Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Real Anne Lister

  My cousin was recently, after her return from Czech Republic and Slovakia, drilling her blog readers asking where are all the industrious, creative, enterprising women in Eastern European history.  If eastern europe is anything like England, women who lived outside the boundaries of a normal life were buried, either by the changing of facts or in the case of Anne Lister in the walls of the mansion owned by her family.  In her lifetime Anne Lister wrote more than 4 million words, all in a code she invented based on Greek letters and algebra.

    Lister's diaries were first discovered a hundred years after they were buried by her relative John Lister while remodeling.  He had them decoded in the late 1890's by his friend Arther Bourroughs.  Both were shocked that Anne wrote so freely about her homoerotic daillances with several women during her short 46 year lifetime.  John, also a homosexual, became paranoid and pleaded with Arther to destroy the diaries.  Fortunately he did not.  But John did succeed in preventing the diaries from being published. 
   The next time someone would try to publish the diaries was in the 1960's when a woman named Muriel Green found them locked deep in the library in the city of Halifax, England.  The library (who for whatever reason had the rights to the diaries) refused claiming they would tarnish the good reputation of the town.
   It wasn't until 1988 that Helena Whitbread, after 7 years of painstaking research, that the diaries were finally published.
  During her lifetime Anne Lister was not only a lesbian (she discovered this at 13 years old) but a landowner, an industialist, a coal miner, and the writer of 4 million words, all things that were unheard of for women during the Regency period in England (the 1800s).  On top of all that she married and lived with her female companion most of her adult life and died when they were touring Europe together after she was bitten by an infected tick.   It took her wife 6 months to get Anne's body back to her home in Halifax England where both she and her diaries were buried.
    I am not the least bit shocked it took over 200 yrs to get Anne Lister's story out of the closet.   Part of what I love about this film festival is that stories like this are unveiled.  I am eager to continue to go to the LGBT film festival in the years to come to see what other gems, lives and secrets surface.   Thanks for reading....  tomorrow I review an interesting 'gender-bending' brazilian film call Elvis and Madonna.  Yona c. riel


  1. Incredible that the diaries survived in tact ,and that they finally see the light of day!

  2. yes, incredible indeed, and now it is a BBC movie!!