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Born 3rd of April 1791 in Halifax, West Riding, Yorkshire, Anne was a prolific diarist. Beginning as simple scraps of paper, between 1806 and her death in 1840 she wrote over 5 million words across 26 volumes. Around one sixth of the diary is written in a simple code, and describes in frank terms and great detail her sexuality, sexual encounters and methods of seduction. Although the majority of the diaries are concerned with daily life, when the contents of the encoded sections were deciphered by the last inhabitant of Shibden Hall, John Lister (1847-1933), he was advised by his friend Arthur Burrell to burn the diaries. Instead he chose to hide them behind a wall panel. Following the diaries’ rediscovery and publication, Anne has come to be recognised as a significant figure in LGBTQ+ history.

The second of seven children, only Anne and her youngest sister Marian (b.13th October 1798) lived past 20 years old. She inherited Shibden Hall in Halifax in 1826, and earned the disparaging nickname ‘Gentleman Jack’ for her ‘masculine appearance’, dressing in all black, and having unladylike pursuits such as opening a coal mine. One of her lovers, Mariana Lawton, was initially ashamed of being seen in public with Anne due to the comments she attracted. In 1834 Anne and her lover Ann Walker took communion together in York and thereafter considered themselves married, though without legal recognition. The two lived together at Shibden Hall when not travelling the world. They were visiting the Russian Empire when Anne took ill and died on the 22nd of September 1840. Her body was returned to the UK and buried in Halifax Minster.

Explore more about the LGBTQ+ Community in York

Anne Lister in York
Molly Houses
John Brown / Barbra Hill
Homosexuality in the Medieval Period
Gender Roles in Viking Culture
John / Eleanor Rykener