Anne Lister and the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society

By networksofimprovement

Cassie Ulph

I recently visited Calderdale Archive in Halifax, part of West Yorkshire Archive Service. Aside from the exciting prospect of playing with microfilm (something I find strangely thrilling), I was also looking forward to getting my hands on the minute books accounts of the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society, for two reasons. Firstly, Halifax’s position in the middle of the Pennines suggested it could offer a link between the burgeoning literary clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire. Secondly, the Halifax Lit and Phil famously admitted a female member within a year of its inauguration (although according to Jon, Newcastle may well have got there first). Anne Lister, a prominent local landowner (and go-to example of nineteenth-century alternative sexuality), is well known to have joined the Society in 1831. However, I wanted to find out more about the nature and extent of her involvement with this civic institution, and what kind of ‘improvement’ was on offer for Lister at the Lit and Phil.

By comparison to that of the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society (see my earlier post), the minute …read more