Anne Lister – A Window into History

The diaries are full of information about Anne’s daily life and interests, from clothes, tooth-pulling and social events to politics, workhouses and the threat of disease and unrest. Although Anne lived an obscure life by contrast to better known contemporary diarists, her journals are invaluable as a primary source of information on many levels including for the development of an important area of Yorkshire during the period of the Industrial Revolution and as a fascinating viewpoint on national and international events and influences.

In October 1831, at the age of 40, Anne Lister was elected to the Committee of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society, having already the distinction of being the only woman member.


1831 – Literary and Philosophical Society of Halifax certificate of membership of Anne Lister (SH:7/ML/530)



Sep 1834 – List of members of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Halifax – with only one woman! (SH:7/ML/803)



Halifax – “The town rather disturbed. Riots expected.  Messrs Edwards of Pye Nest, Kershaw, Ackroyd and Peter Bold have power looms and they expect them to be attacked.  Some Dragoons came in the morning.  Said rioting at Bradford.  Several people wounded”

4 May 1826 – written in Anne’s journal (SH:7/ML/E/9)



“The fact is, I never was so astonished and disappointed in my life.  I have not yet got over it, cannot think of it with common patience… I was guided by the positive assurances of those who ought to have been well informed and who were themselves deceived to the last moment – there must have been foul play somewhere or other… but I have no longer much dependence on the strength of the conservatives just at present – the spirit of radicalism is fearfully strong, and the Dissenters are so united against us, I do not see how we can make head against them… But I am sick of politics”

17 Jan 1833 – Draft letter from Anne Lister, Shibden Hall, to Lady Stuart, Whitehall (SH:7/ML/653)



“On condition however of reserving to herself two seats in the Church, a Lady has expressed her willingness to sell us 2000 yards, or a little more, if it may be necessary, at 6 shillings per yard, by which she virtually gives at least £100 to the object in the reduction of the price she would otherwise demand and might reasonably expect for the land”

13 Mar 1828 – Petition from the Vicar of Halifax for the building of St James Church, Halifax (SH:4/T.HX/1828 Mar 13)



“Sewing leather on to my clean stays…. It was near 1 before I could get upstairs and it is now more than ¼ past before I can sit down to write to M- [Mariana], having been obliged to finish mending my bombazine petticoat”

4 May 1820 – written in Anne’s journal (SH:7/ML/E/4)



“Had my tooth out (one of the right cuspids next to the molaris). It took a desperate pull and splintered the alveola in coming out, but I am glad to be rid of it… Just before Mr Sunderland went, rinsed my mouth with ½ teaspoonful of liquid opii (3 times as strong as laudanum) in ½ wineglass full of water”

2 Dec 1823 – written in Anne’s journal (SH:7/ML/E:7)


Other Exhibition Pages

Anne Lister – An Introduction

Anne Lister – Early Years

Anne Lister – The Journals

Anne Lister – Love Life

Anne Lister – Shibden Hall

Anne Lister – The Traveller

Anne Lister – Reading Anne’s Diaries

Anne Lister – Diary Transcription Project