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

UK Publisher: Penguin

Bluestockings is Jane Robinson’s seventh book and it traces the short and intimate story of the English ‘undergraduette’.

Cambridge University may be 800 years old, and Oxford even older, but women have only been allowed Degrees from Cambridge since 1948, and the women’s ‘Halls’ at Oxford did not become fully integrated colleges until 1959. Jane Robinson questions: Why women had to wait so long to get to university? How they coped, not just at Oxbridge, but also at London and the brand-new civic universities around the country? If having a degree made any difference to their lives? Using the words of ordinary women involved, Jane Robinson traces an intimate story of defiance, sacrifice and achievement. The prejudice they faced was fearsome. Academics feared ‘dowdies’, with their lightweight brains would devalue Degrees. Doctors warned that if women studied too hard, their wombs would wither and die. Middle-class parents worried that no one would marry a graduate girl, while families in poverty struggled desperately to afford their daughters the chance of a better life.

The reason women enjoy equal access to universities now, is that’s to Robinson’s pioneers. This richly researched and inspiring book is the first to celebrate their colourful history; it is an engaging tribute to their determination, spirit and success.

Praise for Bluestockings

‘Jane Robinson’s gem of a book … tells a story of extraordinary courage and appalling discrimination … Bluestockings is The History Boys for women’
— Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times

‘Modern girls need reminding of the long battle, and Jane Robinson’s fine book does just that, charting the lives and struggles of campaigners … But there is more joy than sorrow’
–Libby Purves, Mail on Sunday

Jane Robinson is excellent on the determination of girls to go to university, sometimes in the face of parental opposition … There is also riveting material in Bluestockings on the opposition that the women face at college’
–Mary Beard, The Times

Social history of the best kind’
The Sunday Times