By Mary Katherine Francisco, Contributor
In light of Shenandoah Conservatory’s performance of “Blue Stockings,” a play highlighting the struggle for women in higher education, I will be writing a series of blog posts that feature women’s special impact on Shenandoah University.
I have been researching since August in the Shenandoah University Archives at Alson H. Smith Library as a work-study for the History Department under Warren Hofstra, Ph.D. My historical research has been geared towards women’s roles at Shenandoah, formerly called “Shenandoah Collegiate Institute and School of Music,” during the late nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. This is the same time frame for the Blue Stockings play, which will be performed by the Shenandoah Conservatory this weekend, Nov. 11 through 13. The performance will be directed by J.J. Ruscella, and was written by Jessica Swale. Actor and student, Rachel Louis, a freshman, worked closely with me to create an introductory exhibit for “Blue Stockings” in the atrium of Ohstrom-Bryant Theatre.
First, let’s define the term “Blue Stocking.” It is believed that this term was coined to refer to blue woolen stockings, which were considered informal in comparison with silk black stockings. Originally, the term was used kindly, referring to an intellectual woman, but it later had a negative connotation that added to the stereotype that intellectual woman were undesirable and dowdy.
This blog series will shed light on the roles women held at Shenandoah University, from its earliest days to the present, using research found during the creation of the exhibit for “Blue Stockings.” I look forward to taking you on this journey with me in this time where inspiration and progression is greatly needed.