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Re: Blue stocking

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 10, 2008 at 14:44:

In Reply to: Blue stocking posted by Fayyaz on April 10, 2008 at 11:00:

: 'A blue stocking' - meanings and origin?

This interesting term is used to refer to literary ladies, called "bluestockings" from their origin. (There is a very brief mention in our Archive, previous page, search box.) In 1750 a "Blue Stockings Society" began meeting at the house of Elizabeth Montagu to discuss literature or politics or other topics of general interest, with a stress on informal conversation. Blue worsted stockings were acceptable wear as opposed to the more formal black silk stockings expected in more formal meetings. At the end of the eighteenth century and for the first half of the nineteenth century disparaging or sneering remarks about blue-stocking ladies were quite common. But Thomas De Quincey, in an 1858 note in his Autobiography (published in 1862), said: "The order of ladies called Bluestockings, by way of reproach, has become totally extinct amongst us" (quoted from the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. blue-stocking). The term fell into disuse as a term of reproach or contempt when attitudes about the education of women changed.

The term is still occasionally used to refer to literary women generally, as well as to the original society. (It should not be confused with "blue-nose," which means something entirely different.)

You may read more about the origin of the term at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Stockings_Society_%28England%29
and in Michael Quinion's very interesting account at:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/topicalwords/tw-blu1.htm