Saturday, May 1, 2010

From Wikipedia: The Blue Stockings Society of England emerged in the middle of the eighteenth century, around the year 1750, and waned in popularity at the end of the eighteenth century. It was a loose organization of privileged women with an interest in education to gather together to discuss literature while inviting educated men to participate. The Blue Stockings Society leaders and hostesses were Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Vesey. The women involved in this group generally had more education and fewer children than most English women of the time. During this time period only men attended universities and women were expected to master skills such as needlework and knitting: "It was considered “unbecoming” for them to know Greek or Latin, almost immodest for them to be authors, and certainly indiscreet to own the fact. Mrs. Barbauld was merely the echo of popular sentiment when she protested that women did not want colleges. “The best way for a woman to acquire knowledge,” she wrote, “is from conversation with a father, or brother, or friend.” It was not till the beginning of the next century — after the pioneer work of the bluestockings, be it observed — that Sydney Smith, aided, doubtless, by his extraordinary sense of humour, discovered the absurdity of the fact that a woman of forty should be more ignorant than a boy of twelve." (XV, Cambridge History of English and American Literature). The group has been described by many historians and authors such as Jeanine Dobbs[3] as "having preserved and advanced feminism" due to the advocacy of women's education, social complaints of the status and lifestyle expected of the women in their society, seen in the writings of the Blue Stocking women themselves:

“ In a woman's education little but outward accomplishments is regarded...sure the men are very imprudent to endeavor to make fools of those to whom they so much trust their honour and fortune, but it is in the nature of mankind to hazard their peace to secure power, and they know fools make the best slaves. ”

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