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LGBT Art History: Anne Lister (Gentleman Jack) and Her Era

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Please note: At the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Center, all programs and services for adults are cancelled through May 15, 2020. Some supportive services and the community book group will be offered in virtual formats, please check the event page on their website to know if the program is happening virtually or if it is cancelled.


While it’s sometimes hard to provide solid evidence that a person in the 1800s was actually gay, that is not the case with this fascinating woman. Diarist Anne Lister, has been called the “First Lesbian,” because her (literally) five million words of eye opening journal entries (circa 1835) describe not only her well-adjusted understanding of her lesbian identity, but graphic descriptions, written in code, of making love to many women, including Ann Walker, whom she wooed and “wedded.” Lister’s and Walker’s in-church commitment has been recognized as the first same-sex marriage in Britain. And Anne Lister’s life is the subject of the show “Gentleman Jack,” a BBC series viewable on Hulu.

If you were wondering how you could celebrate Lesbian Visibility Day, here’s your event! In this class, Liz Bradbury, MFA will talk about Anne Lister’s life and a bit about other queer figures in history that were part of her era. And also included in this class will be a presentation by Michelle Mecham, a “Lister Sister” who is part of the decoding project of Anne’s diaries, organized by the Shibden Hall Anne Lister Museum.

Women attending this event are encouraged to bring a donation of gently used or new professional clothing or uniforms for the YWCA’s Perfect Fit for Working Women program (one of the Center’s neighbors, just across the street). The YWCA has more than a 100 year primary mission history of working for women’s rights and against racism.

And there will be great themed snacks!

Sit back, prepare to laugh, view slides, listen, learn about, and discuss the lives and work of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer artists and other key figures in history. Consider the LGBTQ imagery of mainstream artists in various periods of history. And after the class there is also a social opportunity, with themed snacks, to discuss interesting things with old friends or meet new ones in this exciting free four session class at the LGBT Community Center.