Breaking Up of the Blue Stocking Club
In the age of revolutions, the eighteenth century pioneered a movement of female intellectuals. The movement was respected for its learned women and female authorship, and was led by figures Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Verna. The Bluestockings salon as a literary institution, was environment which enable enlightened conversation amongst women. In the words of Hannah More in ‘Bas Blue- or conversation’ the exchange of tastes and education was meaningless without conversation, and salon as a social project entering the public sphere is particularly notable. However, by the start of the nineteenth century they faced increasing mockery and criticism. Reducing them to women parading under the guise of learning, they were seen to be encroaching on male spaces, their hosting of salons and readings clubs seemingly becoming far too revolutionary by the 1800s. Thomas Rowlandson’s 1815 work ‘The breaking up of the bluestockings club’ encapsulates the fear of female spaces, with the lack of male guardianship resulting in a descent into chaos. Its publication coincided with the announcement of the publication of Hannah More’s Essay on the Character and Practical Writings of St Paul (1815), and this may have instigated Rowlandson onto create the piece as a reactionary critique of female intellectuals. The male figure in the print epitomises the trope of a moralistic guide to the immoral women who deny their female duties. They signified a fear of the crossing of gender boundaries, into the space of male intellectuals.