Emily, Emilie–Why the Change?

Do you have a nickname? Do you remember when you acquired it?

Barbara wrote in last week after receiving her copy of Happy Landings: Emilie Loring’s Life, Writing, and Wisdom:

I got my book and have read through Emilie’s marriage to Victor Loring. I learned that she was called Bess, Bessie, and Betty as a little girl and that her given name is Maria? Emily. So where did Emil-ie come from! I know! I will keep reading and no doubt find out, but it struck me as I read the first part of your amazing book!

As it happens, I skirted this issue in the book–Emily vs. Emilie–because the answer is unclear. The situation is familiar, though.

My given name is Patricia, but my parents called me Patty–and spelled it that way–until I was baptized. My godmother’s name was Patti, and from then on, my name was spelled Patti, too. (Every now and then, someone spells my name Pattie or another creative way, but that’s on them.) At home, and nowhere else, I was Trish.

A long time ago, I chose to go by “Dr. Patti Bender” at the university, because it sounded more approachable, and I wanted to be that with my students. Decades later, I chose to continue with “Patti Bender” as an author, but I sure considered other options. Why, I could have chosen an entirely new pseudonym! The possibilities were intoxicating. Emilie Loring had similar choices.

At birth, Emilie was named Maria Emily Baker. In the 1870 Federal Census, she was listed for the first time: “Maria,” age three.

1870 US Federal Census

There were two “Emilys” in the house, she and her mother, Emily Frances Baker, and you might imagine that to be the reason that our Emilie was called by her first name, “Maria.” But there were two Rachaels in the house, also, Emilie’s sister and their grandmother, and both are listed as “Racheal.”

Five years later, a newspaper article described a neighborhood carnival organized by “Bessie Baker.” This was her nickname, used with family and friends, but when an official record was made–the census or registration for school–she used her birth names, abbreviated to “M. Emily.”

Occasionally, a newspaper report would take license with both spelling and order, calling her “Emilie M. Baker” or “E. M. Baker.” I don’t have examples of Emilie or her family doing this. If you’ve had your name misspelled by another, you’ll probably agree that the occasion wouldn’t be a reason to change your name’s spelling permanently.

1880 Census

“Emilie” is the French spelling of Emily, and it would be lovely if she adopted this spelling on her one trip to Paris, a romantic choice. Perhaps she did. Her name is obscured on the passenger list, but it’s clear that she didn’t use a name beginning with “M,” as the other examples of that letter on the page dipped below the line. She had to have used Emilie/Emily on board, which, judging by the space allowed, was recorded simply as “E. Baker.” When they landed, the newspaper listed her under “Arrivals” as “Emilie M. Baker”

Miss E. Baker; Mr. R. M. ” [her brother]

Fast forward to the announcement of her engagement to Victor: “Bessie Baker.” But in the Bible given to the couple as a wedding present from Victor’s mother? “M. Emily.” The more formal name was also used on their son Selden’s birth certificate: “M. Emily Loring.”

Once she was married, Emilie used “Baker” as her middle name, and she appeared as “Emily B. Loring” in the 1900 and 1910 censuses:

Between 1910 and 1920, she began to write professionally, first as “Josephine Story,” then as “Emilie Baker Loring,” and finally, as “Emilie Loring.” From this time on, her public and professional name was fixed clearly as “Emilie.” Why that spelling? Why, indeed. To be different, to enjoy the feminine flair of the French spelling, because of something she read or heard that I haven’t unearthed yet?

Quick update: Emilie’s great-granddaughter Mary commented below about her sister Emilie: “We were always told that the spelling of her name was from our great grandmother and was the French pronunciation.” And what is her sister Emilie’s middle name? Josephine.


Her family, of course, still knew her as “Bess” or “Bessie,” and those closest to her called her “Betty,” as Victor did. When they first became friends, Emilie signed her letters to Clara Endicott Sears as “Emilie Loring.” When they had been friends for decades, she signed, “Betty Loring.”

She put a lot of creativity into this signature!

Emilie used a series of names in her lifetime, each for a different purpose and audience.

Maria Emily
Mrs. Victor Loring 
Josephine Story
Emilie Loring

My take is that her given spelling, Emily, honored her mother, and that was enough. Emilie represented what she earned for herself, what she chose for herself.

The details of that choice are likely to remain a little smudgy. I hope there was at least a little romance involved.

An Emilie Loring home movie!

I am beginning to set travel dates and author events. My presentations will include photos that didn’t make it into the book and a 1920s home movie of her, too! If you’re close, I hope you’ll stop by and introduce yourself.

March 14th: Official release date, Happy Landings: Emilie Loring’s Life, Writing, and Wisdom. Pre-Order now and beat the rush!

April 11th: The Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, Kansas

May 16th: Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts

July 27: Blue Hill Public Library, Blue Hill, Maine

Happy Landings, everyone!

Where shall I go next?

16 thoughts on “Emily, Emilie–Why the Change?

  1. I’ve had several-Mom yelled “Vicki Lea” when I was in trouble. Friends called me “Vicks.” Sisters called me “Ugly or Ug.” “Mom” for a while. “Beautiful” from Handsome. And most recently, “VB”-from my granddaughter. Loving the book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love how her name changes over time. Sometimes names are so specific to family members that even though we are christened with something, another name arises. I was born Katie Lyn (B)[surname] but I have been called Katie, Kate, and one lady, determined I was named after her, Katherine. I was not. When I started my current profession 6 years ago, I was nicknamed “K” because the chef couldn’t remember to call me Katie. (another coworker, Lily, was dubbed “L”). Flash forward and everyone calls me Kay at work, and I’ve stopped correcting them that it’s just K the letter. At home I’m Katie, or Kate. My head bosses call me Katie Lyn. I’ve had my name squooshed together, or they can’t remember the Lyn. I’ve found, people will call you what they want to call you. Not what you go in with. The real test is not letting it bother you. I just joke, I go by “Hey you!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nicknames can be more special than given names, when they arise naturally within a relationship, whether at work or home. In graduate school, I was “Patti Mac,” and it always felt like acceptance to be called that in the lab. I suppose the best thing is to know what name you are to yourself.


  3. Thank you for the story about Emilie’s name Yes, as a francophone, I have been aware of the spelling of her name being the French spelling. I had wondered if there was some influence from the Acadian French population of New England near Canada that had influenced her. But perhaps her trip to Paris did so, as you wrote. The story is indeed complicated as you demonstrated. [I read War and Peace–just once! The switching between full names and diminutives was very confusing.]

    My first thought upon reading the story was the verse from Beatles’ “Rocky Racoon.” “Her name was Magill. She called herself Lil, but every one knew her as Nancy.” Ha!

    And I felt bad about switching between the formal name “Margaret” and the nickname “Peggy.” [Truth: I was named Peggy at birth. I wanted a business card name, so I changed my legal first name to Margaret in my late 20s. I don’t think Mom was too happy about that. I didn’t think I was out of line as Peggy is a known nickname for Margaret. Every one who knows me calls me Peggy. Besides Marguerite could be appropriately pronounced in French.]

    Happy Landings and safe travels on your book tour!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am a member of the DAR and was intrigued years ago when Emilie said Prudence Schuyler was a DAR and her brother David a Cincinnati. The Society of the Cincinnati are descendants of officers who served with George Washington, the society was founded soon after the Revolution and as I understand it, only one descendant of the founding can be a member at a time.
    I searched for Emilie in the member index and couldn’t find her. I entered too much information, I searched for her with Baker and Loring, as well as with her given name and middle name as Emilie and found nothing. After reading this thread, I went back and searched for just Loring and found her! In case anyone is interested; she joined as M Emily Loring. I’ve taken the genealogy classes offered by DAR and used to be in the index a lot because I was on a committee to help people join. Something interesting to me as a member of DAR is Emilie is the only person who has joined DAR through the service of her patriot ancestor Nathaniel Shaw. Just looking at what is available in the member database, I can tell that the genealogy needs to be brought up to current standards (that means more information is required now than what DAR required back when Emilie joined.) If anyone in the family is interested, I’m available to help.


    1. I need to clarify, only one descendant of a founding member of the Cincinnati is a member at a time, DAR accepts as many descendants of patriots as can document their lineage back to someone who supported the cause of American Independence, that can be military, patriotic, or civil service. One of my ancestors had his cattle stolen and after the war applied to be reimbursed and that makes me eligible to document my line back to him. He’s not my only patriot ancestor but I love the story. The one I’m most proud of the effort was a member of the Society of Friends who paid a supply tax that supported the war effort, so he’s a patriot ancestor too!


      1. My daughter joined the DAR on the record of one of her father’s patriot ancestors. As do many of us with roots that go back to the 1600s in North America, I have both Mayflower and Patriot ancestors. The book has taken all of my time these past years, but when things quiet down, I have some genealogical projects to complete. To bring this back to Emilie Loring, her ancestors and mine were in the same community of Dorchester, Massachusetts in the 1600s. I’ll have to get a map and see how close we lived to one another.


    2. Thank you, Leslie, for your offer of assistance. Emilie had several ancestors on whose records she might have applied. I’ll pass along your offer to the family. In a small coincidence, I recently scheduled an author talk with the DAR chapter in Edmond, Oklahoma.


  5. Josephine Story? Interesting. Our sister, Emilie Loring Lairson has the middle name, Josephine. We were always told that the spelling of her name was from our great grandmother and was the French pronunciation. Nowadays you only see the name spelled Emily. Our grandmother from
    Our mother’s family was Josefa Apodaca, so we always assumed our sister, Emilie, received her middle name from that side of the family. What an interesting thought that possibly our sister was completely named after our great grandmother.


    1. It seems likely, doesn’t it? Your dad was so fond of his grandmother, and she of him. Stay alert as you read her biography; you may find more connections that you didn’t know about!


  6. My name is Raquel but my Grandma called me Raquelita which is small Raquel and then my nickname became Raqui. The evolution of names is so interesting as I can see from Emilie Loring. Love and thanks for the information, Raqui


  7. How exciting as you begin your in person tour. Wish I was in Blue Hill, Maine as Ed and I used to be and see you there. However, You are invited to visit me in LA with a guest room to stay. Love and HAPPY Travels, Raqui


  8. Patti —

    I love a good mystery! Thank you for sharing what you found about Maria-Emily-Bess-Bessie-Betty-Mrs. Victor Loring-Mother-Josephine Story-Emilie Loring. A woman with the varied amount of talents she possessed needed at least that many names!!!



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