1791 - 1840

“Monday 29 January 1821 [Halifax] I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.”

– Anne Lister

In an era when women had virtually no voice or power, Ann Lister of Yorkshire, England defied the odds to become what some call the first modern lesbian. She possessed a self-knowledge about her identity and was open about it to her family and close friends at a time when that was frowned upon. Despite being taunted by fellow Halifax residents, who referred to her as “Gentleman Jack,” Lister flouted convention by dressing in black men’s attire and taking part in typically male activities such as riding and shooting. In 1830 she became the first woman to ascend Mount Perdu in the Pyrenees and several years later completed the official ascent of the Vignemale, the highest point in the mountain range. Though she conventionally shied away identification with “Sapphists,” she declared in her voluminous diary of over four million words that “I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.” Obscuring the nature of her affections, the diary incorporated a special code combining Algebra and Ancient Greek and detailed her intimate relationships as well as her day to day life as a wealthy “rural gentleman” – including the operation of her family estate Shibden Hall, her business interests, as well as social and national events. It has also come to be highly prized by historians who value its unique perspective on the experience of lesbians in early 19th-century England. Lister’s first great romance, with Mariana Lawton, ended when Lawton, who called her “Fred,” refused to leave her husband. In 1832, she reconnected with heiress Ann Walker after a long absence from Halifax. In the spring of 1834, the two were “married” in a private declaration of their life-commitment, which they solemnized by taking communion together at Holy Trinity Church in York. Great travelers, in 1839 “The Two Annes,” as they were known, embarked on a journey to Russia where Lister contracted a fever and died in 1840 at age 49 in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. She willed her beloved home, Shibden Hall, to Walker. Today Shibden Hall is a Historic Museum featuring tours of the house and grounds. In 2019, the story of “The Two Annes” was made into a popular BBC/HBO television series called “Gentleman Jack” shot at Shibden Hall and the surrounding area.

Lesson Plan


Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Lesbian

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Protestant

Nations Affiliated United Kingdom France

Era/Epoch Enlightenment (1685-1815)

Field(s) of Contribution




Social Sciences

STEM & Medicine

World History

Commemorations & Honors

Lister's Family Estate Shibden Hall Designated an Historic House (2000)

Lister's Diaries Added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme Register (2011)

Plaque Unveiled at Holy Trinity Church, York's First LGBT History Plaque, Stating "Anne Lister 1791–1840 of Shibden Hall, Halifax / Lesbian and Diarist; took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker / Easter 1834" (2019)

Anne Lister Statue Unveiled at The Piece Hall Courtyard in Halifax (2021)

Anne Lister College Becomes First University of York College Named After a Woman and LGBTQ Person (2022)


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Original Biography Author
Carrie Maxwell
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell