Bluestockings – The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education by Jane Robinson came home with me from one of my browsing trips in a proper bookshop (so, somewhere in Britain) and surfaced in the recent bout of putting books on shelves. And I’m sure glad it did.
As a female and a graduate I am profoundly grateful to the women who first breached the barricades of higher education a century and a half ago. And to those who, undaunted by jeers, ridicule, hostility and pig-headedness perservered so that I and my contemporaries could take it for granted that if we wanted to go to university our sex, at least, would not stop us.
Jane Robinson has assembled an impressive amount of personal anecdotes from interviews, letters and diaries and woven them in with officially recorded dates and facts to provide a consise and highly readable history of women’s entry into higher education.
“There is a wonderful exhilaration about getting a degree. It is something more than the degree itself. It feels like coming into an inheritance of tradition,” quotes Robinson from a female graduate of Manchester in 1926. And it does. At least it did for me, and reading this book made me relive my own years at university and, particularly, my own graduation from Manchester (did you hear me cry: “Oh, sister!”?) and to reflect.
Read this book, especially if you also happen to be female and a graduate. It would also be the perfect gift for any young woman of your acquaintance going away to university for the first time, as it is not only designed to give her a sense of history but also to instill love of learning for learning’s sake, and to remind her to enjoy herself. No mean thing.