Anne Lister

Anne Lister of Shibden Hall (1791-1840) was a remarkable woman who has left an even more remarkable written legacy which intrigues and inspires people all over the world.

This exhibition is an introduction to her life and lesbian loves.


Watercolour portrait of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall [reference SH:2/M/19/1/59]

Anne kept diaries from 1806 to her death in 1840 covering all aspects of her life as a landowner, business woman, traveller and lesbian – Anne is considered by many to be ‘the first modern lesbian’. She wrote her diaries systematically in volumes from 1817, aged 26, proposing to write her diary every day. Her diaries comprise of some 7.720 page or around 5 million words, with about one sixth of the entries written in a code that she created.

Anne’s diaries are part of the extensive collection of Lister Family of Shibden Hall records, covering 13th century to 1933. The collection is fully listed on the West Yorkshire Archive Service online catalogue (collection reference SH).

In 2011 Anne’s diaries were inscribed in the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in recognition of their substantial cultural significance to the UK. They are an important resource in the field of Gender Studies and Women’s History, as well as providing a wealth of information about politics, business, religion, education, science, travel, local and national events, medicine and health.


SH-7-ML-E-02-0041_How like a man_quote

“The people generally remark, as I pass along, how much I am like a man”

28 June 1818 – written in Anne’s journal [reference SH:7/ML/E/2] (above and below)


SH-7-ML-E-04_122_Love only the fairer sex

“Burnt Mr Montague’s farewell verses that no trace of any man’s admiration may remain. It is not meet [meant] for me. I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn my heart revolts from any other love than theirs”

29 Jan 1821 – written in Anne’s journal [reference SH:7/ML/E:4]


“I know my own heart and understand my fellow man. But I am made unlike anyone I have ever met. I dare to say that I am like no one in the whole world”

20 Aug 1823 – written in Anne’s journal quoting Rousseau [reference SH:7/ML/E/7]


“I am an enigma even to myself and do excite my own curiosity”

21 Jun 1824 – Cross-written letter from Anne Lister, Shibden Hall, to [Sibbella] Maclean of Coll, Tobermory [reference SH:7/ML/140] (above and below)


“respected and lamented lady, whose benefactions to our charitable and religious institutions will long be remembered, and whose public spirit in the improvement of our town and neighbourhood is attested by lasting memorials. In mental energy and courage she resembled Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Lady Hester Stanhope”

Halifax Guardian Obituary notice 1840 [reference SH:7/ML/1116]

Other Exhibition Pages

Anne Lister – Early Years

Anne Lister – The Journals

Anne Lister – Love Life

Anne Lister – Shibden Hall

Anne Lister – A Window into History

Anne Lister – The Traveller

Anne Lister – Reading Anne’s Diaries

Anne Lister – Diary Transcription Project