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Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781529369991

Price: £25

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‘Sophisticated, rich and skilful . . . highlights the extraordinary place these women carved out for themselves against the odds’ New Statesman

‘Remarkable . . . The Bluestockings bust out of the pages with unmistakable glee . . . their complexity and individuality shine through’ BBC History

A story of sisterhood and empowerment’ PHILIPPA GREGORY

In Britain in the 1750s, women had no power and no rights – all money and property belonged to their fathers or husbands. A brave group risked everything to think and live as they wished, despite the sneers of contemporaries who argued that books frazzled female brains and damaged their wombs.

Meet the Bluestockings:

ELIZABETH MONTAGU hosted a series of glittering salons in her London drawing room, where a circle of women and men discussed theatre, philosophy and the classics, competing to outdo each other in wit and brilliance. Discover how she took on Voltaire and won.

Whilst nursing twelve children and helping run her bullying husband’s brewery, HESTER THRALE took key writers under her wing – Dr Johnson moved into her house for several years. Her vivid diaries offer a powerful chronicle of what happened when she finally decided to follow her heart.

Find out how poetess and former milkmaid ANN YEARSLEY fought back when her snobbish patron refused to hand over her earnings because she was working class and thus irresponsible . . .

Or how CATHERINE MACAULEY’s eight volume history of England caused such a sensation that she became a leading light in the American Revolution – while her unorthodox love-life scandalised her contemporaries . . .

In this brilliant book, Susannah Gibson explores the lives and legacies of these and other figures who went on to inspire writers and thinkers from Mary Wollstonecraft to Virginia Woolf and lead the way for feminism.

Bluestockings: the unexpected and inspiring stories of the forgotten heroines of Britain’s very first women’s movement.


Brilliant, earnest, quietly unconventional, the Bluestockings are the unsung pioneers of early British feminism. Their networks empowered women, while their salons stressing conversation and civility opposed the misogynous boozy male culture of the 18th century. Blending story, history and delicious anecdote, Susannah Gibson's book opens a sparkling window onto this extraordinary society of engaged, energetic and very witty women
Rich and sophisticated . . . Gibson's balancing act, skilfully managed, is to highlight the extraordinary place these women carved out for themselves against the odds in 18th-century society, without glossing over aspects less congenial to 21st century readers . . . As Gibson writes, the legacy of the bluestockings was to lay the foundations for a whole new world-view. It was the basis of all that followed: for women's right to an education, to earn an income, to vote, to bodily autonomy. It is a call that echoes down the centuries, and attempts to silence it continue.
New Statesman
A lively account [of] a social and political movement that would, over the next two hundred and fifty years, transform the expectations and conditions of women around the world
Daily Mail
A story of sisterhood, empowerment - and also rivalry and rage. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for the reader is to see the joy that the bluestockings take in reading, thinking and writing. There are men and there are constant pregnancies but the women are profoundly and lastingly engaged with the written word
Philippa Gregory
Remarkable . . . this intricate story weaves together the many luminaries and intellectuals of 18th-century life . . . The Bluestockings bust out of the pages with unmistakable glee. Aided by Gibson's use of first-hand accounts from the women themselves, their complexity and individuality shine through . . . With beautifully written prose, Gibson allows the 18th century to be a delicately crafted backdrop to the lives she has chosen to explore
BBC History
Gibson evokes deftly the extent to which things had to fall into place for these women to establish their reputations . . . [the] structure allows for a nuanced understanding of each woman
A vivid, deeply researched intellectual history
Gibson has thoroughly filleted the archives and she tells a richly fascinating history . . . informative and entertaining
Times Literary Supplement
I loved this book . . . an impressive addition to the history of the development of the science
Brian Clegg, Popular Science