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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bluestockings
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...
Published on 1 Sept. 2009 by Informed reader

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a slog
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...
Published on 10 Jan. 2013 by Mr. R. T. Bowes


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bluestockings, 1 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Hardcover)
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
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Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Hardcover)
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 Sept. 2009
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M. Francis "Michael" (Wiltshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Hardcover)
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
By 
D. Barnett (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Hardcover)
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
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
This review is from: Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education (Hardcover)
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
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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. It is almost as if the dry, dessicated air of academia permeates the book; I found myself wanting to metaphorically throw open a window and let some fresh air in. If you compare this to "A Force to Be Reckoned With", you may find yourself amazed that both books were written by the same author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm, funny, important - all in all, a delightful book!, 2 Aug. 2012
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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 allowed them to succeed, of how they lived, what they learnt, and what they came to contribute to society. It is easy for us to take education for granted (forgetting that, in so many places in the world, it is still denied to both women and men), which is why it is so important to remember, through books like this one, that we owe our freedom to the sacrifices of the ones who came before us.

The women of whom this book speaks are inspiring true heroines who were driven by love of knowledge in a hostile world where they were, due to gender, considered unable to learn - in fact, pretty much unable to do anything but have children and take care of the house. The arguments used against them are both laughable and outraging: women's brains are lighter than men's; studying would make them infertile or hysterical or promiscuous... they proved them wrong by their extraordinary results and, later on, by the high participation and success of women in most areas.

However, this fight - which started in the 18th century but only gained momentum in the second half of the 19th century - was not a loud one. There were moments of resistance to these revolutionary women's ideas, most notably the 1897 riot of Cambridge students against the idea of awarding degrees to women (which, incredibly, Cambridge only did in 1948), but in general these women were quiet and very well-behaved. This strategy allowed them to prove that higher education for women has excellent results, thus silencing opposition and strengthening their cause. Soon enough, girls from all social classes were going to University, experiencing some measure of independence, expanding their minds, and forming strong friendships. The quaint, old-fashioned and rather sweet descriptions of their daily lives and the anecdotes related are great fun to read about.

Of course, not everything was perfect: there were women who did not adapt at all, others who faced conflicts with their families or economic hardship (and it is touching to read about how they helped each other), and all had a very restricted form of freedom. For example, if they wanted to go anywhere, they had to take a chaperon; for a man to go into a woman's bedroom, the bed had to be removed first and the door kept open (even if it was a family member). Initially, upon leaving University, they either married and had children or became teachers but, by 1939, women were starting to go into every career, inspired by the generations before them. Change is portrayed as a wave that keeps gaining momentum as it moves forward.

The evolution in the part women play in society has been extraordinary - which is why the book is written in the sunny tonality of winners - but we must not forget that there are still many challenges ahead in the struggle for an egalitarian society in which feminism plays an important role. This book does not cover those general changes: its scope is narrower, which allows the author to focus on individual lives, thus re-constructing in delightful detail the way of life of young 'undergraduettes' in British Universities during the late 19th/early 20th centuries (until 1939). The text is so fluid, the stories so touching and amusing, that the pages fly by; and the respect for education and for these extraordinary women is clear throughout.

Warm, funny, important - all in all, a delightful book!

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring read, 3 Jan. 2012
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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 with historical facts.

It is quite shocking to read of riots in the streets of Cambridge, the result of a proposal that women be eligible to receive degrees. Oxbridge was anything but a pioneering education institution for women. By the start of the 1900s, only Oxford and Cambridge held out on crediting women graduates with actual degrees.

The road to equality in higher education is signposted by the amazing headmistresses, school teachers and pioneers whose unstinting support, imagination, perseverance and resilience to insulting and derogatory commentary enabled women to enter higher education institutions. They did not hold to the paradigm that a woman had "A fertile womb and a barren brain, or vice versa."

I have a heightened sense of appreciation for my own education now, and am enthusiastic to read more into the subject. Credit to the author, this is a worthwhile read for all.
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