Oxford Dictionary of National Biography podcast: The Bluestocking Circle (1755-1795)
“The group originated as a particular assembly of notable individuals, of both sexes, who met regularly from the mid- to the late eighteenth century. But such was bluestocking support for female education and writing that by the 1770s the term started to refer solely to women. One of the most significant achievements of the original bluestocking hostesses was to encourage, by example and through patronage, women who might not have considered publishing their work to enter the public literary sphere. The bluestocking circle may be compared to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French salons, from which it drew significant inspiration. However, the British bluestockings were distinct from their French counterparts in insisting upon sexual and moral virtue and also in offering an arena that was parallel to, but separate from, the royal court. Bluestocking assemblies were socially mixed, providing the opportunity for a broad range of politicians, artists, musicians, actors, writers, and thinkers to enjoy intellectual exchange.”
The story of The Bluestocking Circle is one of over 230 episodes available from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography’s podcast archive. New episodes are released every second Wednesday.
Image: Breaking up of the Bluestocking Club (cartoon). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.