Hurricanes Used To Be Named Only After Women — Here’s Why That Changed

by Amanda Brohman

Irma, Sandy, Katrina and Camille. It’s hard to say if we are talking about a new, all-female pop band or a list of some of the most well-known hurricanes, past and present. Sadly, I have to say it’s the latter (I think we can all agree that a new a female pop band would have been be a lot more fun than a bunch of hurricanes.)

And as Maria is about to strike our shores, we are more than ready to dig into the history of the naming of hurricanes, and why so many of them seem to have been female.

It all started during World War II, when American (male) meteorologists working for the U.S Air Force and the Navy started to name predicted hurricanes after their wives and girlfriends, as a form of tribute only a patriarchy could justify as being a tribute. Because what woman would actually feel flattered by having a devastating, in many cases deadly and life-ruining, natural disaster named after her? It wouldn’t be the top item on my Christmas wish list, at least. By 1953, the National Weather Bureau — now known as the National Weather Service — had embraced this idea, and new hurricanes were given women’s names only. And since many countries looked to the U.S. for new weather technology ideas, there were soon a a ton of female-named hurricanes sweeping away everything in their way all across the globe.

This naming system for hurricanes went on for quite some time — until one fierce feminist, Roxcy Bolton, followed by more feminists during the 1960s, got fed up with this sexist system of naming hurricanes after women. Bolton was involved in the Miami chapter of the National Organization For Women (NOW) and did a ton of amazing things for women during her lifetime of activism, including opening up rape crisis centers, women’s shelters, achieving maternity leave for female flight attendant,s and ending the policy of “men only” dining-rooms (!) in restaurants in Florida.


roxcy bolton bust florida libr 091917 state archives of floridaRoxy Bolton (State Archives of Florida)


“Women are not disasters, destroying life and communities and leaving a lasting and devastating effect,” Bolton told the National Weather Service at the time. Instead, she suggested that they’d be named after Senators, who seem to have, she said, “delight in having things named after them.” And after a pledge from NOW to the National Weather Service, hurricanes officially started to be named after both men and women in 1979.

So, where are we in 2017? Well, thanks to Bolton and NOW, amongst all the her-icanes sweeping across our borders, are a whole slew of him-icanes as well. Even though the female named hurricanes still outnumber the ones named after men, with 12 predicted her-icanes and only 8 predicted him-icanes this year, we are slowly (or should we say “hurriedly”?) getting more equal.

Top Photo: Screenshot of Hurricane Irma via ABC News

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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