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Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Monday, January 25, 2016

Bluestockings Society, a Mid-1700s Feminist Group

By Susan F. Craft
Author of the Xanthakos Family Trilogy -
The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia

        The Bluestockings Society, also known as the Bluestockings Circle, an early example of feminism, was a women’s social and educational movement founded in England in 1750. The founders wanted to provide an informal setting where women could expand their knowledge by conversing freely with other women and men of learning.
        The society’s discussions about education, literature, and art constituted a revolutionary change from traditional, non-intellectual pursuits for women who were expected to master “more feminine” skills of needlework, knitting, and music, while only men attended universities. 
Elizabeth Montagu

        It was considered “unbecoming” for a woman to know Greek or Latin and almost immodest for women to be authors, which explains why female authors of that time wrote under pseudonyms.

        Led by Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Vesey, the society included prominent women of English society, though some males were invited to join the group.
        There are disputes about the society’s origins and name. Some say the name came about from Benjamin Stillingfleet, a popular guest who had given up society and didn’t have clothes suitable for an evening party, which included black stockings, and so he wore more informal daytime wear of blue worsted stockings to the meetings.

Benjamin Stillingfleet
         Many of the Bluestocking women supported each other in intellectual endeavors such as reading, artwork, and writing. Many also published literature. Author Elizabeth Carter (1717–1806) was a Bluestocking Society advocate and member who published essays and poetry and translated works of Greek philosophers.
        Contemporary author Anna Miegon wrote about bluestockings in her Biographical Sketches of Principal Bluestocking Women.
        Much of society scorned and ridiculed the “unfeminine” pursuits. Thomas Rawlandson published this satirical drawing of the group in 1815.
        The group had its admirers, though. In 1786, Hannah More published a poem, Le bas bleu, in defense of the bluestockings. The poem praised the bluestocking assemblies and attempted to show that conversation was more desirable than fashionable pursuits. 
Hannah More


        There’s a scene in my recently released 1790s historical fiction, Cassia, where Lilyan Xanthakos explains slavery to her daughter Laurel. Impressed with her mother’s knowledge, Laurel asks her how she came to know so much.
        “I’m glad you think so, my dear.” Lilyan crossed one ankle over the other and knit her fingers together on her lap. “But to answer your question, my father encouraged me to read. And I’ve done so all my life.”
        “You weren’t fearful of being dubbed a bluestocking?”

 
The Xanthakos Family Trilogy

10 comments:

  1. I never knew anything about this, Susan. Thanks so much for this wonderful article.

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    1. Great, Cynthia, I love it when someone learns something new from my posts!

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  2. I never knew anything about this, Susan. Thanks so much for this wonderful article.

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  3. Of course they were scorned :( but it must have been quite interesting to be part of.
    Thanks, Susan!

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    1. One can never know, but I like to think I would have been a part of that group - especially as much as I love to read and research.

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  4. I've seen this referenced in many historical romances and when I read that in Cassia I knew what you meant. Great post, Susan! I always love your posts!

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  5. Another great post, Susan. Thanks for all your research.

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  6. In the book, Black Country by Al DeFilippo, there is a great scene featuring one of the Bluestockings Ladies when she mentors a young Francis Asbury.

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    1. I'd not heard of this book. Will look into it. Thank you.

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