Anne Lister Biography

Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) moved permanently into the run-down Shibden Hall, Halifax, in 1815. She was joining her Aunt Anne and Uncle James with the view to possibly one day inherit, but more importantly, to learn about managing the estate.

Highly intelligent with an unquenchable thirst for life, Anne recorded her life in minute detail. She was a lesbian, a passionate lover and a woman true to herself. During her life Anne had many lovers, and a love life which was unsurprisingly complex. Being polygamous, as well as utterly captivating, led to a few broken hearts.

Anne was a woman who lived each day to its fullest. She travelled extensively including Paris, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium in her travels. She completed the first official ascent of Vignemale, at 3,298m the highest peak in the French Pyrenees. In 1839 -1840 she travelled through Russia to Caucasus.

Anne was highly observant and recorded everything. In total her diaries amount to 5 million words, 7720 pages. The diaries begin in 1806 aged 15 with accounts of her first lover Eliza Raine, and continue until her death and her final lover, Anne Walker.

After Anne’s sudden death at the age of 49, Anne Lister’s diaries were placed behind wooden panelling at Shibden Hall and remained hidden for eighty years. Although discovered in 1887, it wasn’t until 1988 with Helena Whitbread’s publication of ‘I know my own heart’, that the lesbian Anne Lister came into the public domain.

More recently, Anne Lister has become more widely known after the extremely popular BBC TV series ‘Gentleman Jack’.

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