Female Fortune

The Anne Lister Diaries, 1833-36: Land, gender and authority: New Edition

By Jill Liddington

Female Fortune


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6442-1
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: March 2022
  • BIC Category: Social & cultural history, HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Lesbian Studies, LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Diaries & Journals, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / Georgian Era (1714-1837), C 1800 To C 1900, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Biography & True Stories / Diaries, letters & journals, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, Literature, History


'A unique and thrilling insight into the brilliant mind of Anne Lister'

Sally Wainwright, creator of Gentleman Jack

Female Fortune is the book which inspired Sally Wainwright to write Gentleman Jack, now a major drama series for the BBC and HBO.

Lesbian landowner Anne Lister inherited Shibden Hall in 1826. She was an impressive scholar, fearless traveller and successful businesswoman, even developing her own coalmines. Her extraordinary diaries, running to 4-5 million words, were partly written in her own secret code and recorded her love affairs with startling candour. The diaries were included on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in 2011.

Jill Liddington's classic edition of the diaries tells the story of how Anne Lister wooed and seduced neighbouring heiress Ann Walker, who moved in to live with Anne and her family in 1834. Politically active, Anne Lister door-stepped her tenants at the 1835 Election to vote Tory. And socially very ambitious, she employed architects to redesign both the Hall and the estate.

Yet Ann Walker had an inconvenient number of local relatives, suspicious of exactly how Anne Lister could pay for all her grand improvements. Tensions grew to a melodramatic crescendo when news reached Shibden of the pair being burnt in effigy.

This 2022 edition includes a fascinating Afterword on the recent discovery of Ann Walker's own diary. Female Fortune is essential reading for those who watched Gentleman Jack and want to know more about the extraordinary woman that was Anne Lister.


'A unique and thrilling insight into the brilliant mind of Anne Lister.'
Sally Wainwright, creator of Gentleman Jack

'For many years Anne Lister has functioned as a fascinating anomaly, a fabulous nonesuch - the singular early 19th century lesbian who wrote openly about her love life. As important as that was to queer historians "Female Fortune: Land, Gender, and Authority" brilliantly illustrates that there was so much more to Lister's story. The wonderful "Diaries" are here, but contextualized by the details of a full and rich life as a crafty businesswoman, foresighted developer, social diplomat and all around wheeler-dealer. Jill Liddington has done an extraordinary job editing Lister's words and give us her full, and highly engaging, life in all of its complexity.'
Michael Bronski, author of A Queer History of the United States

Female Fortune is a pathbreaking social history and primary source reader on Anne Lister by one of her earliest chroniclers. Female Fortune brings the social, political, and economic world of 19th century Halifax to life while also providing a window into Lister's thoughts and feelings. This new edition has important updates on the BBC/HBO series Gentleman Jack as well as Lister's spouse Ann Walker. An indispensable book for everyone interested in one of the earliest "modern" lesbians.'
Jen Manion, author of Female Husbands: A trans history


Anne Lister's Halifax 1833-36: Main Characters.
Note on the Text
I. In Token of Our Union: Dec 1833 - Aug 1834
II. Coal Mining Rivalry: Sept 1834 - Nov 1835
III. The Blues & Yellows: Politics & Religion: Dec 1834 - May 1835
IV. Dividing the Joint Property: Jun 1835 - Sept 1835
V. The Yellow Carriage & the Railroad: Oct 1835 - Feb 1836
VI. Poisoning the Well & Burning Devil's Dung: March 1836
VII. The Two Wills: April 1836 - May 1836
Appendix: Shibden Tenants.
Reference Notes
Select References


Jill Liddington's most recent book is Vanishing for the Vote: suffrage, citizenship and the battle for the census (MUP 2014). She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.

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