Monday, 30 March 2009

Nerd Girls

Just been alerted by a friend to the Nerd Girl Army (clearly allies of the Bluestockings - perhaps the militant wing). They have created an aetherweb site where you can post your thoughts, contribute blog posts, and generally associate with other Nerd Girls.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Happy Ada Day

Ada LovelaceAda Lovelace
In celebration of Ada Lovelace, nearly two thousand bloggers have signed up to a pledge to blog about women in technology.
She is mainly known for having written a description of Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the analytical engine. She is today appreciated as the "first programmer" since she was writing programs—that is, manipulating symbols according to rules—for a machine that Babbage had not yet built. She also foresaw the capability of computers to go beyond mere calculating or number-crunching while others, including Babbage himself, focused only on these capabilities.
There is a big list of women computer scientists on Wikipedia, so it was difficult to choose, but I have chosen Wendy Hall, Professor of Computing Science at the University of Southampton, because I have actually seen her give a keynote at a conference, and because I was born in Southampton.

She is also a founding director of the Web Science Research Initiative, and is interested in human-computer interaction:
Wendy HallWendy Hall
Her research interests now include the development of web technologies (particularly the Semantic Web), hypermedia systems and link services, advanced knowledge technologies, digital libraries, decentralized information systems, and human computer interaction. She has published over 350 papers in areas such as hypermedia, multimedia, digital libraries, and distributed information systems.

The UK Fawcett Campaign for equality between men and women named her as an Inspiring Woman in 2005, and the UK Research Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology selected her as one of six world-class Women of Outstanding Achievement in SET in March 2006. In October 2006 she was the first non-US woman to receive the Anita Borg Award for Technical Leadership.

She is particularly prominent as a strong and vocal advocate for women’s opportunities in SET and for the need to ensure that girls are not excluded from participation in science and engineering careers. In her research and her public life she has sought to ensure that women are equal beneficiaries of technological advance, and her example of achievement and dedication has made her a distinguished role model for women.
Happy Ada Day to Wendy and all geeks of whatever gender!

You can read about more women in technology at the Ada Lovelace Day Collection.

All the currently registered posts can be seen:

Spirited women

Anne BonnyMore bluestockings for your consideration:

Monday, 23 March 2009

More bluestocking heroines

More suggestions from Brass Goggles aficionados:
  • Emily Warren Roebling - Co-builder of Brooklyn Bridge with husband Washington Roebling.
  • Edith Cowan - Feminist, fought for suffrage, then first woman elected to an Australian parliament. 
  • Annie Oakley - Famous trick sharpshooter of Old West. 
  • Mary Anning - a fossil collector that discovered a dinosaur species or two.
  • George Sand: novelist, feminist, bon-vivant and quite possibly the first openly-acknowledged "Drag King."
  • Rear Admiral "Amazing Grace" Hopper: co-developer of the UNIVAC I, inventor of the compiler, pioneer in the development of computer systems standards and the FORTRAN and COBOL languages, and the Data Processing Management Association's first "Man of the Year."
  • Hedy Lamarr: co-inventor of frequency-hopped spread-spectrum radio communication, which is the basis for nearly all modern radio data communications systems.
  • Beatrix Potter studied lichen and presented a paper to the Linnean Society in London.
  • Isabella Bird - Traveller and explorer
  • Sarah Guppy, the inventor of the suspension bridge (also a woman); she is featured in Local Heroes by Adam Hart-Davis.
  • Grace Darling - a girl who rowed out with her father to rescue people from a sinking boat 
  • Emilie du Chatelet - Enlightenment mathematician and physicist (and Voltaire's lover) rigged lotteries and used mathematics to win the card games that upper class women played in those days. 
  • Elizabeth Fulhame - author of An Essay on Combustion, 1794, a landmark text on Catalytic Chemistry and Colloidal Photochemistry.
  • Female explorers:

Friday, 20 March 2009

Women pilots

I've just been tipped off about the existence of this splendid website about women pilots in Soviet Russia by a kind gentleman called Gryphon over at the Brass Goggles forum.
Intriguingly, the pilots who flew at night were called the Night Witches.  Above is a photo of one of their planes.

Another bluestocking

Bath graduate Bijal Thakore was announced the winner of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) prize for her service in the engineering sector at a recent prestigious award ceremony.

Congratulations to Bijal for her excellent achievement.

She also works for Lego and is on the board of directors of the Planetary Society.  

Thakore also works as a technical consultant for a number of global clients, including working with LEGO System A/S as a Global Client Development Officer for LEGO Play for Business.

Representing the activities of young people internationally as a liaison for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, Thakore is also a member of the Special Advisory Committee to the International Astronautical Federation on Space and Society.  Thakore’s goal is to help make humanity a multi-planet species.

Past positions include serving as a Teaching Associate for the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, where she furthered her interdisciplinary research in Robotics and In-Situ Resource Utilization for space exploration.  She also worked for the X PRIZE Foundation, where she devised prize concepts to bring radical breakthroughs in attempts to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges such as eradicating poverty and providing clean drinking water to all.

Completely awesome.

Edwardian feminists

The printing press of Cambridge University has issued a treatise upon our esteemed Edwardian forebears.

Early twentieth-century feminists caused controversy with the Magisterium by embodying the terrifying spectre of equality of the sexes.

The book also documents the changing meaning of the word feminist, originally used for the French women's movement, and then developing in Britain and America.
The Feminist Avant-Garde: Transatlantic Encounters of the Early Twentieth Century by Lucy Delap (Cambridge University Press)
Edwardian commentators were clear that feminism was no unified entity, but should be divided into competing groups. A survey of ‘modern feminism’ produced in 1914 by a British-born feminist living in the United States, Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale, used the metaphor of an army to delineate the main body of parliamentary suffragists, the rear of municipal suffragists, a vanguard of ‘advanced feminists’, and an ultra-radical group of ‘skirmishers’. This study is concerned with delineating the political argument, discourse and intellectual influences drawn upon by these last two groups, whose members referred to themselves as the feminist ‘vanguard’, ‘advanced feminists’, or ‘modern feminists’. I examine the languages, the conceptual resources, the political argument available to feminists, gaining a sense not only of what they said, but how it was possible for them to say it, and the intellectual reception feminism had.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Lola Montez

Trestle theatre are touring a production of Lola, an exploration of the life of the extraordinary and larger-than-life Lola Montez. If, like me, you have ever read the Flashman novels (a guilty pleasure, to be sure), you will know that Lola was quite a firebrand, counting among her lovers Franz Liszt and Ludwig I of Bavaria (and of course, none other than Harry Flashman).
the show celebrates the life of an extraordinary woman who lived like she danced, with all the might of her body and the fire of her soul.
Perhaps not exactly a bluestocking, but certainly an extraordinary woman.

Lola Montez
Lola Montez c.1851
In a bizarre footnote to Lola's story, it was claimed by William Wynn Westcott that Anna Sprengel, the alleged Secret Chief of the Golden Dawn (to whom Westcott and MacGregor Mathers wrote after deciphering her address from an old book) was the love-child of Lola Montez and Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Gracefully late for IWD

So, it was International Women's Day on 8th March.

I was going to write about it but was delayed by the necessity to foil a dastardly plot to create a world chocolate shortage. Fortunately I was assisted by my trusty differencing engine, Profound Cogitation.

Ms Niblock has recorded in her diary a selection of bluestockings of whom we can only say we wholeheartedly approve; those who were not already in our own canon of heroines shall forthwith be co-opted. Her list is Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Isabella Eberhardt, Simone Weil, Gertrude Bell, Katherine Stinson, Joanna de Tuscan, Katharine Hepburn, Margaret Rutherford and Leonora Carrington. Excellent choices all, among whom only Leonora Carrington was already enshrined here at The Bluestocking.

Steve Hayes commemorated IWD by honouring St Theodora the Iconodule - also an excellent choice, as one who wanted people to be able express their spirituality with icon-writing, and for others to access the numinous through icons.

IWD was celebrated around the world; this year's theme was stopping violence against women and girls (though stopping violence in general would be a very good thing).

Eve EnslerAs that was the theme, I would like to celebrate Eve Ensler, playwright, performer, activist, and author of The Vagina Monologues and The Good Body, among other things.  She writes wittily and entertainingly, and invites us to celebrate our bodies and our orgasms.  Hurrah!

There are some extracts from The Vagina Monologues at ivillage for those who are not familiar with it.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Your hosts

Angharad and IsobelAs mentioned earlier, I am Angharad V. Setherwood, known as "Bunny".  In between competing at archery and fencing competitions, I paint scenes of bohemian life.  Artists and writers turn to me for a little stability in their lives; which is fortunate as I only have a little of that commodity - maintaining a large rambling house in the country (Setherwood Grange), and being a breeder of prize ferrets, is somewhat taxing.  But I relax by swimming in the River Cam and researching the witchcraft traditions of rural Cambridgeshire.  My greatest chums (apart from Blossom and Dauntless of course) are dear Rafe and Jessie.

My esteemed colleagues on this august publication are Isobel G. Sissinghurst, otherwise known in her set as "Blossom", and Chalmers Z. Vanderbilt, my delightful American cousin. 

Isobel acquired the moniker of "Blossom" from her interest in garden design.  She can often be seen pottering about with her chum Gertrude J., discussing the finer points of lavender, lovage and whatnot.  She rides a large penny-farthing to suffragist meetings, and lives in an artists' colony in rural Gloucestershire with her collection of Houdan hens.  Her other interests include amateur operatics and dismantling clocks.

Chalmers is a gossip columnist of some distinction, but he has a shocking propensity for wearing quite dazzling tartan creations at odd hours of the day (hence his nickname, "Dauntless") - and with a green carnation; would you credit it?  His collection of monocles is unrivalled, and he also plays a mean hand at euchre.  He will recite Betjeman poems at house parties, especially if the hostess summons her guests to the piano.  He is accompanied everywhere by Cuchulain, a large Irish wolfhound, and a young gentleman who rejoices in the name of Temerare K. Marchpane; both are devoted to him - the dears.

So, pull up a chaise longue, top up your glass with port, and settle in for an evening with the bluestockings.chaise longue

Friday, 6 March 2009

Hail Gail!

We here at The Bluestocking are not the only Gail Trimble enthusiasts... many other bloggers have been writing in praise of the intellectual blitzkrieg.

  • If Gail Trimble programmed computers then she would use butterflies.
  • Gail Trimble can determine the next random number in a sequence.
  • When you search for “guru” on Google it says “Did you mean Gail Trimble?”
Congratulations to Gail Trimble and her team on winning University ChallengeI was astonished to hear that far from being praised for her success, the poor girl has come in for a load of abuse. 
Sze Zeng says "Gail Trimble the genius"

Michael Axelsen doesn't know who Dylan Thomas was or what nationality he was, but he knows he likes geek girls:
I think any woman who is intelligent, smart, presents herself well and knows her way around Latin literature should be celebrated for their ability and skill.
It's good to know that there are others who appreciate intelligence.  I note that her page on the well-known electronic school yearbook has 424 fans.  I think Gail's undoubted sartorial elegance is irrelevant to her intellectual prowess; she should be celebrated for her brains even if she dressed in potato sacks.

Bluestockings group

A charming young lady by the name of Dana McGee has created a group called Bluestockings on that well-known electronic school yearbook.

We at the Bluestockings blog must naturally wish her and her friends every success in their endeavour, and hope that they will drop in here for a nice cup of Lady Grey tea and some intellectual conversation.

It's delightful to discover that being a Bluestocking is once more in vogue, and that we are not so much (re)creating a subculture as joining one that is already in full flow.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

You still have your testicles. Now let go of them.

I don't know if I somehow screwed up my Karma, or if the Gods are playing a practical joke on me, or what the hell is going on right now. But for some reason, I can't set foot in an online forum these days without going head to head with a Men's Rights Activist. An "MRA," as the kids like to say.

Because white men between the ages of 18 and 35 are so very oppressed in our culture. Apparently. The poor dears.

Allow me to share a few general observations.

If you're an MRA, you're ignorant.

If you're a Pagan MRA, you're dead to me.

If you're a gay Pagan MRA, then what the fuck is wrong with you. And please note that this is a statement, not a question.

To sum up: If you identify, for whatever reason, as an MRA (and I really hate to say this, on account of the irony will be a distraction), you have Mommy issues.

And I'm sorry about that; I'm so very, very sorry. But you do. At some critical point in your emotional development, Mommy was unkind. Or Mommy had another baby, or went back to work, or wouldn't let you have the car keys just this one time. Or Mommy suggested that, at the age of 47, you might want to consider moving out of her basement.

Whatever the traumatic event that was instrumental in shaping Who It Is You Are Today... you have Mommy issues.

And again, I'm sorry, but agreed? Good. Now please get over them. Or, at the very least, stop dumping them over the rest of us, because here's the thing: While your existence is ultimately irrelevant, I cannot begin to describe how uselessly annoying you are.

[Cross-posted at Lover of Strife]


The forthcoming film about Hypatia of Alexandria, Agora, reminded me that there is a lovely photo by Julia Margaret Cameron (pioneer woman photographer) of a woman dressed as Hypatia.

A nice conjunction of two bluestocking heroines - the one a great classical pagan philosopher; the other an artist in the nascent field of photography.

Cameron's picture represents Hypatia as a strong (if slightly bored-looking) woman.  Other portrayals represent her as too dreamy, or too vulnerable (though to be fair, many of them were focussing on her just as she was about to be dismembered by the Christian mob).

She is also the patron of Cherry Hill Seminary:
Hypatia was a pagan, a woman, a martyr, and most importantly, a scholar. Born in 370 CE in Egypt, she was considered both eastern and western: She flourished and taught in the Mediterranean area and was fed by rivers of learning from all the civilizations in the mid-east. Hypatia was one of the mothers of our western traditions and embodied the scholarly riches of diverse cultures. Described by her contemporaries as a charismatic teacher, Hypatia was later murdered by a mob of zealous Christians in 415 CE.

scholarly interest

Some scholarly articles about the original Bluestockings (available from JSTOR):

  • Bluestockings, Spinsters and Pedagogues: Women College Graduates, 1865-1910
  • Mary E. Cookingham
  • Population Studies, Vol. 38, No. 3 (Nov., 1984), pp. 349-364

  • Subjectivity Unbound: Elizabeth Vesey as the Sylph in Bluestocking Correspondence
  • Deborah Heller
  • The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1/2, Reconsidering the Bluestockings (2002), pp. 215-234

  • Clara Reeve, Provincial Bluestocking: From the Old Whigs to the Modern Liberal State
  • Gary Kelly
  • The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1/2, Reconsidering the Bluestockings (2002), pp. 105-125

  • Bluestocking Sapphism and the Economies of Desire
  • Susan S. Lanser
  • The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1/2, Reconsidering the Bluestockings (2002), pp. 257-275

  • bluestockings and witchcraft

    Intellectual women down the ages have frequently been suspected of witchcraft (muttering strange formulae, speaking foreign languages, and generally being cleverer than their peers).

    Readers of a romantic disposition may recall the scene in Ivanhoe, when Rebecca, the beautiful and intellectual Jewess, is accused of witchcraft because she speaks Hebrew. Apparently the character may have been inspired by the real life bluestocking, Rebecca Gratz, a preeminent Jewish American educator and philanthropist who was the first Jewish female college student in the United States.

    Then of course there are the fictional witches featured previously in this august publication, Mss Weatherwax and Mss Hawthorne.  Both highly intelligent and independent women.

    Gail TrimbleMore recently, the vitriol heaped on the highly intelligent, beautiful and charming Gail Trimble, always correctly attired in classic and timeless garb, has led to the suggestion that she should be burnt as a witch (this article is of course a spoof, but it's a spoof of the actual sexual innuendo and general opprobrium that was heaped on her merely for being an intellectual).

    Indeed, nineteenth-century bluestockings were frequently branded "witches" according to the abstract of the article Bluestockings Beware: Cultural Backlash and the Reconfiguration of the Witch in Popular Nineteenth-Century Literature, by Linda J Holland-Toll.

    Feminist witches have always looked to our foremothers for inspiration - one of the earliest feminist covens in America was called the Susan B. Anthony Coven No 1.  In fact, it's still going!  (Definitely a second-wave feminist type of organisation, though.)

    The connection is probably because both intellectuals and witches transgress against the patriarchal dictum that women are not allowed to be powerful.  And of course, there is significant overlap between intellectuals, feminism and witchcraft.

    Tuesday, 3 March 2009

    the name of the rose

    The Bluestocking title of choice is always Ms or Mss (like Mss Weatherwax), never Miss or Mrs (except for eighteenth century ladies, when Mrs meant simply an adult woman and did not denote married status).

    Bluestocking first names tend to be robust - the sort of name you could travel round the world in - but never derived from masculine names.  Examples include Angharad, Ada, Alice, Octavia, Olivia, Olive, Elizabeth, Gloria, Damaris, Tallulah, Radclyffe, and so on, but never Charlotte, Henrietta, or Yvette.

    A Bluestocking frequently has a middle initial, but never reveals what it stands for (to preserve her mystique you understand - it's this sort of thing that puts the fear of Goddess into the more timid variety of Chap, you see).

    The Bluestocking surname, if double-barrelled, is never hyphenated.  For example, Augusta Ada Lovelace Byron.

    Bluestockings frequently have nicknames, possibly expressing their particular literary or scientific bent.

    The use of names and the preservation of mystique are minor branches of the art of Headology.

    My Bluestocking name, just for the record, is Angharad V. Setherwood, known to the gels of my immediate circle as "Bunny".

    oaths and imprecations

    Bluestocking oaths are colourful but not unladylike.  The bluestocking tends to utter such imprecations as "Cripes!", "Jiminy!", "Bobbins" and frequently to use colourful Shakespearian language (probably due to a misspent youth in the theatre).

    Of course the more dashing set among the bluestockings simply let rip like navvies, or like Father Jack (Feck! Arse! Girls!  I love my brick! and so on.)

    Sandi Toksvig: Bluestocking Pin-up

    Sandi is the epitome of Bluestocking greatness; in looks and style, in wit and raconterie on Radio 4, in academic prowess, in adventurous spirit; having yachted around Britain in 1995, written such fantastic books as 'Whistling For The Elephants', being openly a lesbian and a mother to three children...Three Rousing Womanly Cheers for Ms Toksvig!!

    bluestocking heroes

    fashion tips for bluestockings

    Olive Hawthorne, played by Damaris Hayman
    1. Never wear anything that actually is in fashion;
    2. Tweed is good (but not twinsets, and certainly not pearls);
    3. Waistcoats are good - somewhere to store gadgetry. Remember to leave the bottom button undone (out of respect to George III, who left his undone to accommodate his girth);
    4. Gadgetry is good; always remember to carry your Swiss Army Knife and your pocket watch;
    5. Handbags - large, practical and roomy; capable of holding several books and doubling as a weapon in extremis (as demonstrated by the redoubtable Olive Hawthorne, who hit a would-be assailant over the head with her reticule - which happened to contain her crystal ball);
    6. Trousers (often referred to as bloomers) are just the thing for ladies of a practical disposition;
    7. Hatpins - never go out without one;
    8. Frills and flounces are out.

    kindred subcultures

    Monday, 2 March 2009

    bluestocking heroines

    The bluestocking's heroines may include:
    • Flora Poste - The Higher Common Sense - need we say more?
    • Stella Gibbons, wit, author, genius
    • Granny Weatherwax - for sheer attitude (fictional witch)
    • Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas - proper bluestocking names
    • Leonora Carrington - fabulous paintings
    • Radclyffe Hall - rather too keen to be a chap, but splendid taste in hats
    • Celia Fiennes - lady explorer
    • The Pankhursts, and all the Suffragettes
    • Mary Wollstonecraft - early feminist
    • Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley - first SF writer
    • Augusta Ada Byron - lady genius and programmer of the Babbage Difference Engine
    • Amelia Earheart - pilot
    • Josephine Baker - artiste
    • Octavia Hill - co-founder of the National Trust
    • Olive Hawthorn - fictional witch in Doctor Who
    • Gwen Raverat - artist
    • Annie Horniman - occultist
    • Florence Farr - actress & occultist
    • Female occultists generally
    • The Pre-Raphaelite women artists
    • Hypatia of Alexandria - philosopher
    • Marie Curie - scientist
    • Women scientists generally
    • Artemisia Gentileschi - Renaissance artist
    • Dorothy Parker - wit and raconteuse
    • Gertrude von Petzold - first woman to be ordained (Unitarian)
    • Hildegard of Bingen - female mystic & artist
    • Mrs Seacole - female doctor in the Crimea

    The postmodern bluestocking

    The postmodern bluestocking is a third-wave feminist with an interest in first-wave feminism.  She knows what postmodernism and queer theory are.  She regards men as equally oppressed by the hierarchical arrangement sometimes referred to as the patriarchy.

    She knows how to change a tyre, and is clubbable, affable and witty.  Keen on science, exploration, literature and art, she never talks about babies or make-up.  Nor does she talk about sport, unless it is archery or fencing, which are of course martial arts rather than sport.  She prefers science fiction over fantasy.  She knows the difference between domestic violence (deplorable) and consensual SM (well, some gels like to play rough).

    Her hobbies are never demure; not for her cross-stitch and watercolours, bridge and bricolage.  No, she engages in intellectual conversation, hiking, birdwatching, climbing, white-water canoeing, wit and repartee, poker, reading novels, exploration, battle re-enactment, steampunk, science fiction conventions, and so forth.

    What is a bluestocking?

    In mid-18th-century England, any of a group of women who met to discuss literature. Attempting to replace the playing of cards and such social activities with more intellectual pursuits, they held "conversations" to which they invited men of letters and members of the aristocracy with literary interests. The term probably originated when Mrs. Elizabeth Vesey invited the learned Benjamin Stillingfleet to one of her parties; he declined, saying he lacked appropriate dress, until she told him to come "in his blue stockings" — the ordinary worsted stockings he was wearing at the time. The word bluestocking came to be applied derisively to a woman who affects literary or learned interests.

    ~ definition of Bluestocking, from

    According to Wikipedia:

    The Blue Stockings Society was created in imitation of the French society of the same name, but emphasizing education and mutual co-operation rather than the individualism which marked the French version.

    The Society was founded in the early 1750s by Elizabeth Montagu and others as a women's literary discussion group, a revolutionary step away from traditional non-intellectual women's activities. They invited various people to attend, including botanist, translator and publisher Benjamin Stillingfleet. One story tells that Stillingfleet was not rich enough to have the proper formal dress, which included black silk stockings, so he attended in everyday blue worsted stockings. The term came to refer to the informal quality of the gatherings and the emphasis on conversation over fashion.

    Dansk (Danish)
    n. - blåstrømpe, kvindelig intellektuel

    Nederlands (Dutch)

    Français (French) 
    n. - (fig) bas-bleu

    Deutsch (German) 
    n. - Blaustrumpf

    Ελληνική (Greek) 
    n. - (καθομ.) (ψευτο)διανοούμενη, κουλτουριάρα

    Italiano (Italian) 
    donna intellettuale, avocetta

    Português (Portuguese) 
    n. - sabichona (f) (coloq.)

    Русский (Russian) 
    образованная женщина

    Español (Spanish) 
    n. - literata, marisabidilla

    Svenska (Swedish) 
    n. - blåstrumpa

    中文(简体) (Chinese (Simplified)) 
    女学者, 装做有学问的女人

    中文(繁體) (Chinese (Traditional)) 
    n. - 女學者, 裝做有學問的女人

    한국어 (Korean) 
    n. - 여류문학자

    日本語 (Japanese) 
    n. - 才女, 女流文学者

    العربيه (Arabic) 
    ‏(الاسم) امرأة رفيعه التعليم‏

    עברית (Hebrew) 
    n. - משכילה, אינטליגנטית