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Bluestockings [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Jane Robinson
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 2010

In 1869, when five women enrolled at university for the first time in British history, the average female brain was thought to be 150 grams lighter than a man's. Doctors warned that if women studied too hard their wombs would wither and die. When the Cambridge Senate held a vote on whether women students should be allowed official membership of the university, there was a full-scale riot.

Despite the prejudice and the terrible sacrifices they faced, women from all backgrounds persevered and paved the way for the generations who have followed them since. By the 1920s, being an 'undergraduette' was considered quite the fashionable thing; by the 1930s, women were emerging from universities as anything from aviation engineers to professional academics.

Using the words of the women themselves, Bluestockings tells their inspiring story - a story of defiance and determination, of colourful eccentricity and at times heartbreaking loneliness, as well as of passionate friendships, midnight cocoa-parties and glorious self-discovery.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Windsor; Large type edition edition (3 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408461129
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408461129
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,450,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane was born in Edinburgh and brought up in North Yorkshire. After reading English at Somerville College, Oxford, she became an antiquarian book dealer, and later a writer. Her eight books to date have been critically acclaimed, and have confirmed her as one of our most engaging and original social historians.

Jane lives near Oxford with her husband and - during university holidays - her two sons. She writes full time, apart from when she's happily travelling to give talks or broadcasts about her books, or working one day a week at Somerville College as an assistant archivist.

Learn more about her books, work in progress, and future speaking engagements on, where you can also send her a message.

Product Description


'Jane Robinson's gem of a book ... tells a story of extraordinary courage and appalling discrimination ... Bluestockings is The History Boys for women' -- Frances Wilson, Sunday Times -- Frances Wilson, Sunday Times

'Modern girls need reminding of the long battle, and Jane Robinson's fine book does just that, charting the lives and struggles of campaigners ... But there is more joy than sorrow' -- Libby Purves, Mail on Sunday --Libby Purves, Mail on Sunday

'Jane Robinson is excellent on the determination of girls to go to university, sometimes in the face of parental opposition ... There is also riveting material in Bluestockings on the opposition that the women face at college' -- Mary Beard, The Times --Mary Beard, The Times

'Social history of the best kind' -- Sunday Times
-- Sunday Times --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jane Robinson was born in Edinburgh and brought up in North Yorkshire. After reading English at Somerville College, Oxford, she became an antiquarian book dealer, later leaving to pursue a writing career. Her books about women travellers and pioneers have established her as an engaging social historian with an appreciative eye for eccentricity. Jane lives near Oxford with her husband and two sons. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bluestockings 1 Sep 2009
An excellent book, written with Jane Robinson's usual fluency, truly justifying the BBC's choice as book of the week. It provides a graphic picture of the issues faced by young women wishing to pursue their studies in a world dominated by masculinity, and illustrates how they overcame prejudice within both their own families and society more generally. A gripping series of stories emerges, told with insight and humour. How did Ms Robinson find all those remarkable illustrations? Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education
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60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fight for education for women 15 Aug 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book a real eye opener as even though I was familiar with the women's liberation movement I hadn't appreciated how recently the right to a university education had been won. Cambridge University did not grant women degrees until 1948 though it was the last university to do so. Women were not considered capable of academic achievments and it was thought they would seriously damage their brains by study. Only men were capable of understanding complex subjects.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is written in an approachable style and includes many quotations from correspondence and diaries written by the pioneers of secondary and tertiary education for women. The extracts bring the subject to life. The snippets about the system of chaperones in place at the start of the twentieth century show how women were constrained by social expectations. One woman was sent down because she was seen talking to her brother alone in a public place. Many female undergraduates never even spoke to a man for the whole time they were at university. Fees and living costs had to be paid for by the student themselves or their families and many made heroic sacrifices in order to send their clever daughters to university.

This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the progress towards equality of opportunity for all. It will also be interesting to anyone who likes reading social history. There are some excellent photographs reproduced in the book as well as line drawings thoughout the text and a useful bibliography for further reading. I found it as enthralling as any fiction.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bluestockings 15 Sep 2009
The book has been a real eye opener I knew women had had a hard time gaining the vote but it is quite shocking to read about what they had to put up with to gain a higher education. It is also quite frightening to think what society has lost by not allowing women to study at a higher level and do a multitude of things just because they were women.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational 20 Dec 2009
A timely reminder of the journey that women have gone through to reach the position of equality, albeit incomplete, with men that they enjoy today. That women simply did not exist in the minds of many male academics less than 80 years ago is quite astonishing and the struggle for recognition that is chronicled in this excellent book is nothing short of inspirational. A must read for anyone wanting to understand what equal rights for women really meant, at a time when they had so few.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bluestockings 2 July 2011
By Lizi Q
We read Bluestockings at our Book Club and were mostly agreed that it was an excellent book to have on the shelf for reference but that as a 'read' it was disappointing. It was somewhat repetitive and failed in some way to engage enough interest to sustain plodding through. Several people finished it but there were several readers who did not. Those who got a lot out of it agreed that it was not the 'book of first choice' on the table, but found the stories of the early women to be educated and the extraordinary attitude of the men who taught them quite fascinating! It is also very well researched though and a book that needed writing. The information about the early educators and their drive was also very interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truly Inspiring 13 Jan 2011
A remarkably inspiring anecdotal account of the fight for women to be allowed into further education and subsequently to be able to gain a recognised degree.
I find as a University student myself, it is incredibly easy to become disillusioned with academia, however much you might enjoy the subject you study. The short passages about some of the first women to go to University remind the reader that things could have been completely different now, if not for the determined few. It doesn't lecture or attempt to make the reader guilty, but it did remind me that I'm lucky to be living in an age in which going to University is MY choice.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening book 30 Aug 2009
Like the previous reviewer, I found this book to be a real eye-opener. I couldn't believe that women were denied an equal education to men so recently. I found the book to be written in a style which kept me interested and I read this book in a day or so as I was so fascinated.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog 10 Jan 2013
I read this on the back of Robinson's book "A Force To Be Reckoned With" (about the WI) and found "Bluestockings" very dull in comparison. While the former book was taut, zippy and fun to read, "Bluestockings" really does feel like an uphill struggle most of the time. Its a book you really have to want to read in order to continue ploughing through it all the way to the end. I very nearly gave up, save the fact that I took it with me to read during a short hospital admission and had nothing else! While Robinson must be applauded for shining a light on the subject, I am sure that there must have been some way to make it a more entertaining read; its very dry and academic, and not written with a great deal of verve pr flair. The "cut off date" of 1939 is rather odd, as I am sure that there is much to be said about women's education in the 40s and 50s. And after graduation - what happened then? No effect on the jobs taken by "graduettes" is discussed, or how the male dominated world of work reacted to the sudden arrival on the scene of educated women.

One minor quibble I have is that reference is made to Tennyson's poem "The Princess" and Robinson seems to think that anyone familiar with this work (she doesn't actually bother to quote any of it) will be immediately familiar with the Gilbert and Sullvan operetta "Princess Ida", which in modern terms is a spin off from the Tennyson poem, although they are very different in tone. The former is quite respectful of the idea of female education, even gently satirical, whereas the latter is incredibly bitter and uncomplinentary - the G and S operettas were the "Private Eye" of their day.

"Bluestockings" can be a difficult, dreary read on occasion and really does the subject no favours.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars comment
A brilliant book as it is a salutory reminder just what a huge prejudice there was against the need to educate women and what a fight the early pioneers had to be taken seriously... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mina Bowater
5.0 out of 5 stars Great price
Haven;t read it yet - it's a book group choice - but it was delivered on time and at a good price. Condition very good.
Published 12 months ago by M. S. Melvin
4.0 out of 5 stars Just what she asked for!
I bought this book as a Christmas present and the girl I gave it to was really delighted with it.
Published 19 months ago by CFLF
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book. Heard about it on the radio and lived up to expectations. A good social history of education and women
Published 19 months ago by Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, funny, important - all in all, a delightful book!
Bluestockings tells the story of the first women to go to University in the UK, of their fight for that right, of the prejudices they faced, of the friendship an support that... Read more
Published 24 months ago by isabel silva
3.0 out of 5 stars Anecdotal
This book reveals much of the reactionary attitude of men towards women's university education - but not other types of education. Read more
Published on 24 May 2012 by Peter K. Booker
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring read
I only recently heard the term, "bluestocking", and thought this looked like a promising start. This book is a riveting read comprising of contemporaneous narrative interspersed... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by Calluna
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!
This book was one I happened to see whilst browsing one day and I'm so glad I did. Robinson makes the information interesting and accessible by using real-life stories to drive... Read more
Published on 6 Nov 2011 by Freethinker
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating - and a valuable reminder ...
... that the education we take for granted today was fought for long and hard. The book is an inspiring and enjoyable read - the individual stories of some of the early pioneers... Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2011 by bookelephant
3.0 out of 5 stars good
Bought for my niece; her grandmother went to Oxford in the 30's and I thought she would like some background. She is american and lives in the US. Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2010 by snowbunny
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