The Bluestockings: 
The First Women’s Movement

Lunchtime lecture

    Hester Lynch Piozzi (née Salusbury, later Mrs Thrale),    by Unknown Italian artist,    1785-1786,    NPG 4942,    © National Portrait Gallery, London Hester Lynch Piozzi (née Salusbury, later Mrs Thrale), by Unknown Italian artist, 1785-1786, NPG 4942, © National Portrait Gallery, London

7 March 2024, 13.00-14.00

The Ondaatje Wing Theatre

£10 (£8 Members / concessions)

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In this Lunchtime lecture, author Susannah Gibson introduces her new book The Bluestockings: The First Women’s Movement.

In Britain in the 1750s, women had no power and no rights – all money and property belonged to their fathers or husbands. A brave group, known as the Blue Stockings Society, risked everything to think and live as they wished, despite the sneers of contemporaries who argued that books ‘frazzled female brains and damaged their wombs’.

In reference to portraits in the Collection, this talk celebrates the lives and achievements of the Bluestockings – Elizabeth Montagu, who hosted a series of glittering salons in her London drawing room; Hester Thrale, who took key writers under her wing; Ann Yearsley, who fought back when her snobbish patron refused to hand over her earnings because she was working class; and Catherine Macauley, who wrote a sensational eight volume history of England. 

In this revelatory book, Gibson explores the lives and legacies of these women who went on to inspire writers and thinkers from Mary Wollstonecraft to Virginia Woolf, paving the way for the feminist waves that would follow.

Dr Susannah Gibson is a writer and historian based in Cambridge. She holds a PhD from Cambridge on the history of the life sciences of the eighteenth century, an MA in the history of nineteenth-century science, and a BA in experimental physics. She is the author of two books, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? and The Spirit of Inquiry (both OUP).