As if the two sexes had been in a state of war, the gentlemen ranged themselves on one side of the room, where they talked their own talk, and left us poor ladies to twirl our shuttles, and amuse each other, by conversing as we could. By what little I could overhear, our opposites were discoursing on the old English poets, and this subject did not seem so much beyond a female capacity but that we might have been indulged with a share of it.In about 1750, Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu (later called the Queen of the Blues) and her friends founded the first official bluestocking society in England. They invited learned men to gather informally with them to talk about books, literature, art and architecture, as well as places and events that interested them.
... the fashion for several ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by the desire to please... were denominated Bluestocking Clubs.In 1769, Horace Walpole called Mrs. Montagus original Bluestocking Society the first public female club ever known and added that most of the ladies were of the greatest beauty, and most of the young men of fashion were of the club. Although many prominent men of letters frequented the early bluestocking gatherings and, in fact, Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet is said to be the first person to have worn blue stockings to a meeting Bluestocking came to be associated with women.
But the letters of the original Bluestockings paint a distinctly different picture. R. Brimley Johnson concludes in the introduction to his 1926 book, Bluestocking Letters:
Always ladies, never pedants, they regarded life with intelligence and common sense, formed their own opinions, followed their own tastes; and accomplished something towards the ideal of a gay and frank comradeship with brilliant and learned men.We owe a lot to these women! And what did Lord Byron have to say about all this? Lord Byron had this cynical view of the Bluestockings:
The Blues, that tender tribe, who sigh oer sonnets
And with the pages of the last Review
Line the interior of their heads or bonnets,
Advanced in all their azures highest hue.
They talked bad French of Spanish and upon its
Late authors asked him for a hint or two.
And which was softest, Russian or Castilian,
And whether in his travels he saw Ilion.