The Blue Stockings Association began as a simple plan in 2007 to raise a modest sum of $500 for the students who were doing it hard at Monash University Gippsland.
“We heard of a lot of people who didn’t have the money for food and accommodation, so were sleeping in their cars…a lot of them happened to be women,” Blue Stockings Association co-founder Sarah Lawless said.
Fuelled by the passion to help other students in the pursuit of higher education, Ms Lawless’s fellow student representative Caitlin Grigsby worked tirelessly to collect funds.
That year, exceeding all expectations, they raised $11,000.
“We didn’t expect this; local businesses were very excited about it and supportive,” Ms Lawless said.
“Blue stockings” is a historical concept, and was once used to refer to male intellectuals, explained Ms Grigsby.
“Only men had access to education back in the day; when women started wearing them (stockings), the term became an insult,” Ms Grigsby said.
Central to the idea of educating women, the organisation gives out cash scholarships to eligible women living in Gippsland to help ease the load as they return to study.
The demographic of the women they provide assistance to are usually young students who have completed compulsory education, and mature-age women who want to return to study.
“We also want to encourage more indigenous applicants to step forward,” Ms Lawless said.
Nine individuals sit on the committee, including Latrobe City councillor Lisa Price, who is the deputy chair, and other local businesspeople.
Ms Lawless, who is 27 years old, and Ms Grigsby, who is 25 years old, both work in educational roles.
Traralgon resident Ms Lawless is a teacher at Baringa Special School in Moe, while Ms Grigsby works in Melbourne, although she returns to the Latrobe Valley often.
“We would like to continue providing scholarships every year, and raise more money,” Ms Lawless said.
When asked what her message for women this International Women’s Day was, Ms Lawless urged women to follow their dreams and pursue their areas of interest.
“Don’t underestimate yourselves; education is empowerment,” she said.
“Look for opportunities to better yourself and your life; the impact will benefit your family and the community,” Ms Grigsby said.
More information can be found online at www.bluestockings.com.au