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Anne Lister 'Gentleman Jack' of Shibden Hall

Amazing Anne (1791 - 1840) - diarist, businesswoman, landowner, traveller and lesbian

Anne Lister

Born in 1791, Anne Lister became one of the most interesting women of the nineteenth century. She is known as ‘the first modern lesbian’.

Anne grew up in Market Weighton. She took up residence with her uncle James and aunt Anne in 1815 at Shibden Hall. After the death of her uncle in 1826, she began to manage the estate and inherited it in 1836.

She was very fond of exercise: her hobbies included walking, riding and shooting. Anne also played the flute. However, her masculine appearance and sometimes eccentric behaviour earned her the nickname of "Gentleman Jack."

Management of the Shibden Hall (museums) estate proved an easy task for Anne. She supervised building work, dealt with the business of farming and developed coal mining on her land. Anne joined in all local cultural and intellectual activities. She became the first woman elected to the committee of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society. Education and schools were also important to her.

When Anne left school she began to keep a diary. She made entries in this almost daily for the rest of her life. She devised a code to record her thoughts, without fear of discovery. This meant that she could write down her intimate feelings towards and relationships with women.

One of Anne's greatest passions was travel. She lived in Paris for 18 months and travelled to Italy, Belgium, Denmark and the Pyrenees.

In 1839, Anne began what would be her final journey, when she went to Russia with her partner Ann Walker.

Anne Lister tragically died in Georgia on 22nd September 1840. Her remains were brought back to England. She was laid to rest in Halifax Parish Church (now Halifax Minster) on the 29th April 1841.

In 2010, she was the subject of a film called The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. There was also a documentary and both were shown by the BBC.

The story of Anne was brought to TV screens across the world. Series one of 'Gentleman Jack' aired in 2019 and series two in 2022. A BBC production with Suranne Jones playing the main role of 'Gentleman Jack' Anne Lister. It also starred Sophie Ruddle, Gemma Whelan, Timothy West and Peter Davison. The show was written by Sally Wainwright and partly filmed at Shibden Hall.

Material on Anne Lister can be found in the Local Studies Department of the Central Library, Halifax. Enter "Anne Lister" as a 'quick search' term in the: 

Online library catalogue
Anne's diaries, travel journals and other documents are held by West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, based in Central Library. Her diaries have been digitised and are available to view on their online catalogue.

Are you a Calderdale library member or using a Calderdale library? Why not search for and find out about other historical figures? Visit: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Enter a person's name or a place in the search box. Note: A search for Halifax is best put in as "Halifax, Yorkshire".

If the 'Library Card Login' box appears, enter "calderdale", followed by your library card number (without the R).

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