Within these extensive works are both an outward insistence to be herself, regardless of society’s expectations, and coded secrets to allow her to do this in a world unaccepting of homosexuality.
These codes were cracked in the early 21st century as a combination of Ancient Greek and algebra, and used as a way of communicating about her lovers, firstly Eliza Raine and finally Ann Walker. After having lesbian relationships since a teenager, and continuing on her frequent travels, Anne met in Ann in the 1820s, and despite not being legalised until 180 years later, in 1834 the couple married.
Whilst her West Yorkshire birthplace rightly celebrates the achievements of Anne Lister, including a blue plaque at Shibden Hall itself, York also played a major part in her life, yet she has been a relatively unsung hero here. But look closely, and another commemorative blue plaque can be found in the city.
The declaration of Anne and Ann’s marriage took place at Holy Trinity Church on Goodramgate, and here this significant event is marked with York’s first LGBTQ+ plaque, decorated with a rainbow border, and whose wording was recently updated from: ‘Anne Lister – 1791-1840 – Gender-nonconforming entrepreneur. Celebrated marital commitment, without legal recognition, to Ann Walker in this church. Easter, 1834’ to now read: ‘Anne Lister – 1791-1840 – of Shibden Hall, Halifax – Lesbian and Diarist; took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker – Easter 1834’.