From the General Editor:
History isn’t a sacred text. We can edit it using a big red marker. We can meet to discuss what it should and shouldn’t be. We can write a new draft. And perhaps that new draft will suggest that women were not just wives, not just the oppressed, not just the muse. They were the makers and we can focus on what they made.
You will quickly see from the first issue of Bluestocking that we have little time for biography and little time for labels. De Beauvoir argued that women remain confined to what they ‘are’, while men can ‘do’ and ‘make’. Let us reclaim the ‘done’ and the ‘made’ for that is where orginality and progress lies. The women that have come before us were mothers, lovers, thinkers. Yes, but if we focus on what they did and made, we see instead a plethora of scientific breakthroughs, literary developments and great acts that have earned their place in our history.
Bluestocking is possible because of funding from The Big Boost. It is the venture of a great team – editors, writers, PR and design – who played it all by ear, but managed to play, I think, beautifully.
From the Arts Editor:
‘The History of England is the history of the male line, not of the female. Of our Fathers we always know some fact, some distinction. They were soldiers or they were sailors; they filled that office or they made that law. But of our mothers, our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers, what remains?’ (Virginia Woolf)
Woolf’s question is, remarkably, still a valid one today. It is, however, a question to which Bluestocking actively, creatively and successfully responds. Voicing ‘tales untold’, examining the intellectual and artistic achievements of women throughout the ages, our journal explores, and seeks to illuminate, the otherwise dark and enigmatic margins of the history books.
For, despite appearances, the margin is no bad place. Yes, it may be small; yes, it is often punched with holes and yes, it receives its fair share of doodles. However, as the articles in this issue demonstrate, the cramped space – the margin’s slight, restricted area- has inspired some of the most fascinating and beautiful works of art in existence. Gabrielle Münter’s minimalist lines, Madame de Lafayette’s striking anonymity, Sulpicia’s short, yet controversial, poems – all are the creative responses of women who have been pushed to the side, confined to the edges. It is, however, in these very responses, and the responses of so many other female artists, that liberating dimension, boundless possibility, is to be found.
‘What remains’ is for us, then, to follow their example. This journal occupies only a small, inconspicuous slice of cyberspace; the bytes are limited, the edges close. Yet, by a process of discovery and investigation, by recording the creative histories of ‘our mothers, our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers’, infinite space is generated. In a margin we may reside, but in a truly dynamic and multi-dimensional one – in a margin, not marginal, but endlessly inspirational.
From the Humanities Editor:
Humanities is a diverse classification, often being seen to comprise everything that does not fit comfortably into either Arts or Sciences. Yet, as the articles in this edition of Bluestocking show, it means much more than that. The three women written about here demonstrate the application of their ideas to social life, whatever their sphere. This is highlighted by the title of the article on Rosa Luxemburg, ‘in the beginning was the deed’.
Although we read about women enclosed in a monastery or working in the world of academia, no one could presume to say they were encased in ivory towers. Luxemburg not only used her writing to compel others to act, but is famous for her own political activism. Familiarity with the work of these three women emphasises that it is from experience that ideas are formed and derive their validity. Clare of Assisi’s greatest work was lived, not written, but she surely merits her place as a creative thinker. Though not a theologian in the formal sense, her spirituality and way of life have been followed by thousands of people, from Agnes in the letters examined here to the Poor Clares of today. Philippa Foot, herself an atheist, may at first appear to have little similarity with Clare. Yet although she approaches the world from an immensely different viewpoint, Foot also seeks to relate her ideas directly to application in life, encouraging us to question the differences between moral choices and ‘everyday’ decisions. The interaction between thought and action is what is discussed here, and the ideas that are formed as a result of this interaction are such that drive changes in the lives of societies and individuals.
From the Science Editor:
For me, Bluestocking is somewhere to showcase the work of some truly exceptional women (recognised or unrecognised) from both the past and present. From the outset I have considered Mona’s idea to be nothing short of brilliant, as it appeals to everyone and allows people who are passionate about the area that they work in to write about the women who inspire them. These articles have been produced in such an accessible style that they appeal to the scientifically minded among us, as well as a variety of others who may not necessarily have a great deal of specific scientific knowledge, but are interested in the product of these women’s efforts.
In this issue we have articles on Jocelyn Bell (an Astrophysicist whose work has been influential in the last few decades), Rosalind Franklin (involved in several projects throughout the forties and fifties, but best know for her work in DNA) and Hildegard of Bingen (an influential female scientist from the Middle Ages). All three are (or were) great female scientists and, in spite of the difficulties they sometimes faced, all made an extremely significant contribution to scientific history. Whilst these articles do not contain a great deal of biography, instead concentrating on the remarkable work that these women did and the discoveries they made, there are references included if you wish to find out more about the women featured in a particular article.
I have thoroughly enjoyed compiling the science articles, and reading about the wonderful work that these women have done. I certainly hope that the articles by our three writers for this issue will encourage you to read more about these women, but also about women in Science generally – a field where they are, unfortunately, still greatly outnumbered by men.