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Anne Lister honoured as replacement plaque celebrates her as a lesbian

Josh Jackman March 1, 2019
The new Anne Lister blue plaque, which was unveiled on February 28 2019.

Anne Lister has been officially honoured as a lesbian. (TheYorkMix/youtube)

A rainbow-lined blue plaque has been unveiled to celebrate Britain’s ‘first modern lesbian,’ Anne Lister, after the first version was accused of erasing her sexual identity.

The plaque went up at Holy Trinity Church in York on Thursday (February 28), according to BBC News. It marks the place where the prolific diarist and her long-term partner Ann Walker took communion together in 1834–which, in their view, married them.

The original sign sparked outrage in July by describing Lister as “gender non-conforming” but leaving out her sexuality. Its replacement calls her a “lesbian and diarist.”

A portrait of Britain's 'first modern lesbian,' Anne Lister.
Anne Lister was a prolific diarist in the 19th century. (Public Domain)

The rainbow around the outside of the plaque has also been altered so that it is no longer upside-down.

Why was the blue plaque honouring Anne Lister changed?

More than 2,500 people signed a petition accusing the original plaque of erasure, prompting a joint apology from the York Civic Trust, York LGBT Forum, York LGBT History Month and the Churches Conservation Trust.

In a statement, the groups promised to better represent Lister, who wrote millions of words about her life.

The organisations told PinkNews “it will reflect as accurately as possible Anne’s own view of herself,” adding that the plaque “will where possible be based on the words Anne chose to describe herself, her actions and her lifestyle.”

“I was not personally involved in the original plaque, but after the public reaction and personal attacks aimed at myself, as a trans woman, I am involved in the new plaque.”

— Lisa Kelly, who helped design the second Anne Lister plaque

The groups added that “the last thing we wanted to do was to cause offence or upset to any community.”

Lisa Kelly, York LGBT Forum co-chair, told PinkNews in September that people had targeted her with abuse when the original plaque was put up.

“I was not personally involved in the original plaque, but after the public reaction and personal attacks aimed at myself, as a trans woman, I am involved in the new plaque,” she said.

Kelly promised at the time that “the new wording will reflect Anne Lister as closely as possible to how she herself portrayed herself in her own words through her diaries, and Anne herself did use the word lesbian.”

“She was a brilliant diarist, a landowner (which was not a commonplace thing for a woman back then) and an intrepid traveller,” she added.

Lister’s story was covered on the BBC in 2010, and will be detailed again in a BBC One drama called Gentleman Jack, due to be screened this year.

More: ann walker, Anne Lister, blue plaque, diarist, gender non-conforming, History, holy trinity church, lesbian, UK, York

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