Blue Stockings Society
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Blue Stockings Society was an informal women's social and educational movement in England in the mid-18th century, created in imitation of the French society of the same name, but emphasizing education and mutual co-operation rather than the individualism which marked the French version.
The Society was founded in the early 1750s by Elizabeth Montagu and others as a women's literary discussion group, a revolutionary step away from traditional non-intellectual women's activities. They invited various people to attend, including botanist, translator and publisher Benjamin Stillingfleet. One story tells that Stillingfleet was not rich enough to have the proper formal dress, which included black silk stockings, so he attended in everyday blue worsted stockings. The term came to refer to the informal quality of the gatherings and the emphasis on conversation over fashion.
Hannah More, Frances Burney, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Sarah Fielding, Hester Chapone, Ada Lovelace, Margaret Cavendish-Harley, Mary Delaney, Elizabeth Carter, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Samuel Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Horace Walpole, William Pulteney, James Beattie, Anna Williams, Hester Thrale, and Elizabeth Vesey were all part of the Bluestocking circle at one time or another.