The Widdershins

Late weekend post~Closing out Pride Week

Posted on: June 10, 2019

Anne Lister as portrayed by Suranne Jones



















Good (late) Weekend Widdershins

As I put in the comments on mb’s post, yeah, shit was just happening today.  And I’m still not far past the point of wanting to take a hammer to something (someone?).  But let’s move on.

The picture at the top is of actress Suranne Jones portraying an actual historical figure Anne Lister.  She portrays Lister in the HBO series Gentleman Jack.

One of the first things about the show that caught my attention was that Anne was from and speaks of Halifax.  I thought “Nova Scotia?” because on the show she speaks of coal.  Google, being a friend, I found out there was a Halifax England in West Yorkshire.  Checking some maps I saw it was in the northeastern part of England. Halifax is northeast of Manchester to give another reference for it.  And apparently yes at some point they mined coal there for a time.

The actual Anne Lister

As you can see above, Suranne does bear some resemblance to real Anne.  Suranne said she added the top hat on her own.

Anne Lister was born in 1791 and died 1840.  If you do the arithmetic you can see her adult period was in the 1820s or so.  And what I have found fascinating was how “out” she was at the time.

Anne was a landowner and considered the family somewhat upper class.  She had an ancestral home, Shibden Hall, built in around 1420.  The Listers owned the estate for about three hundred years.




Although she surely didn’t describe herself as a lesbian, she lived that lifestyle.  From the wiki:


Lister is described as having a “masculine appearance”; one of her lovers, Marianna Lawton (née Belcombe), was initially ashamed to be seen in public with her because her appearance was commented on. She dressed entirely in black and took part in many activities that were not perceived as the norm for gentlewomen, such as opening and owning a colliery. She was referred to as “Gentleman Jack” in some quarters. Lawton and Lister were lovers for several years, including a period during which Lawton was married and to which her husband became resigned.

On the HBO show, Anne meets and apparently falls in love with a local heiress Ann Walker.

Lister met the wealthy heiress Ann Walker in 1832. The women took communion together on Easter Sunday 1834 in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, and thereafter considered themselves married. The church has been described as “an icon for what is interpreted as the site of the first lesbian marriage to be held in Britain”, and the building now hosts a commemorative blue plaque.  The couple lived together at Shibden Hall until Lister’s death in 1840.

Walker’s fortune was used to improve Shibden Hall and the property’s waterfall and lake. Lister renovated Shibden Hall quite significantly to her own design. In 1838, she added a Gothic tower(shown in the picture above)  to the main house, to serve as her private library. She also had a tunnel dug under the building which allowed the staff to move about without disturbing her.

What was intriguing to me about Lister were the diaries or journals that she kept.

Throughout her life, she kept diaries that chronicled the details of her daily life, including her lesbian relationships, her financial concerns, her industrial activities, and her work improving Shibden Hall. Her diaries contain more than 4 million words and about a sixth of them — those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships — were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1930s. Lister is often called “the first modern lesbian” for her clear self-knowledge and openly lesbian lifestyle.

So to wrap up Pride Week, brava to Anne Lister!


* * * *

Sorry about the little promos in there.

Open thread, of course.


35 Responses to "Late weekend post~Closing out Pride Week"

Any typos or anything else, sorry. I just posted this at 4:30 a.m. Central Time.

I’ve taken my Ambien extended release and I’m waiting for it to kick in.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Fredster! For celebrating a lesbian for Pride Week. Without any but also’s and all the rest of it. Lesbians seem to get left out a lot these days, so really refreshing to see this!

Such an interesting lesbian, too. I didn’t know anything about her. (I know. My excuse is I live under a rock.)

@3: Hey quixote, happy to do so!
Another of the things I like about the show is Suranne will “break the fourth wall” at times to share a secret. The show is totally engaging.

Very cool & interesting post Fredster! I saw the ads for “Gentleman Jack” but had no idea what it was about.

@4: Thanks annie!

What quixote and annie said!

@6: Thanks Luna. I know from you’ve said you don’t have a tv but I really wanted to write about Lister for Pride Week. And for anyone who does have a tv and cable or satellite, if you see there’s a freebie HBO week or something and you see this show included it is definitely worth a watch.

Here’s a photo of the plaque that was put up at the church in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York

Great post, Fredster! This is inspiring me to watch Gentleman Jack. It does look fascinating. 😀

Let’s leave this one up for a while!

Thanks, Fredster. Very intriguing…

Her diaries contain more than 4 million words and about a sixth of them — those concerning the intimate details of her romantic and sexual relationships — were written in code. The code, derived from a combination of algebra and Ancient Greek, was deciphered in the 1930s.

We don’t have HBO, but I’ll keep a look out for a free weekend.

Lister lived to only 49, and was married to Ann Walker for only 6 yrs before dying. Hope her years were rich with love.

GIF for Fredster:

@11: When I read the wiki entry I saw she died in “the Russian empire”. I hope she and Ann Walker were having adventures of some type.

@12: Awww, how cute.

The couple across the street have a nasty little Pomeranian. And I thought Doxies could be yappers.

My mom has a pom/papillon mix and he’s mean and yappy.

@15: Must be something with the breed annie. I can go to take the trash out or check the mail and I hear him yapping away at the window.

Nature and nurture, I’d bet.

So cute, the perfect shape for a little hot dog.

@18: Well, they don’t call ’em weenie dogs for nothing Shadow. LOL

Fredster, thank you so much for pointing us to GJ. I am two eps in, and I love it! Refreshingly different, plus so nice to see GoT actress Gemma Whelan (aka Yara); she is doing a splendid job as Anne’s always-coming-in-second sister. I also like that Anne’s sexuality is only part of who she is: she is fearless, proud, compassionate, responsible, clever, curious, assertive, adventurous and intelligent, challenging norms and the unfair restrictions put upon women. She would stand out in the herd whether she was male or female, gay or lesbian. The fact that she was so “out” as you say is, astounding.

@22: Cats, I had dvr’d the season finale episode and watched it last night. I got a little teary at the end of the episode. And there is one scene where Anne does not wear black. It is hysterical.

And yes Gemma plays the sister well. Through the episodes you’ll see that she finally accepts the fact that Anne is in charge of the family.

Fredster, it is so much fun, the dialogue, the music and the way the characters, esp Anne, look into the camera as if you are part of the action are masterfully blended. Re her not wearing black, do we ever know the origin of her daily outfit? She said once, that even when she dressed as a woman people took her for a man. Even though she wears a heavy skirt, she sits like a man. She is then a male trapped in a female body, not a woman with a nature nurtured in a male but not a female, who prefers women sexually? I hope there is a season 2, 3, and 4. Again, many thanks for this delightful diversion. Boy howdy, do I need it!

@20, Nice article by Charlie Pierce; thanks. We need far more time than 1 or 2 questions on what candidates would do about climate change.

On his watch, the state has boosted health care, increased access to early-childhood education and college, raised the minimum wage, expanded paid family leave, invested in infrastructure, and established in-state net neutrality, all while leading the country in job growth, overall personal-income growth, and GDP.

They forgot to mention the clean energy policy, ensuring women’s access to abortion, restrictions on guns, and wiping out convictions on marijuana possession. The last couple of years I’ve really realized that I’m lucky to live in a state like this. Although a lot of the personal-income growth comes from the overpaid techie bros who crowd the Puget Sound cities and highways and make affordable housing scarce for the rest of us.

@24: Don’t want to give away too much, but in the final episode she tells the Queen of Denmark (? !) that she chose to wear black all the time after someone she was engaged to (I think that’s what she said) decided to marry someone else and Anne embraced the idea of wearing black afterwards. She and the queen have a great dialogue on that.

@25: Glad you enjoyed the article Luna.

Sigh…those pesky damned alligators. There are several pics on the page.

Photos: 8-foot alligator bit off piece of patrol car in Louisiana, deputies say

Wicked burn by Jimmy Kimmel & crew:

Even though she wears a heavy skirt, she sits like a man.

I beg to differ. How men and women move is heavily influenced by cultural pressures, and little is innate. Trousers offer far more freedom of movement than do skirts, for one thing, so boys and men are used to taking longer strides. Girls and woman are told to keep their legs close together when sitting, whereas lots of boys and men will “manspread.” Women are expected to be graceful; men not so much. We see these different expectations about speech, clothing, recreational activities, and even hand gesticulation. Remove the cultural training and expectations (difficult, I admit), and there would be a continuum of behavior with men and women scattered all over the range.

@28, Oh my. This doesn’t make me feel good about ever driving in LA. Wonder what make of car tastes the best to alligators?

What make of car do you have, Luna?

@31: Wonder what make of car tastes the best to alligators?

Why the ones that taste like chicken of course.

@28, those things scare the crap out of me, but its kinda funny it chomped on a sheriffs car.

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