York & North Yorkshire

Anne Lister: Reworded York plaque for 'first lesbian'

Keith Seabridge
Image caption The original plaque - which was criticised for describing her as "gender non-conforming" rather than lesbian - has been replaced

A plaque which "erased" a celebrated 19th Century diarist's lesbian identity has been corrected.

The plaque honouring Anne Lister was unveiled at Holy Trinity Church in York, where she took the sacrament in 1834 with her lover, Ann Walker.

It originally described her as "gender non-conforming", prompting an online petition to change the wording, which had "nothing to do with sexuality".

York Civic Trust agreed and apologised, unveiling the new plaque earlier.

The petition, which attracted more than 2,500 signatures, explained: "Anne Lister was, most definitely, gender non-conforming all her life. She was also however, a lesbian.

"Don't let them erase this iconic woman from our history."

Image copyright Calderdale Museums
Image caption Anne Lister was a prolific diarist who lived at Shibden Hall between 1791 and 1840

The trust agreed to reword the plaque and said it had not meant to cause offence or upset to any community. It also apologised for featuring an upside down rainbow on the original plaque.

Lister, who has been described as the "first modern lesbian", was a prolific diarist who penned some five million words in her lifetime.

Her journals, mostly written at her home at Shibden Hall in Halifax, documented her life and lesbian relationships and were recognised as a "pivotal" document by the United Nations in 2011.

A new BBC TV drama starring Suranne Jones, based on the diaries, is due to air this year.

Image caption Suranne Jones, left, will play Anne Lister in the new TV drama, Gentleman Jack

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