By Sandra Strieby
Some 20 women named Susan or a variation thereof gathered near Winthrop last Tuesday evening (June 27), braving mosquitoes and a smattering of raindrops to visit and enjoy a potluck feast while songs that feature their names played in the background.
Billed as the Second “Annual” Susan Party, the event actually follows the first convocation by a decade. With little in common except their names — and of course their affiliation with the Methow Valley — the attendees found no difficulty in filling a long summer evening with pleasant conversation.
Participants sported a variety of cognomens — Susan and Suzan, Susie and Sue, Suellen, Suzanne, and Jamie Sue. And they were a heterogeneous bunch, including southpaws, women who can SCUBA dive, adventurers who have visited the Everglades or traveled north of the Arctic Circle, and one who broke off with an early sweetheart after he greeted her by playing “Run Around Sue” on his guitar while his friends looked on.
The guests ranged in age from early 40s to early 80s, with a preponderance 60 and older. That distribution is aligned with the period during which the name Susan enjoyed its peak of popularity in the U.S., roughly from 1940 until the early 1970s. From 1956-1961 were the name’s top years in the U.S., according to the Social Security Administration. The name consistently ranked 2nd or 3rd during that period, with roughly 1.5-2% of girls born in each of those years named Susan.
The moniker remained relatively popular for several decades following its glory days, ranking 8th among names for newborn females in the 1990 census.
It’s not surprising that all attending the Susan party were women. Although the Johnny Cash novelty song “A Boy Named Sue” might suggest otherwise, Susan is almost exclusively a female name. While some web sites state that a very small percentage of Susans are men, a quick search turned up no examples, although a male judge named Sue K. Hicks practiced in Tennessee in the mid-20th century.
Why would 20 people gather on the basis of name alone? “It’s whimsical, it makes people smile, and it brings people together,” said Susan Speir. “How could you not come?”
As the evening wound down, hostess and organizer Susan Snover summed up: “It was fun. They’re all Susans. What would you expect?”
There are currently about 45 names on the Methow Valley Susan mailing list — roughly 0.7% of the valley’s full-time population. If you’d like to have your name added to the roster and be invited to the next gathering, email Snover at firstname.lastname@example.org.