Anne Lister (1791-1840) was an English landowner, entrepreneur, avid traveller and diarist. Throughout her life, she kept diaries that chronicled the details of her day-to-day, her lesbian flirtations and intimate relationships, her many travels and her work improving her Halifax (West Yorkshire) Estate, Shibden Hall (photo above). Her diaries contain more than 5m words, 1/6 of them written in crypthand, a code which she derived, to write about every detail of her relationships with other women.
As a landed lady, Anne was a rarity in many ways. She was financially independent at a time when women had very little economic freedom and were tied to social conventions. She was her own boss, she knew what she wanted and tried to make her dreams become a reality. Strong minded, stubborn and fiercely determined, she also had the courage to love who she wanted to love.
The BBC/HBO drama series 'Gentleman Jack' starring Suranne Jones, Sophie Rundle and Gemma Jones is based on Anne Lister's diaries. The series is written by the talented Sally Wainwright. They are currently filming Season Two.
Anne's diary entries about her travels through Scotland in 1828 have just been transcribed. This means for the first time in almost 200 years we can now explore her thoughts and follow her discoveries.
In May 1828 Anne travelled by stagecoach into our grand city which she explored with her companion, Scottish noblewoman Sibella MacLean. They visited all the major sights and resided within the New Town during their stay. Thanks to Lister’s obsession with recording minute details in her diaries, we can now trace their every movement and stitch their story
into the fabric of Edinburgh.
“I owe a good deal to this journal. By unburdening my mind on paper I feel, as it were, in some degree to get rid of it; it seems made over to a friend that hears it patiently, keeps it faithfully, and by never forgetting anything, is always ready to compare the past & present and thus to cheer & edify the future.” – Anne Lister