The True Story of “Gentleman Jack”

Town and Country Magazine

The 19th-Century Lesbian Landowner Who Set Out to Find a Wife

by Brigit Katz SmithsonianCo.

On February 10, 1835, two women from West Yorkshire, England, tucked into a plum pudding to celebrate the first anniversary of their secret marriage. Around one year earlier, Anne Lister and Ann Walker had moved in together, exchanged rings, and taken communion together in a parish church. Their union was not legally recognized, but they considered themselves married. And on that day in 1835, Lister turned to her diary, as she so often did, to express her happiness.

“May we live to enjoy many more such anniversaries!” Lister wrote.

Now, some 200 years after she dazzled and befuddled her contemporaries, Lister is the subject of “Gentleman Jack,” a new series premiering April 22 on HBO and on the BBC later this spring. Created, written and co-directed by Sally Wainwright, who was also at the helm of the British television shows “Happy Valley” and “Last Tango in Halifax,” “Gentleman Jack” is a rollicking portrait of Lister and the world she inhabited at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

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