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Blue Stockings

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

a play by Jessica Swale, 2013.

What is a Blue Stocking? Answer here (be sure to unmute the video).

Women who wanted to get an education in 19th-century Britain were considered un-marriageable; hooking a husband was assumed to be not only the main goal of a woman's life, but necessary for her survival. (See post Alas, Poor Lady).

The play Blue Stockings begins in 1896 at Cambridge University. Five women students are demanding the equal right to receive a diploma upon graduation like the men, who consider their demands not only ludicrous, but immoral. The common view was, "it's crazy enough these women are getting an education, but to give them a diploma too? Never!"

To our somewhat more enlightened minds, this attitude seems unforgivable, but

"we shouldn't assume that all men represented in the play were heartless misogynists," says playwright Jessica Swale in her introduction. "That's simply not the case...they genuinely believed that women's health and the future of Britain was at stake."

Blue Stockings came to my attention when Julia was cast as one of the five women, Celia, in the recent Silver Spring Stage production in Silver Spring, Maryland. Although I wish I could have seen the show in person, I enjoyed reading the play and recommend it. Will Elizabeth, Celia, Gertie, Carolyn and Maeve win their fight to graduate with diplomas? Or will the men prevail? Read it and find out.

Curtains up!

The program

Separation of the sexes

Take a bow!


Read (recommended by Jessica Swale):

Sex in Mind and in Education, Dr Henry Maudsley, portrayed in Blue Stockings. Read for free here.

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