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The Bluestockings: Historical Information

In eighteenth-century France and England, reformers rallied around egalitarian ideals, but few reformers advocated higher education for women. Although the public decried women's lack of education, it did not encourage learning for its own sake for women. In spite of the general prejudice against learned women, there was one place women could exhibit their erudition: the literary salon. Many writers have defined the woman's role in the salon as that of the intelligent hostess, but the salon had more than a social function for women. It was an informal university, too, where women exchanged ideas with educated persons, read their own works and heard those of others, and received and gave criticism.

In the 1750's, when salons were firmly established in France, some English women, who called themselves "Bluestockings," followed the example of the salonnieres (French salon hostesses) and formed their own salons. Most Bluestockings did not wish to mirror the salonnieres; they simply desired to adapt a proven formula to their own purpose- the elevation of women's status through moral and intellectual training.

 

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