About 1750 some of the ladies in the upper circles of London society got thoroughly tired of the empty life which they led, with its constant card-playing and incessant idle chatter every evening of the week at one house or another.
So, under the leadership of Lady Mary Montagu, they decided upon a different kind of social diversion. Lady Mary, herself an author, had been an intimate friend of Joseph Addison and Alexander Pope, and was well known among the literary men of the later day.
The ladies, then, meeting at the houses of one another, filled their salons with the eminent and the aspiring men of letters.
Sumptuous evening dress was not a requisite at these affairs; in fact, to put at ease those who could not afford costly raiment, the ladies themselves dressed simply. Because of this simplicity, the group was held in ridicule by the social circle which they had deserted.
And when it was observed that one of the regular attendants of the literary evenings, Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, habitually wore his ordinary blue worsted stockings, instead of the black silk stockings usual among gentlemen at an evening affair, merriment was unbounded.
“The Bluestocking Club,” the set was promptly dubbed by some wit, said to have been Admiral Edward Boscowan, and the ladies were thenceforth bluestockings.
The epithet was subsequently applied to any lady of literary bent.