Anne Lister was born on April 3, 1791. Lister was a property-owner and memoirist from Halifax, West Yorkshire, England. She was labeled “the first modern lesbian” based on her valiant and unforgiving lifestyle.
Lister kept numerous diaries which recounted her intimate relationships with women and work improving her inherited estate, Shibden Hall. The diaries totaled 7,720 pages with over 5 million words. The passages which detailed these intimate lesbian encounters were written in a code derived from a mixture of algebra and Ancient Greek. The diaries were finally deciphered in the 1930s. In 2018, a blue plaque with rainbow edging was unveiled at Holy Trinity Church in York to honor Lister. It was York’s 1st LGBT history plaque.
Although Anne Lister is celebrated in modern culture for her innovative nature and boldness, while alive, she often suffered harassment for her sexuality. Many residents in Halifax even called her “Gentleman Jack”.
In 2019, BBC One and HBO co-produced Gentleman Jack, a historical drama series created and directed by Sally Wainwright. The series stars Suranne Jones as Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle as her lover, Ann Walker.
Series one aired in the US in April 2019 and concluded in June 2019 with a total of eight episodes.
Filming took place in Yorkshire and surrounding areas, including Shibden Hall, Lister’s estate, and Sutton Park, Walker’s estate.
The show was renewed for a second series in May 2019 and resumed production in late October 2020, due to COVID-19.
Gentleman Jack is set in 1832 in Halifax, Yorkshire, England and is based on the collected diaries of Lister. Series one focuses on Lister leaving Hastings, broken-hearted when her former female lover marries a man. She returns to Shibden Hall, her family’s estate, only to find that their land, rich in coal, is being stolen by the Rawson Brothers. Lister quickly takes on the role of landowner and landlord, beginning work on restoring the neglected estate and gathering the uncollected rents of local tenants. In the midst of her work, she forms a romantic relationship with a local wealthy heiress, Ann Walker.
“I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.” –
Gentleman Jack has won the TVTIMES Awards for Best Actress and Favourite Drama in 2019 and has also won the Royal Television Society Award in 2020 for Best Drama Series.
Although viewers are eager for the second series, no current release date has been announced yet. However, the first series is currently available on HBO.