Jessie sounds good to me, as :
“Jessie” as a derivative for a female version of “John” was actually a peculiarly Irish tradition at that time, and was generally ditched once a person reached maturity. Given that she was brought up at least partly by Russian aristocrats then Ivana, Ivanka, or Iva, would have been their most likely equivalent. If you stick with “Jeanne/Jessie” then it really needs a back story as to why she uses it, especially when globe-trotting.
That baby-names site linked to by “Syl” looks completely wrong, even for the USA. I think what they’ve done is added up all the registered births involving “Janes”, “Janets”, “Jeannes”, “Jeanettes” etc (all of which later could be shortened to “Jessie” as a pet name) and decided therefore that up to 6,000 per million girls answered to Jessie in the late 1800s. Really bad historical research on their part! It would be many decades before the name Jessie lost its negative connotations for girls and became a choice in its own right. By all means stick with it - but be aware that the poor girl would have had to constantly explain why she stuck with it every time she met someone new. If you have people just “accepting it” without comment then you lose historical accuracy. However (though I am not recommending it) had she been called “Willie” at the time it wouldn’t have raised any curiosity whatsoever - as short for Wilhemina it was very popular amongst white Americans in the 19th century.
I wondered about Francis, which in late 19th century England/America was both a male and female name, to I think about the same degree of popularity. So she could freely use Francis as herself or when in disguise as a man, and so she wouldn’t have to worry about a different name on a passport etc. Also in its French form as François (male) or Françoise (female) it was readily acceptable as a common French name and generally understood to be a direct equivalent of the English, Francis. If she needs to shorten it, Frank or Franky was the common short male form in English, while Fran was a short female form (as was Fanny, although I expect Fanny might not be so acceptable today, although my grandmother, born in 1886, was baptised Fanny rather than Francis and has Fanny on her birth certificate too, though she was usually known as Fran). The short form Frank, as Franky or Frankie, would probably be just about acceptable for a woman’s name too, particularly as a familial tomboyish nickname (and seeing as she’s a gun-toting, Navaho-speaking, ninja, does it matter if she chooses to adopt a rather incongruously boyish moniker?). Also if using Francis, then in French, as François(e), it is just the final ‘e’ that clearly indicates the gender … which again is handy should she need to imply that a doccument applies to a different gender, ie if a note is signed Francois everyone would immediately assume it was written by a man - but add an ‘e’ and the author would be assumed to be female, and visa versa.
Ok, so let’s forget about Jessie.
I think I was wrong from the beginning. The very first criteria is that names sound cool to contemporary readers. The second criteria is that they are historically correct.
So I think she needs those names:
The official one : given by her parents, an east coast American and the daughter of Russian exiles, both very francophile. Hence my initial choice: Jeanne Bennett. I think Françoise doesn’t sound good to contemporary French ears.
Familial nicknames (thanks MM), also given by her parents/grandparents. There can be up to 3 of them: tomboyish by the father, Russian by the grandparents (long diminutive :-), whatever by the mother (Josie?).
Fake English given and family names she’s chosen after she ran away, to use in the US and Mexico. Must be unisex if possible, quite common (as to not drawing attention) and quite different from 1 and 2 (so that her father cannot find her). Could be Francis, the issue being that Francis is also a male-only name in France, so French readers will be a bit puzzled.
Fake French given and family name shes uses in France. Must be unisex if possible, quite common (as to not drawing attention) and quite different from 1 and 2 (so that her father cannot find her).
An Indian name (Indian nation to be sorted out, my guess from what I know about latest Indian wars: Apache)
“Jo” works better - in French it could be understood as short for Josephine
Ok - my case for “Josie” based on the above criteria:
- Josifa/Josephine (Russian and American equivalents of the same name).
- Josi/Josie/Josipa (children’s familial names when christened as above)
- Josie/Pepita (shortened or petname versions as would be accepted in USA and Mexico, the latter probably being enough to throw her dad off the scent)
- Josi/Josée (hardly attention drawing as it would be assumed to be short for Josephine) but if she wants to be completely radical she could go for Peta/Perette - (see 5 below)
- Peta - native American name meaning “golden eagle” from the Black Foot Nation. Can be construed in France 1900 to be a colloquial form of Perette or Per.
Since “Jessie” must be discarded, here are my thoughts:
- Official names : Josephine Natalia Bennett
- Familial nicknames: Father -> Joss?, Mother -> Josie, Grandparents -> Natasha, Taliusha, Tasha
- Fictitious English names: Eddie/Johnnie/Jimmie/Bennie? Brown
- Fictitious French names: Jean/Jeanne/Louis/Louise? Martin
- Native American name: to be defined