For the First Time, Carving a Space for the Female Experience

Women have been speaking out about the inequalities they face for centuries. Over time, the term “féminisme” developed into “feminism” to describe a movement that aimed to achieve legal, economic, and social equality between the sexes; to bring an end to the institutions that men created to reinforce their power: including government, law, religion, marriage, and in the home.

A woman must not accept; she must challenge.
— Margaret Sanger

Literary Aspirations

Fascinatingly, an 18th century informal discussion group for intellectual women and invited men—the Bluestockings Society—used literature and discussion to carve a space for the female experience. They aimed to encourage discussion of literature and the arts, provide a space for men and women to converse as equals, provide mutual support for women who wish to write, and promote social intercourse in which stimulating conversation replaced gambling and alcohol (tea and lemonade instead). Many of these women, often described as “amazons of the pen” and portrayed as the classical nine muses, challenged traditional notions about women and their intellectual capabilities by not only providing commentary on classic literary works but also writing their own poems, plays, and novels.

Our intellectual ore must shine,
Not slumber idly in the mind.
Let education’s moral mint
The noblest images imprint.
— Hannah More

Empowerment and A path toward equality

These figures of social stability and cohesion paved the way for the noble rebels and radicals during the era of revolution in Europe and America. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, book clubs became havens for American women who felt under-stimulated.  However, no one was at more of an educational disadvantage at the time than black women, and literary societies sprung up in the 1820s and 1830s as a resource for them. These groups attracted members with short advertisements in publications like  Freedom's Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper in the United States.  Similar movements spread throughout the Northeast.

Fight the status quo

Fast-forward through the 1960s, 1970s, and today, and it’s obvious that active discussion of literature and arts is a pillar of promoting social equality. The Chicago Women's Liberation Union (1960s & 70s) even gives guidelines for forming a group: "A conscious-raising group consists of a small number of women (generally not more than 12) who meet informally once a week at a member's home or women's center. Ask friends to bring friends—it isn't necessary to know everyone. Sisterhood is a warm feeling!"

In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.
— Alice Walker

It’s amazing to see how women have been using discussion groups to fight the status quo for centuries. We’ve come a long way as a society, but the fight for social equality is still not over. We’re trying to make our impact by featuring underrepresented writers and coffee companies dedicated to ethical practices. Thanks for reading, and checkout our boxes for some amazing books featuring strong women writers.