion in the 100 meter freestyle. She planned to compete in the 1940 Summer Olympics but they were canceled to the outbreak of World War II.” Her movies became just an excuse for elaborately choreographed swim scenes, as explained in a clip from the 1994 movie That’s Entertainment. Here’s her appearance on an American game show of the 1950s,What’s My Line. As I’ve noted before, she and Ricardo Montalban were the first to popularize the classic tune “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

Esther Rolle was an American actress best known for playing the character Florida Evans on two programs produced by Norman Lear of All in the Family and Sanford and Son fame, Maude and Good Times. On Maude, she played a maid. Her playing the stereotypical black role made some people nervous and/or upset, but Maude was not your standard fare. In this clip, white liberal Maude hires a new housekeeper…” and from the moment she walks through the front door, Maude is determined to make her feel like an equal. However, her attempts lead Florida to decide to quit.”

In 1974, Ms. Rolle starred in her own show, Good Times; it was a spinoff of a spinoff, since the Maude character had first shown up in All in the Family. Florida and her husband James (John Amos) raised their three children in an inner-city high rise apartment building. Here are clips from Good Times: Season One. In this clip, youngest son Michael gets suspended after insisting George Washington was a racist.

Esther Rolle died in 1998.


Above is a fresco of “Queen Esther” from 1450 by Italian artist Andrea Del Castagno. You can read about the Biblical character here, and commentary here. Her actions brought about the Jewish holiday of Purim. The interesting thing about the Book of Esther is that God is never specifically mentioned.

There was a play at my former church a couple decades ago, and I got to play the evil Haman.

I always thought of Esther as an old-fashioned name, but as this list from Social Security Administration, the appellation, which means star, among other things, has never ranked below #350 in the list of most popular baby girl names in the United States since records started being kept back in in 1880.

Popularity of the female name Esther: Year of birth/ Rank
2008 274 (1,235 babies)
2007 275
2006 290
2005 281
2004 297
2003 289
2002 300
2001 300
2000 330
1999 319
1998 323
1997 319
1996 320
1995 308
1994 289
1993 301
1992 300
1991 301
1990 285
1989 290
1988 277
1987 288
1986 288
1985 289
1984 272
1983 274
1982 267
1981 273
1980 297
1979 315
1978 321
1977 311
1976 336
1975 320
1974 315
1973 312
1972 333
1971 332
1970 348 (724 babies)
1969 337
1968 322
1967 314
1966 290
1965 280
1964 286
1963 263
1962 252
1961 238
1960 234
1959 232
1958 227
1957 217
1956 209
1955 201
1954 193
1953 192
1952 180
1951 169
1950 162
1949 162
1948 155
1947 162
1946 151
1945 160
1944 152
1943 152
1942 143
1941 138
1940 131
1939 117
1938 120
1937 116
1936 107 (2,252 babies)
1935 94
1934 91
1933 88
1932 82
1931 79
1930 77
1929 71
1928 66
1927 64
1926 62
1925 56
1924 51
1923 47
1922 44
1921 42
1920 39
1919 38
1918 38
1917 38
1916 34
1915 33
1914 35
1913 32 (4,088 babies)
1912 33
1911 34
1910 38
1909 37
1908 36
1907 37
1906 33
1905 34
1904 32
1903 34
1902 35
1901 33
1900 39
1899 29
1898 31
1897 28
1896 27
1895 31
1894 36
1893 39
1892 67
1891 66
1890 75
1889 75
1888 77
1887 79
1886 85
1885 92
1884 99
1883 99
1882 97
1881 105
1880 104 (198 babies)

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