As Good As A Marriage:
book events 2024 Spring

Female Fortune: the Anne Lister diaries 1833-36 (1998, MUP 2022) was the book that inspired Sally Wainwright's Gentleman Jack. If this compelling TV series left you wondering what Anne Lister did next, then this is the book for you! Was Anne's union' with Ann Walker 'as good as a marriage' - or was it better? And what was heterosexual marriage really like for women in the 1830s?

To get your copy, go to: Book Corner, Halifax or Manchester University Press - As Good as a Marriage

URGENT! Tickets for Anne Lister Birthday Festival (April 1-8) are selling out fast. So do please make your booking as soon as you can!


March 2024

20 Wednesday: Was Anne Lister a pioneer feminist or 'at heart nothing but an old Tory squire'? The Women's Library, LSE, London, 6 pm - 8 pm.

This was how Virginia Woolf saw Vita Sackville-West at grand Sissinghurst in the 1930s. Yet were these words also equally appropriate for Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax?

Anne and her magnificent diaries came to global attention with Sally Wainwright's 'Gentleman Jack' drama (BBC1/HBO, 2019 & 2022). Anne, who had inherited the Shibden Hall estate, was a woman of extraordinary achievements: travel and mountaineering, social networking and intellectual range. Yet her outstanding achievement was undoubtedly her five-million-word diaries, recognized by UNESCO's UK Memory of the World register in 2011.

Right: Anne Lister statue in Halifax Piece Hall.

About one-sixth of the diaries was written in Anne's secret code, allowing us to eavesdrop into the intimate detail of her romantic & sexual affairs with other women. In 1834 she 'married' shy neighbouring heiress Ann Walker - who soon came to live at Shibden Hall. Anne, now with access to Ann's income stream, could develop her plans to enhance the estate. And, though of course she had no vote herself, Anne was extremely active politically: at the 1837 election, she doorstepped her tenants in the 'Blue' interests, like any Tory squire.

So the question remains: pioneer feminist or 'old Tory squire'? This TWL event is the London book launch for As Good As A Marriage: the Anne Lister diaries 1836-38 (MUP 2023), sequel to Female Fortune. The talk will be followed by a Q&A & book-signing, provided by Housmans Books.

Book here

This event is organized in partnership with the TWL Friends. Dr Jill Liddington is an Honorary Research Fellow, University of Leeds.


April 2024

Anne Lister Birthday Festival [ALBF]: Monday 1 - Monday 8.

ALBF is organized by Calderdale MBC, with events in Halifax and at Shibden. ALBF brings together the Anne Lister Society [ALS] and Anne Lister Birthday Week [ALBW], attracting visitors from around the UK, the US - and beyond.

The ALBF programmes was launched on Saturday 6 January: So watch out for exciting Anne Lister Birthday Festival events! Hurry to book your tickets as some events are already sold out: Book tickets here.

Tuesday 2 April: Was Anne Lister a pioneer feminist or 'nothing but an old Tory squire'? 4 pm – 5.30 Caygill Rooms, the Piece Hall, Halifax. For full details of this keynote talk, see March Wednesday 20th. Talk is followed by Q&A and book-signing. Tickets £12. Book tickets here

Wednesday 3 April: What Anne Lister inherited and what she bequeathed. 10.30 - 12.30 pm.

A Calderdale Heritage Walk round the Shibden estate nearest to the Hall. Judge for yourself how Anne Lister transformed her inheritance – and how her legacy later benefitted Calderdale.

Meet at the main entrance to Shibden Hall (by the blue plaque) at 10.30. This is a short circular walk, ending at 12 noon. At this point, walkers are offered a choice: either browse the Shibden shop (with its good selection of Anne Lister books) and have a cup of tea, followed by informal Q&A and book-signing. Or explore inside the magnificent Hall, (for which entrance tickets must be bought in advance.

Tickets for walk: £7.50.

Tickets for your timed entry to Shibden Hall: £10 & concessions. Please book for 12 noon.

Friday 5 April: Rights and Restrictions in Marriage: Anne Lister, Ann Walker and Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

11.25 – 12.45 - Anne Lister Society, Panel One, 'Anne Lister, the Ladies of Llangollen and the Brontes'.

In 1836, Anne's elderly father and beloved aunt died, sister Marian leaving for East Yorkshire. So, Anne and Ann were on their own at Shibden, living their marriage. Anne's vividly intimate diaries document their relationship, recording both moments of love and joy, plus tensions and quarrels.

So what rights and freedoms did conventionally married women then have? Precious few. The right to vote was completely unthinkable, as was university education. Divorce was nigh impossible, with married women's property rights not even considered till the 1850s. These restrictions are vividly illustrated in Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), with Haworth not far from Halifax. The novel tells how Helen Huntingdon, married to 'the worst kind of man', found herself with unenviably few rights and freedoms.

Surely Anne's 'marriage' to Anne was neither as cruel nor as legally restricted? Certainly, it had a warmth and care that Helen Huntingdon might envy. There were silences and emotional volatility, but were these not balanced by sharing cozy evenings together plus adventurous travels.

The Anne Lister Society encourages conversations between scholars and Anne's wider readership. It is organized by Professor Laurie Shannon, North Western University, near Chicago. More information about registration.

Sunday 7 April: My Favourite Anne Lister…! Caygill Rooms, The Piece Hall. Lunch 1.30 - 3 pm, talk 3.30 – 4.30.

What's more traditional than the great British Sunday Roast? You will be served lunch, with a vegetarian option available when you book your tickets. Then Jill will give an informal after-lunch talk, chatting about 'My Favourite Anne Lister… !'

Sunday lunch only: £25. Lunch plus talk: £32.50. Book tickets


Earlier talks