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Ann Walker & Anne Lister

Anne Lister (April 3, 1791 - September 22, 1840) was a well-off Yorkshire landowner, diarist, mountaineer and traveller. Throughout her life she kept diaries which chronicled the details of her daily life, including her lesbian relationships, her financial concerns, her industrial activities and her work improving Shibden Hall. Her diaries contain more than 4,000,000 words and about a sixth of them—those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships—were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1930s. Lister is often called "the first modern lesbian" for her clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle. Called "Fred" by her lover and "Gentleman Jack" by Halifax residents, she suffered from harassment for her sexuality, and recognised her similarity to the Ladies of Llangollen, whom she visited. (P: ©Joshua Horner (1812–1884)/Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council. Anne Lister, ca. 1830 (©4))

She was a rural gentlewoman who directed the renovation and landscaping of Shibden Hall, near Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, which she had inherited from her uncle, James Lister. (P: ©Joshua Horner (1812–1884)/Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council. James Lister (1748–1826) (©4))

Anne was the eldest daughter of Jeremy Lister (1753-1836) who as a young man in 1775 served with the British 10th Regiment of Foot in the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the American war of Independence. In August 1788 he married Rebecca Battle (1770-1817) of Welton in East Riding, Yorkshire. Their first child, John was born in 1789 but died the same year. Anne Lister was born in Welton 3 April 1791. In 1793 the family moved to an estate named Skefler House at Market Weighton. At Skelfer the young Anne Lister would spend her earliest years. A second son, Samuel who would be a close friend to Anne, was born in 1793. The Listers had actually six children but only Anne and her younger sister Marian would survive to adult age.


Shibden Hall, near Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire


Anne Lister had an affair with a wealthy heiress, Ann Walker, whom she met in 1832, was a story of local repute and her eventual marriage (which was denied legal recognition) to Walker in 1834 was highly unusual. Anne Lister died aged 49 of a fever at Koutais (now Kutaisi, Georgia) while travelling with Ann Walker. Walker, to whom ownership of Shibden Hall passed, had Lister buried in the parish church in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Ann Walker died in 1854 at her home, Cliff Hill in Lightcliffe.


Anne Lister and Eliza Raine in the BBC fiction

Between 1801-1805 Anne Lister was educated at home by Reverend George Skelding, the vicar of Market Weighton, and at the age of seven she was sent to a school run by Mrs Hague's & Mrs Chettle, in Agnesgate, Ripon. On her visits to her aunt Anne and uncle James at Shibden Hall, the Misses Mellin gave her lessons. In 1805 Anne Lister was sent to the Manor House School, York. At this school Anne would meet her first love and friend, Eliza Raine (1791-1869). While educated at home Anne Lister developed an interest in the classical literature. In a survived letter to her aunt from February 3rd in 1803 young Anne Lister explains:

My library is my greatest pleasure...The Grecian History had please me much.

Her wealth allowed her some measure of freedom to live as she pleased. She inherited the family estate, Shibden Hall, in 1826, and from it drew a reasonable income (some of it from tenants). During her life, she renovated Shibden Hall quite significantly to her own design. In 1838 she added a gothic tower to the house body which would serve as her private library.


Anne Lister and Marianna Lawton in the BBC fiction

Anne Lister is described as having a "masculine appearance"; one of her lovers, Marianna Lawton (née Belcombe), was initially ashamed to be seen in public with Anne as her appearance was commented on. She dressed entirely in black and took part in many activities that were not perceived as the norm for gentlewomen, such as opening and owning a colliery. She was referred to as "Gentleman Jack" in some quarters. Lawton and Lister were lovers for several years, including a period during which Lawton was married and had her husband's permission.

Lister's subsequent affair with a wealthy heiress, Ann Walker, whom she met in 1832, was a story of local repute and her eventual "marriage" to Walker in 1834 highly unusual.

In 1830 while travelling in France, she was the first woman to ascend Mont Perdu, in the Pyrenees. In 1838, she came back to the Pyrenees with Walker and completed the first "official" ascent of the Vignemale (3,298 metres (10,820 ft)). She was known in France as Ann Lister or Lady Lister only for this accomplishment.

Anne Lister died aged 49 of a fever at Koutais (now Kutaisi, Georgia) while travelling with Ann Walker. Walker, to whom ownership of Shibden Hall passed, had Lister's body embalmed and brought back to the UK, where she is buried in the parish church, Halifax, West Yorkshire. Ann Walker died in 1854 at her childhood home, Cliff Hill in Lightcliffe.

Throughout her life, Lister had a strong faith in the Anglican Church. The Lister family had a vault at the Halifax parish church, where Anne Lister's remains are. Her tombstone was recently discovered after being covered by a floor in 1879. The current family tomb is at St Anne's Church, Southowram, where John Lister is buried; he was the first to attempt the translation of Anne Lister's diaries.


BBC fiction

During her life, Anne wrote a four-million-word diary. The diary exists in 26 volumes and covers the years 1806-1840. Around one-sixth of the diary is encrypted in a simple code of her own devising combining letters from Greek and algebra, and describes quite graphically her lesbian nature and affairs, as well as the tactics she used for seduction. The diaries also contain her thoughts on the weather, social events, national events and her business interests. The majority of her diary deals with her daily life, and not merely her lesbianism. The code used in her diaries were deciphered by the last inhabitant of Shibden Hall, John Lister (1847-1933) and a friend of his, Arthur Burrell. When the content of the secret passages was revealed Burrell advised John Lister to burn all the diaries. Lister did not take this advice, but instead continued to hide Anne Lister's diaries behind a panel at Shibden Hall. Author Helena Whitbread has published some of the diaries in two volumes (one in 1988 and one in 1992). Their graphic nature meant at first they were believed by some to be a hoax, but documentary evidence has since established their authenticity.

In 2010, BBC Two broadcast a production based on Lister's life, The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, starring Maxine Peake as Lister. Revealing Anne Lister, a documentary featuring Sue Perkins, was broadcast on 31 May 2010 on BBC Two.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Lister

Further Readings:

Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1500563323
ISBN-13: 978-1500563325
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time

Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher


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Tags: author: anne lister, days of love
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