Doris Deml and Doris Brix looking at newspaper article about The Doris Group.
Many of the baby girls born today have names like Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia, Ava or Lily. They are some of this year’s most popular names for girls. There aren’t many babies named Doris today, but in the 1920s, the name’s popularity was at its peak. On a list of top names given to baby girls from 1920-1929, Doris came in at #8—after Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Betty, Margaret, Ruth and Virginia. There were 151,178 baby girls given the name Doris during that decade, according to the Social Security Administration.
The official website of the U.S. Social Security Administration lists top names given to baby boys and girls in different decades. From 1910-1919, Doris came in at #32 (53,244 baby girls were named Doris). In the 1930s, it was listed #13, in the 1940s, #44, and in the 1950s, Doris was #100 on the top names’ list. The name continued to lose popularity, and from 1960-1969, just 18,182 girls were named Doris, moving it to the #192 spot on the list.
In 1995, several Doris’ living in the Storden area, southeast of Marshall, decided to start a club to celebrate their name, which means “gift of God.” The Doris Group was formed that year for anyone with the first name of Doris. There were no other requirements for members. Their plan for the group was to meet twice a year, each fall and spring, at different locations around the state to enjoy some food and friendship. The gatherings would include some form of entertainment as well.
The Marshall Independent published a front-page story featuring the Doris Group in April 2001. At that time, the group had about 100 members, including a 5 year old, Doris Margaret, known as Maggie. At their meeting in Minneota that spring, Minnesota author Bill Holm spoke to the group. Holm, who was born in Minneota, told the crowd of Doris’ that people with the same name have a connection and a reason to talk.
Sometime in the past decade, the name changed to the Doris Club, and the group added members, more than doubling in size. Doris Deml, of St. Cloud, was working in Alexandria in 2001 when she first heard about the group. “The Scandinavian shop there was owned by Doris Miller, and I used to shop there a lot,” said Deml. “She told me about the Doris Club and said ‘You have to come,’ so I went to my first meeting at the Country Kitchen in Alexandria that year.” They also toured an area winery.
Deml has gone to a few gatherings since joining, and she also recruited a neighbor to the group. Deml met Doris Brix at a neighborhood picnic a few years ago. “She introduced me to the Doris Club, and I was so thrilled,” said Brix, who remembers going to Greenwald for her first Doris Club event four years ago. Brix said she has also attended Braham Pie Day with the group, and both Brix and Deml went to Paynesville a couple of years ago where they ate at the Queen Bees Bar and Grill and toured the historical museum. Last fall, the two women traveled to a synagogue in St. Paul for the Doris event, which was hosted by Doris Rubenstein.
“The rabbi came and talked to all of us about the Jewish religion,” Deml said. They learned that they have both Friday night and Saturday services. They got a tour of the synagogue and then they ate a kosher meal, which included noodle pudding, chicken, fruit, vegetables, bread and cookies. “The oldest member of the Doris Club came,” said Deml. “ She’s 97 and still lives in her own home in Willmar.”
“We have a lot of fun,” Brix said with a laugh. “Someone will say, ‘Hi Doris,’ and everyone turns and looks around wondering – who is talking to me?” Door prizes are given out and a group picture is taken. Both women have items with their name on it, like a refrigerator magnet or, in Brix’s case, a custom fleece jacket with the Doris Club printed on it. “You feel an immediate connection when you meet another Doris,” said Deml. Their names tie them together, but they have more in common than just that.
Most of the members are from Minnesota, although some are from neighboring states– North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. “There are 296 members,” said Deml, “ and (actress and singer) Doris Day is an honorary member.”
The group meets once a year now, usually in the fall. Each year, someone volunteers to plan the event and that person is responsible for mailing or emailing information on when and where the group will meet. There is a small cost, depending on the event.
Deml grew up in the Owatonna area. “I was named Doris because my dad liked the name,” she said. “There were some older neighborhood girls named Doris. I never minded my name, but I did get called Delores a lot.” When she went to high school in Ellendale, she was the only Doris in her class.
Brix grew up in the Luxemburg area. Some family members wanted her to be named Dorothy so her mother compromised with Doris. She attended Cathedral High School in St. Cloud and was the only Doris in her class, too. Brix thinks that is a bit surprising because she had a large graduating class.
Members of the Doris Club met in St. Paul last year.
Members of the Doris Club often talk about the future of their name and whether or not they think the name will make a comeback. Brix is uncertain about the name’s future. “I can’t imagine Doris making a comeback,” she said, but my mother’s name was Eleanor– Ella, and that name has gotten so popular now. You never know. Never say never!” Deml offered her opinion on why the name hasn’t regained popularity. “It doesn’t have a nice ring to it.”
Brix has heard of a Betty group, similar to the Doris Club, which was featured on a Sunday morning show recently. Other than that one group, Brix and Deml were not aware of any other groups that have formed based on a first name.
Neither Doris has received information about the fall Doris event yet, but any Doris who is interested in joining the Doris Club or in receiving more information, can contact Deml at 320-267-9144.