I came across the word “bluestocking” years ago along with my fascination with early 18th century French literary salons run by “learned women.” These btw, were often “courtesans” as they weren’t not bound by the rigid female mores and roles of the times. In the 20th century, it was a label worn proudly by feminist thinkers and attached to radical bookstores.
No being a long time advocate of sex workers rights, the association with prostitution would never motivate me to consider ditching the “bluestocking” label.
Turns out though, that I (perhaps along with many of those radical and feminist booksellers), didn’t realize the full nature of those bluestocking societies. In Keats, Modesty, and Masturbation, Rachel Shulkins talks about the bluestockings “doctrine of rational morality” being essentially a doctrine of “female chastity.”
Having achieved self respect and independence through suppressing their sexuality, they prized emotional control as an essential virtue….the Bluestockings were celebrated as a conservative and religious group of female thinkers who exemplified Anglican piety and virtue.
Not the libertines and radicals I envisioned. Well, in early 18th century England, anyway.
Vive la France!