21st century feminism

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Why we should all know the name Anne Lister

Anne Lister was born in 1791 in Halifax. She died in 1840. In her 49 years she managed to live a relatively open lesbian life (granted she had "means" and her social acceptance was mainly down to her powerful position in society rather than ease with her sexuality). This most remarkable story is recorded in detail in an extensive diary of her life and loves, the most controversial bits written in a special code she created. Her story is amazing. The story of her diary is equally amazing, and the fact that it survived terrified relatives and homophobic culture to finally be decoded and published is astonishing. I want to say it's a vital piece of LGBT history, it is that and more. It's a vital tome of history, everybody's history.

The BCC have done a brilliant job of bringing her story to a wider audience in a drama
The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, complimented by a fact-finding program Revealing Anne Lister. All credit goes to Helena Whitbread, a wonderful woman who dedicated decades to learn the code and translated the massive tome. Her publication is I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister, 1791-1840.


  1. I was surprised to come across this drama and the documentary, and to realise I'd never heard of such a prolific and important diarist. She should be as famous as Pepys, but her gender and sexuality have rendered her invisible in our society. Let's hope that changes now. Great drama, and I have to read (at least selections of) the diaries now!

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