Anne Lister was a very unusual Victorian woman. She was born in 1791 in Halifax. She was a landowner and landlord in Yorkshire. This job would usually have been done by a man, but Anne did it herself. Anne was a lesbian. This meant she had relationships with women. She often dressed in neutral or male clothes. She was teased by people in the local town and they called her ‘Gentleman Jack’. In Victorian Britain these behaviours were not considered very acceptable. Anne wrote many diaries that tell us all about her life, over 4 million words long. She had a code that she used when she was writing about her relationships with other women.
It looked like this… She created the code from a mixture of algebra symbols and Greek letters.
I’ve written the instructions for this lesson in my own code… Can you read them?
Here’s the code again with the key… Key a h o v b i p w c j q x d k r y e l s z f m t g n u
Plenary Why do you think Anne Lister felt she needed to write in a code? How do you think having to hide her identity and her relationships with women made Anne feel? If Anne Lister were alive in Britain today, would she still need to write her private diaries in code?