Originally uttered in a faintly pejorative tone, a ‘Bluestocking’ was an 18th century literary luminary, an educated, intellectual woman. In
Bluestockings – The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education, Jane Robinson reclaims the term and uses it to pull together an extraordinary tale of misogyny, determination, ambition and the quest for knowledge more than a century later.
In 1869, Emily Davis made history by creating a college for the first female undergraduates in England, in a house outside Cambridge. The lecturers were whoever could be persuaded to help out; the five students were not to actually be awarded degrees at the end of their courses. It would take two world wars before Cambridge allowed its female graduates to qualify, becoming the last university in England to do so – although it was the first English university to tolerate female students, after a fashion.
So what happened between 1869 and 1948?