In 2010, 5 American girls were given the name Hester.
I think of Hester as the sweet, demure cousin of the formidable Esther. Perhaps that characterization comes from Hester Gray, the L.M. Montgomery character, or from Lee Scoresby's tender daemon in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Whatever the reason, Hester strikes me as lovely and soft, like a whisper.
Yet, the two most famous pop-culture Hesters are no shrinking violets. One is Hester Prynne, protagonist of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and the other is "Hester the Molester" from John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany.
When I have seen this name discussed on baby name boards, it seems that most people think that these two associations render Hester untouchable. I don't agree. While having a name that rhymes with "molester" is potentially unfortunate, it doesn't seem to be hurting the equally rhyming Esther, which is currently #267 nationally. The other objection — that Hester Prynne was a slut — makes me a little sad for all the 10th-grade English teachers out there whose labors have obviously gone to waste.