Anne Lister, the inspiration behind Gentleman Jack, to have new college at University of York named after her

In recent years the remarkable Yorkshire diarist Anne Lister, has seen a rise in regional and international significance after her life story was told in the recent popular television drama series Gentleman Jack.

Now a new college at the University of York will be named after the scholar and Yorkshire businesswoman – who was educated in York at the Manor School, which is now part of the university.

Anne Lister College is the first of the universities colleges to be named after a woman, and also the first to be named for someone who was part of the LGBTQ community.

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It is part of the university’s Campus East development and will open to students in September. The college will include 348 rooms, shared communal areas, an open plan study space and gardens.

Suranne Jones as Anne Lister in the recent popular Gentleman Jack television series.

Born in 1791, Lister – often described as the first modern lesbian – was a prolific diarist whose life story was told in the hit BBC series, written and directed by former University of York student, Sally Wainwright OBE.

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Screenwriter and director Sally Wainwright said: “I am beyond delighted with this wonderful news. Professor Laurie Shannon and I, and all our colleagues in the Anne Lister Society, proposed Anne Lister because she had such deep connections with York and had a passionate commitment to the pursuit of knowledge all her life.

“This is a very appropriate honour for a remarkable Yorkshire woman. I hope Anne Lister’s intellectual courage will inspire all who come to study at York.”

Artist's impression of the new college which will include 348 rooms. Photo credit: Sheppard Robson Architects

Her diaries contained her thoughts on a variety of topics, from her sexuality, to detailed information on social, political, and economic events of the time, and are considered a major scholarly achievement.

A copy of her will is housed in the University of York's Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Anne’s name was chosen for the college from a list of notable people with connections to the University or to the city of York which were put forward by students and staff.

Reflecting on the announcement Professor Charlie Jeffery, the vice-chancellor for the University of York, said: "Naming our 10th college after Anne Lister, whose dedication to scholarship and a determination to pursue her life as she saw fit at a time when women had few rights and many obstacles to equality of opportunity, reflects our values and our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

"Colleges are an integral part of University life here at York and we look forward to welcoming students to the new facilities soon."

He added: "Anne had strong connections to York, including attending Manor House School which is now part of our city centre campus. The University board was unanimous in its agreement that the name that was put forward by students and staff was the right choice.”

The Anne Lister Society was launched in 2020, in the wake of the Gentleman Jack series.

Describing the society’s dedication to fostering research and conversation, Professor Laurie Shannon, at Northwestern University in the U.S, said: “We aim to establish Anne Lister’s due place in the historical and literary record — and to interpret her life and writing as a rousing new legacy for the future.”

The first rooms in Anne Lister College will be occupied by students in September 2021. The second new college is due to be completed by September 2022 and is yet to be named.

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