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Britain’s ‘first modern lesbian’ Anne Lister honored with rainbow plaque

Britain’s ‘first modern lesbian’ Anne Lister honored with rainbow plaque

Anne Lister

The city of York in the UK honored ‘first modern lesbian’ Anne Lister with a special plaque.

Unveiled in Goodramgate at the Holy Trinity Church on 24 July, the plaque is the first of its kind celebrating the LGBTI community in the city.

Lister’s diaries focus on her same-sex relationships

A wealthy rural gentlewoman, Anne Lister was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in 1791. She is famous for her coded diaries which tell the story of her life as a lesbian in Victorian England.

Also known as Gentleman Jack, the author focused on her same-sex relationships at Shibden Hall, where she lived from 1791 until her death.

She used a special code derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek which was deciphered in the 1980s.

A document of more than four million words, Lister’s journals were crucial in shedding a light on the life of a woman who chose not to conform to heteronormative views. Significantly, in 2011 the UN described them as ‘pivotal’ in British history.

Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) in a scene of Gentleman Jack.
Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) and Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle).| Photo: Lookout Point /Matt Squire

The plaque celebrates Anne Lister’s marital commitment to a woman

The result of a funding campaign, the York plaque is blue with rainbow edges. It also sports an inscription celebrating the ‘gender non-conforming entrepreneur’.

Moreover, the unveiling commemorates Anne Lister’s ‘marital commitment’ to Ann Walker.

Goodramgate was chosen to be the location for the plaque as it was also the place where Lister received the church’s blessing to privately contract marry Walker on 30 March 1834. The couple lived together until Lister’s death in 1840.

Lister’s story will be a TV series

Anne Lister’s story will become a TV show for the mainstream audience. Based on her diaries, Gentleman Jack is currently in production and will air on BBC One in 2019.

The period drama stars Suranne Jones as Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle as her wife. Notably, some of the diaries have been decoded for the first time specifically for the TV adaptation.

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