She was an entrepreneur, land owner, and diarist who came from a well-to-do family in Halifax and lived openly as a lesbian, almost 200 years before her own marriage would be recognized in Britain.
And now, Anne Lister and her marriage is recognized with a rainbow-colored plaque at the Holy Trinity Church in York in a nod to the country’s lesbian, gay, and transgender history. The plaque heralds Lister as a “gender-nonconforming entrepreneur” who “celebrated marital commitment, without legal recognition, to Ann Walker in this church.” The couple took communion at the altar all the way back in 1834.
Lister lived her life openly, culminating in her last relationship with Ann Walker, an heiress at a neighboring estate. Lister was Christian and wanted to be married in the church; their ceremony is now seen as the site of the “first lesbian marriage to be held in Britain.” Same-sex unions became legal in the UK a full 180 years after their ceremony.
Also a prolific writer, Lister’s 27-volume diaries clock in at around four million words and were written with a code using algebra and the Greek alphabet. In them, she detailed the social history over many decades and her extensive affairs and love life. Sadly, only five years after getting married, Lister died after developing a fever while traveling in Georgia.
The plaque was created as part of a partnership between York Civic Trust, York LGBT History Month, York LGBT Forum, and The Churches Conservation Trust, writes PinkNews. The word “lesbian” doesn’t appear after a long discussion between the LGBT+ partner groups, which said they wanted the phrasing to be “factual and future-proofed.”
For those intrigued by Lister’s life, get ready for more—the BBC is filming an eight-part miniseries called Gentleman Jack about Lister, written by Sally Wainwright, set to air in 2019.
Read the full story at The Guardian.