Anne Lister (1791-1840) lived an unconventional life compared with most women in Regency England. She was unmarried, a landowner, industrialist, traveller and scholar. She wrote extensive diaries, partly in an esoteric code. Helena Whitbread spent years transcribing the diaries and what she discovered was quite extraordinary: the diaries have been called 'the Rosetta Stone of lesbian history'.
The Lister diaries are the Dead Sea Scrolls of lesbian history; they changed everything. By resurrecting them and editing them with such loving attention and intelligence, Helena Whitbread has earned the gratitude of a whole generationEngaging, revealing, at times simply astonishing: Anne Lister's diaries are an indispensable read for anyone interested in the history of gender, sexuality and the intimate lives of women[Anne Lister's] sense of self, and self-awareness, is what makes her modern to us. She was a woman exercising conscious choice. She controlled her cash and her body. At a time when women had to marry, or be looked after by a male relative, and when all their property on marriage passed to their husband, Anne Lister not only dodged the traps of being female, she set up a liaison with another woman that enhanced her own wealth and left both of them free to live as they wished . . . The diaries gave me courage