Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education” as Want to Read:
Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  290 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
Jane Robinson's Bluestockings is the incredible story of the fight for female education in Britain.

In 1869, when five women enrolled at university for the first time in British history, the average female brain was thought to be 150 grams lighter than a man's. Doctors warned that if women studied too hard their wombs would wither and die. When the Cambridge Senate held a
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 29th 2010 by Penguin (first published October 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jan 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I asked for this book for Christmas because it sounded interesting; but also because I think it's entirely too easy for anyone in higher or further education to become disillusioned with it. While it annoys me that women may feel any more grateful than men for access to knowledge and the chance to earn a degree: it's undeniable that if it wasn't for the diligence of the determined few and the relative success of introducing the first women to University and degree programmes, things could have b ...more
Easy to read book, covering a subject where I don't think there is much competition for books.

But also a missed opportunity.

Unfortunately, this is yet another example, like Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War where an Oxbridge English Literature type attempts to write a sociology book and bases it on anecdotes of the Oxbridge attending classes.

A book that purported to be about women in Higher Education was 4/5 about Oxbridge; this gave a sense that t
Kate Millin
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book quite inspiring as the women who first attained university educations had to put up with a lot of hardship, and fight, for the privilege that many of us now take for granted. It makes me realise that we should make the most of the opportunities we have and ensure that we do what we can to help others to realise their potential.
At the end of the nineteenth century, when the female brain was considered five ounces lighter than the male brain, five women bravely enrolled at univer
Tracey Sinclair
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, well-researched look at the history of English women in education. It is astonishing to think how recently (and reluctantly) women were allowed access to university education, and made me grateful for my own. By its nature a little narrow in focus (there's little to no mention, for instance, of the kind of barriers non-white would be scholars would have faced) but a must read.
Gemma (Non Fic Books)
This was a really fun introduction to the fight for the opportunity to attend university (and graduate) that women had in England. Jane Robinson strikes a good balance between accessibility and information, making this book interesting yet easy to read.
An amazing collection of insights into the lives of the first women to go to university. I would have liked a little more on universities other than Oxbridge, but definitely opened my eyes to something I had never considered before.
The title of this book - "Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education" - makes it sound like it will be about women's education generally, around the world. The summary does nothing to dispel this impression. Actually, the book only talks about England, and then narrows its scope even further by spending most of the time talking about Oxbridge (guess where the author went to).

So, not as interesting as it sounds.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
[Audiobook version]

I loved listening to this! The stories of the first women to fight for an education were sometimes amusing, sometimes depressing, but always interesting. Girls lived such quirky lives back then! Not to mention dangerous -- there were endless stories of them almost killing themselves in sub-standard chemistry labs, or nearly drowning in the river when they took the boat out on a stormy day. And there were some wonderful recurring characters. I loved hearing about Constance Mayn
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the title suggests, this book discusses the first women in Britain to attend university. Broadly covering from the mid-late 19th century up until the second World War, it describes the opposition faced by prospective students, including doctors who believed that education could cause infertility (!), the belief that men would not want to marry an educated woman, and the widely held belief that women just did not need to be educated, when their sole purpose in life was to marry and have childr ...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: paperback
I should read more history books - finding ones I like is the problem. This book is all about the experiences of the first women to attend English universities starting in the 1830s or so and running more or less up to the time that degrees were being granted to women by pretty much all universities, Cambridge being one of the last to permit that in 1948. As someone who grew up expecting to go to university and expecting that all opportunities would be open to me it was a bit of an eye opener. E ...more
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I thought this was a really fascinating book, and very readable. Women today have much to be grateful for, to the women whose stories Jane Robinson recounts. They faced almost unbelievable prejudice and so many women desperate to further themselves and learn as much as possible were destined never to complete their courses, due to family constraints or the pressures they placed upon themselves. I really enjoyed reading about the life of women's colleges, the cocoa parties and the draconian rules
Michelle Athy
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: research, 2017-books
I was reading this for the purposes of story research and I was fairly well satisified on that end: there were a few anecdotes and facts that I can use and I doubt I could've found them anywhere else. Luckily, I think the character I read this book for will end up going to an Oxbridge because that's definitely where the focus was in this book, which was a bummer because other universities were apparently doing a far better (and earlier) job of educating women as full students, as near equals wit ...more
Oct 27, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From this list, Ravenclaw:

BLUESTOCKINGS, by Jane Robinson - non fiction - Bluestockings is a history of the first women to fight for access to higher education in Britain, with lots of anecdotes about their lives and the misogyny they faced on every turn. Did you know Tolkien was a jerk to his female students? When women were present in his lecture room, "he grew quiet and subdued, his Anglo-Saxon sounding faintly threatening, like 'gentle swearing'" (no
Jul 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
This was a really fun book which I completely recommend to any woman whose ever gone through higher education.

I understand that the approach was to show just how gutsy, determined and fierce many of the first female academics were and how grateful we should be for them paving the way for women in higher education. It had the potential to be preachery, exclusive and boring. It was none of the above.

It lacked a bit of structure but that didnt really matter, it was just really a collection of wonde
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Lovely and heartbreaking and wonderful. I will admit, I was already in an over-emotional state when I started reading this, so you, gentle reader, probably won't be reduced to tears by the account of the girl whose tutors funded her scholarship out of their own salaries, but there are so many stories of generosity and perseverance and sheer stubbornness that if you remain completely unmoved by the end of the book, you have a heart of stone. It's fascinating and informative and (most importantly) ...more
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative, funny, and inspiring account of the earliest women to study in English universities. Treat as second class (or really no class, since many schools did not give them degrees) bounded by endless rules and shadowed by chaperones, their perseverance blazed the trail for those of us who came after.
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book is absolutely delightful. It is social history, but wonderfully and engagingly written. It is all about women and their history of education. The big picture forms out of many varied individual accounts. This is what makes this such a charming and informative read. You are engaged and you laugh and thoroughly enjoy every minute.
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Bluestockings is a marvelous book about a growing number of women in Britain who fought valiantly for their right to an education. I loved Robinson's approach to the subject matter.

Read this book.
Tara Russell
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and very readable exploration of the journey of women fighting for an education in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A bit of a trite comment, I know, but a strong reminder that we take so much for granted these days that would have been unavailable to women until recently.
Jane Hill
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant- the perfect thing to read before I go back to university this year. Engaging and well-written, although it jumped around the timeline a little too much at some points. I shall have to find a postwar history of women's education as a follow-on, as this winds itself up at 1939.
This book turned me into a more radical feminist.. lol.. I'm thankful I wasn't born in an era where women had to sit at the back of the classroom, barely existed to the teacher/professor. Tertiary education has come a long way. It's an excellent read, a bit of history :)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Glynis O'halloran
Nov 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book that was surprisingly easy to read. It made me very angry to read the rubbish that so-called intelligent men talked about women's capacity for learning. Thank goodness, these pioneers opened the gates for today's women.
Gill Mclauchlan
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Inspiring book. It is disgraceful that Cambridge Uni only officially allowed women to graduate in 1948.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Very informative but a little boring at times.
Sep 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great here about how life used to be at uni
Annette Wiltshire
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of how women achieved equality in education. Interesting anecdotes.
Oct 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011
I absolutely adored it.
Oct 30, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: never-finished
Never get back to this one, which is a shame as it is interesting. Always something else to read!
Annabelle Heap
Jan 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating social history - well researched and a good read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War
  • Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England
  • Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England
  • Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500
  • The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • The Weaker Vessel
  • Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England
  • The Victorians
  • The Equality Illusion: The Truth About Women And Men Today
  • Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt
  • Daughters of Britannia: The Lives and Times of Diplomatic Wives
  • Racism: A Very Short Introduction
  • The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital
  • The Great Silence 1918-1920: Living in the Shadow of the Great War
  • Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad
  • The Long Week-End: A Social History of Great Britain, 1918-39