Oh My Gwendolyn

The Absolute Unhinged Joy Of A Cabbage Patch Kid Name

Everyone remembers their Cabbage Patch Kid’s name, but why?

Not everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike or their first sleepover, but absolutely everyone remembers their first Cabbage Patch Kid. And I don’t mean its hair color or what shirt the doll had or even the big plastic shoes that fit their soft, wide feet (although most people do remember those). Everyone — literally everyone — remembers their Cabbage Patch Kid’s name.

I know this because a few months ago, I put out some feelers to see if other people recalled their Cabbage Patch Doll as vividly as I do, and my inbox was immediately flooded. There’s just something about these weird plush babies. They sparked a genuine frenzy when they first hit the Christmas toy market in 1983 (women literally fought each other on Black Friday of that year), and let’s face it, the Cabbage Patch Kid names were absolutely unhinged.

It wasn’t just that monikers like Hilda and Louie were old-fashioned and, in an era of Jessicas, Jennifers and Emilys, sounded quite unusual. It was the magic of the oddball middle names — think Wilhelmina or Delinda — that really set them apart.

Behold, a sampling of the delightful emails I received:

“I had a newborn baby one and his name was Marlon, and my cornsilk hair one was named Mildred Quimby,” Stephanie Rose of Firefly Scout, a resource guide for overwhelmed moms, tells me.
“I had one as a kid named Julie Hetty. I was obsessed with her! I was five years old when the craze hit and I remember going to Target with my mom and being in a mob of people trying to get one and getting scratched by someone. In my sheltered five-year-old life, it was a little traumatizing,” Jenny Simmons, a Houston-area photographer, told me.
“My Cabbage Patch Kid is still in my closet in my childhood home, along with a custom wardrobe my grandmother sewed for her. I received her Christmas 1983. Her name was Comfort Genevieve,” wrote Joy Woodward, an author who writes about numerology.
“I had one named Patricia. I used to strap her to my big wheeler as a kid and go on adventures like we were Huckleberry Finn,” writes Carolina Bonetti, an actor from Los Angeles.
“Jocelyn Imogene. It felt very exotic in the 1980s,” Amy, a mom from Georgia, tells me. “She was a red head with brown eyes and freckles. I think it was one of the last ones available and it was all I wanted for Christmas that year.”

Mildred Quimby. Wade Saul. Leida Molly. Harlen Theodore. They’re all amazing.

Shoppers buying Cabbage Patch Dolls at Hamleys, a London toy store, in December 1983.Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Where Did Cabbage Patch Kids Come From?

Growing up in Georgia, I frequently went to Babyland General Hospital, the Cleveland, Georgia home of the Cabbage Patch kids, where “nurses” walked around with the “newborns.” This magical place was a turn-of-the-century medical clinic renovated by Xavier Roberts, the sculptor and creator of the dolls then known as Little People. (Roberts based his dolls on the work of artist Martha Nelson Thomas and tweaked the look of the dolls just enough to avoid copyright infringement, but later had to pay her an undisclosed settlement.) The dolls were originally sold at craft fairs, where the one-of-a-kind adoption certificates were considered rare and had people jumping at the chance to get their own. Later, Roberts sold the dolls out of Babyland General Hospital before licensing the dolls to toy company Coleco in 1982.

But even when production ramped up to meet the frenzied demand, Babyland General remained an important part of Cabbage Patch lore. According to the company’s official “legend,” a Bunnybee (yes, a little hybrid animal that flies) led child Xavier Roberts to rows and rows of cabbages where a Cabbage Patch Kid named Otis asked him to help them all find homes. And so he did, by opening a “hospital” with an enormous Magic Crystal Tree at its center, surrounded by cabbage heads where a nurse can deliver a baby straight from the leaves. (The new Babyland General Hospital, which opened in 2009, also has a giant tree.)

The box a Cabbage Patch Kid came in, circa 1983.Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

From the beginning, the hospital was open to visitors who wanted to “adopt” their doll in person. (You can still visit it today.) And anyone who was there in person when a baby was born could help in the naming. Ivy Bates, a Texas mom, made her own pilgrimage to Babyland to witness the birth of a Cabbage Patch Baby. “They let one person choose the first name and someone else choose the middle name,” she tells me. “I was selected and proudly named the baby boy Chris — after my crush, the older boy that lived across the street. I’m guessing the person that was chosen after me didn’t hear that I chose Chris and shouted out Fred for the middle name. Chris Fred. My family has never forgotten him.”

Chris Fred!

The original Cabbage Patch Kids — known then as Little People — came with handwritten adoption cards. Though this practice couldn’t keep up with the company’s pace of growth, every doll came with its own birth certificate, initiating in many of us a lifelong love of paperwork. (Apparently, you could apply to change your dolls name if you wanted to. “I had a friend who sent in the paperwork to change the name to Crystal Gale,” Woodward, the numerology writer, told me.)

The company wouldn’t share with me how the names were generated — believe me, I asked — and so we are left to imagine what proprietary technology yielded these gems. A library of baby name books? Census records from the 1890s? A computer the size of a refrigerator designed only to produce perfect combinations?

Original “birth certificates” for The Little People before they were sold as Cabbage Patch Kids.Courtesy of Allison Wilkerson

For a while there, Cabbage Patch Kids were the ultimate gift. Everyone I spoke with wanted their doll desperately — and seemed to appreciate (maybe later) how hard it was for their parents or other loved ones to find them. “I had two — Carita Dina and Carlton Cody,” Heather Wilson, founder of a marketing agency called the Brand Strategy Tank, tells me. “Carita was a little blonde doll with green eyes, and Carlton had brown curly hair and brown eyes. He wrote a little blue suit. My mom and dad had tricked me and gotten my brother and sister some really cool toys and said they got me something and it hadn’t come in yet. I said it was OK, though I was disappointed deep down. Then they pulled out Carita Dina — I was over the moon and jumped up and down. Goodness, I must have just been 5 or 6. I’ll be 47 next week, and that memory still feels fresh.”

A big part of the Cabbage Patch allure was the fact that no two dolls looked exactly alike, and the company seemed to recognize that most children don’t think of themselves as “playing” with a toy — they see themselves as mother or father to that treasured possession. You didn’t just get a doll, you adopted a baby. “I received my first one from Santa in the early ‘80s when I was about 2 and I kept the name she was given on the birth certificate — Candace Ethel,” wrote Nicole Philips, director of social media at jewelry brand Awe Inspired. “I still have her. I pull her out of my hope chest when I need comfort. Her hair has a certain smell and it brings me back to being a kid and squeezing her tight at night. I turn 40 in a few weeks and I can vividly remember her being part of my childhood, the scenarios we'd make up, the personality I gave her.”

As much as I loved hearing the names, I loved hearing people’s Cabbage Patch Kid memories even more. Of neighborhood walks and how their dolls went everywhere with them; how nearly everyone had given away most of their childhood toys, but still held on tight to little Bernice Yvonne and Sheldon Rex.

Those are memories — and names — your brain doesn’t give up so easily.

A 1983 Cabbage Patch Doll.Bryn Colton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Cabbage Patch Doll Names

Here’s a list of all the names I encountered in my reporting for this story; every one of these was remembered by the person who had their own Cabbage Patch Kid. Some no doubt remember the name because they so desperately wanted the doll; others because it was unlike anything they had ever heard before (looking at you, Erna Luna):

  • Wilhelmina Tilly
  • Heather Ursula
  • Alexander Emil
  • Laura Billie
  • Joyce Hilda
  • Meggy Lila
  • Claire Louise
  • Mara Meggie
  • Erika Melissa (“Her birthday was September 1.”)
  • Erna Luna
  • Blythe Mia
  • Abby Lori
  • Peggy Gretchen
  • Meredith Pearly
  • Louie Mal
  • Nicholas Alexander
  • Virginia Sharon
  • Aurora Lina
  • Bianca Tara
  • Sheldon Rex
  • Amos Louie
  • Emil Geoff
  • Bernice Yvonne
  • Eva Delinda
  • Sissy Kacie
  • Cornelia Wilona
  • Alexandra Leah