The first of the University of York’s new Campus East colleges will be named after Anne Lister, a Yorkshire business woman, landowner, and diarist often described as “the first modern lesbian.”
Anne Lister College will become the first of York’s colleges to be named after a woman, and also the first to be named for someone who was part of the LGBTQ community.
Matt Rogan and Dan Loyd, YUSU LGBTQ Officers, welcomed the news, saying: “We both advocated for this, and are thrilled that the university has taken a step forward for diversity and inclusivity by naming Anne Lister College after a well-known LGBTQ+ figure with ties to the city.”
Lister’s diaries, written in code, detailed her romantic and sexual relationships with women, and were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2011, with the organisation recognising her “comprehensive and painfully honest account of lesbian life.” They later inspired the 2019 BBC series Gentleman Jack.
The college is expected to have over 300 rooms available to postgraduate and continuing undergraduate students, as part of the University’s 1,480 room Campus East redevelopment, with the remaining rooms available in September 2022.
In 1834, Lister took communion with Ann Walker at the Holy Trinity Church in York in a marriage ceremony (without legal recognition). A mocking advert in the Leeds Mercury announced the marriage of “Captain Tom Lister … to Miss Ann Walker.”
Biographer Helena Whitbread described the church as “an icon for what is being interpreted as the site of the first lesbian marriage to be held in Britain,” and Lister was recognised there in 2019 with the UK’s first ever rainbow-bordered blue plaque.