Growing up I was not a fan of my first name. Amy always came across to me as a preppy, popular, cheerleader name. At least, that was my perspective. As the second most popular name of the 1970s, I also felt like it was a ‘young’ name. It wasn’t until I was in high school and learned about poetess Amy Lowell (1874-1925), that I realized I had jumped to a conclusion about the name solely based on my own encounters.
I decided to do a bit of digging and learn something about Amys pictured in our digital collection. These ladies were born between 1877 and 1913, long before the name had its heyday. They lived decidedly interesting lives. Here are their stories:
Amy Acock, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Acock, English immigrants, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in October 1877. Miss Acock was a graduate of Franklin College, Franklin, Indiana. Her first career was as a teacher in her home city. However, about 1909, Acock took on a slightly different calling. She began work as a Baptist missionary that year. She would spend the next thirty years or so spending large amounts of time teaching and doing mission work in Japan. While researching Miss Acock, a number of passport and related materials, passenger lists, and other travel notations abound. In addition, there are many newspaper articles about her life and the work she did. Once she returned to the United States full-time, she seems to have made her permanent home in Los Angeles County, California, until her death in the mid-1960s.
Amy Spencer was born to Harvey and Martha Spencer, in Logansport, Indiana in November 1910. After graduation from Logansport High School, Miss Spencer attended St. Anthony’s Nurses Training School in Terre Haute, completing the program in 1932. She married Dr. James F. Reilly in 1934, and they initially made their home in Vincennes, Indiana. After Dr. Reilly served as a physician in the U.S. Army, the Reillys made their home in Vincennes, where he opened a general practice office. Mrs. Amy Reilly worked in her husband’s practice for a time. However, after his death, she took a position as the student health nurse at Vincennes University. Amy (Spencer) Reilly passed away in the early 1980s.
Amy (Harris) Robinson was born to Harry and Ophelia Harris in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1913. She graduated from Crispus Attucks High School in 1933 and immediately began course work toward becoming a Lawyer. Unfortunately, due to the Great Depression, she soon ran out of funds and had to enter the workforce. Amy Harris married Luther Robinson and they had one daughter. About the time this photograph was taken, Amy Robinson was listed in the city directory as an inspector for International Harvester. Given her attire in this photograph, I did some research and found that women dressed as such at that time in a Black congregation were not necessarily nurses in the traditional sense, instead being there to support the Pastor and the church. As news articles report, Amy Robinson took night classes at Indiana Central College, graduating at age 53 in 1968. She went on to become a teacher. She graduated with a master’s degree from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis in 1976 at age 61. Amy Robinson also participated in the Senior Olympics with much success in her mid-60s. She was also a political and community activist, and so much more. She passed away in the mid-00s at age 92.
Clearly, my perception of the name Amy was off base. These were all educated women of substance who lived interesting lives. Amy was not the ‘young’ name I thought it was, being bestowed to them in 1877, 1910 and 1913, respectively.
Whether you like your name or not, your perception may be skewed based on your own interactions. Whatever your name, have a look through our digital collections (https://images.indianahistory.org/) for those who share it and do your own deep dive on their, likely, interesting lives!