Bluestocking Week 12-16 August 2019
Bluestocking week is now in its seventh year and the NTEU, together with NUS (National Union of Students) has seen the event grow in both scope and size. With more university campuses participating each year, Bluestocking week is now viewed as an annual event on the university calendar, and an opportunity for women in universities and in the broader community to celebrate achievements while highlighting the issues we are still struggling with today.
Contact: Kate Warner, NTEU Brisbane firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Bluestocking Week about?
Bluestocking Week is named for the first generations of university women of the 19th century who grabbed the term and, even as it was used by their opponents as a derogatory dismissal of their achievements proudly wore it as a badge of serious scholarship.
The term originates from the latter part of the 18th century as women started organising literary societies in their homes and began campaigning for women’s access to university and more generally for women’s rights to equality in work, under the law and access into the parliaments. Many of the English middle and upper class leaders of the suffragist and suffragette movements started out in or were influenced by these literary societies, as were some of the male supporters of women’s rights. Indeed the term ‘blue stocking’ is often attributed to a male member of the circle who arrived at meetings in his everyday worsted wool blue stockings rather than white silk ones usually worn by men when meeting with men. This was taken up as distinguishing the women’s initiative*
While the original bluestockings of the literary societies and indeed the university pioneers were upper middle class and wealthy women, like their brothers, the efforts of women of more lowly backgrounds and their supporters should not be rendered invisible by the focus on the wealthy. As more research is done on the early university bluestockings it becomes clear that clever and determined women with financial support of families and communities made it through to universities and went on to careers in public service across many fields. I recommend Jane Robinson’s Bluestockings: the remarkable story of the first women to fight for an education (2009, Penguin, London) to tell more of this story in Britain. Hopefully someone is currently researching and writing a similar book on the diversity of the Australian Bluestockings.