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

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister....

  ... was the opening night film for the SF LGBT film festival this year and it did not disappoint.  The photography brought me right to England with a dark blue sky and several scenes taking place in a vast of greenery, including the first sex scene.  The clothing, empire waists for the women and britches with knee-highs boots for the men, apparently popular in the early 1800's was also flawless.  But what really made the movie work was the story of a hard-headed woman who fought against all odds for what she believed in and the right to be with the woman she loved long before the word feminist had ever been uttered.

    Anne Lister was born into a wealthy family and coal was discovered on the land she inherited.  Instead of giving in to her neighbor (who also became a fierce competitor after she refused to marry him) she went into the coal mining business though she knew nothing about it.  This allowed her an economic independence unknown to women in that time period.  Also despite advise from her aunt and uncle against it, she 'married' a female companion.  This in a time when one could be burnt at the stake for less.
   When the director was on stage introducing the film he told a story about a young woman who after seeing "The Diaries of Anne Lister" became brave enough to come out to her family.  I too feel brave after seeing it, and privileged to live in a time where we almost have the right to marry.
   The movie was produced by the BBC and came about because a librarian in the 1970's 'decoded' the diaries kept by Anne Lister.  If you are interested in seeing it you may be able to find it on the BBC channel or order it from
   This morning we are seeing a documentary called "The real Anne Lister".  I do hope it tells the story of the librarian.   I'll have an update for you later..  Thanks for reading.  yona c. riel

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day one, LGBT film festival....

  Tonight is opening night for the LGBT film festival in San Fransisco and this year the first movie is 'The secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister'.  Based on a real life Anne Lister, a gentle-woman who lived during the early 19th century (born in 1791) and preferred the 'fairer sex' the film documents her conquests of which she wrote about in a coded diary.

   Produced by the BBS (always a good sign) and reminiscent of a Sarah Waters book  (The Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet and Affinity, all meticulously researched novels about lesbians in the early 19th century) The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister promises to be a great movie.
  Just in case it gets sold out and I don't get to watch the movie I am working a film tomorrow morning called 'The Real Anne Lister".  So either way I will have a little update for you then...
    Okay, off I go for a waltz through my favorite parts of San Francisco...  yona c. riel