Blue Stockings
March 21, 2008 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Brilliant Women: The Blue Stocking Circle was a group of intellectuals with a strong desire to discuss, analyze, and examine the social, political, and educational problems of the day Mostly female intellectuals, but they included many prominent men as well. They assembled in the London homes of literary hostesses such as Elizabeth Montagu, Frances Boscawen and Elizabeth Vesey in the 1750s form the nucleus of the exhibition. .... At first, all the party-goers were nicknamed blues, but from the 1770s, the "bluestocking" tag was applied to the women members in particular. By the time of Montagu's death in 1800, any female intellectual might be labelled a bluestocking, whether or not she could claim a link to the original circle.
posted by caddis (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
There are some varyingly relevant links in this thread, most relevantly to The Bluestocking Archive, hosted at UMass Boston.
posted by lumensimus at 8:37 PM on March 21, 2008

I can remember thinking of my girlfriend in the mid 80s as being a bluestocking... she was at Cambridge while I was in The Other Place. It was a bit of a turn on, actually. I think (unrelatedly) she actually had some blue stockings, too.
posted by unSane at 8:43 PM on March 21, 2008

Portraits of and articles about the Bluestockings in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
posted by nev at 9:02 PM on March 21, 2008

Oooh. Thank you. *bookmarks*
posted by jokeefe at 9:08 PM on March 21, 2008

Blue-stocking: orig. one who frequented Mrs. Montague's ‘Blue Stocking’ assemblies; thence transferred sneeringly to any woman showing a taste for learning, a literary lady. (Much used by reviewers of the first quarter of the 19th c.; but now, from the general change of opinion on the education of women, nearly abandoned.)

I don't think any of the linked pages, or the OED definition above, convey the extent to which Bluestocking is a pejorative. It's still used (albeit rarely) to insultingly describe women who are thought too clever or dryly academic for their own good, particularly scientists. James Watson characterised Rosalind Franklin as a bluestocking.
posted by matthewr at 9:45 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by LobsterMitten at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2008

I'm not sure it's a pejorative. matthewr's definition doesn't match the way I heard it used, and I heard it used quite a lot. It was used more in the sense of 'women who are more interested in their field of academia than in traditional feminine activities'. The pejorative is in the eye of the beholder.
posted by unSane at 5:58 AM on March 22, 2008

Yes, it was a pejorative.
posted by Zinger at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2008

Well, if a bluestocking is a woman who has literary tastes and prefers learning to 'typical feminine pursuits', then call me a bluestocking.

I'm already a geek.
posted by sandraregina at 2:51 PM on March 22, 2008

It may have become a term of derision at one time, but a lot of men now, and even probably then (John Adams), found these women more than desirable. Too bad society didn't. At least, in some respects, society now does. Hence, the use of the term now to celebrate, rather than decry, female achievement. Nevertheless, that we still feel compelled to single out such achievement means that there remains more progress to be had.
posted by caddis at 12:28 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

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