How has Ann Walker inspired you?

Lego Creation and Photo Credit: Bethany Drysdale

To celebrate Ann Walker’s 218th birthday, we asked people from across the globe to tell us how Ann Walker has inspired them – here are their replies. She remains an inspiration across the world for her “go on, fearlessly” spirit and her desire to live with the woman she loved.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project and allowed us to use their entries!

Trigger Warning: Mental Health is discussed

How Ann Walker has inspired me

To be braver. She worked hard to overcome her fears. She could have said no to Anne, but she stood up to her family & societal pressure to live her best life. I think we all can use a bit more of Ann’s bravery in our lives.

Bethany Drysdale, USA – Twitter @Slinkydog10

Oh, I adore #AnnWalker. And I found a lot of similar moments in my lifetime experience. One of the greatest moments of my life is the decision to choose a life with my girl and move to another city to live with her in one apartment, in spite of all the difficulties. I live in Russia, so I’m not able to show and talk about my love openly and in a public manner. I’m really think that Ann Walker can be a true inspiration for those people like us. She did all that 200 years ago, why can’t we be brave enough to love who we want to love and to be who we want to be? And play such a different roles every day. 1)I am not an artist, but I am a musician and love to play the piano, as Ann did. At the same time I am a muse to my girl. She is an artist and she painted a lot of drawings with me as Ann Walker or with Ann. 2) Me and my girl are very interested in the history of art. We visited a lot of museums while travelling through Russia. I love a lot of art in #Moscow and #SaintPetersberg museums and galleries. 3) I am involved in education as Ann Walker did. I am working as an assistant teacher for a five years. And this job always inspires me to become the best version of myself. Children are so frank, so natural in all the way, they help me to live the fuller life. 4) As Ann Walker, I am a diarist as well. I love to write about my impressions and reflections and about lovely days with my girl. It helps me to keep my mind clear and to analyse. 6) I have a lot of hobbies, as Ann did, I love cooking and playing with my pet. And with my friends pet too. There are so much similarities with Ann! It’s so inspiring! 7) I love travelling as much as #AnnWalker did. I have visited Moscow and Saint-Petersburg in Russia with my girl, as Anne and Ann did. We have seen Tsar-Kolokol and Tsar-Pushka in Kremlin, as they did. It was a great experience, these sculptures are so huge and massive! I love history and make a priority out of sightseeing when I travel. One of my favourite place is #EkaterininPalace and #TsarskoeSelo in Saint-Petersburg. Ann and Anne have visited this place when they were in Russia. This place is so romantic and beautiful! 8)I have an adventurous spirit, but not as much as my girl does. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reaching mountains in Altay in Russia. These mountains are so beautiful!

Evgenia, Russia – Instagram: evgeniaantakova

The discovery of Ann Walker’s travel diaries and getting to read them online was so thrilling and it inspired me to start a travel diary of my own. I live in Melbourne and we spent much of 2020 in hard lockdown, which was miserable. My imagination felt starved. When we were let out, my partner and I set about travelling around our state as much as possible, seeing desert landscapes, pink salt lakes, freezing empty beaches, rivers lined with gum trees, and native animals and birds. Previously it would not have occurred to me to take notes, but thanks to Ann Walker, I did, and I’m so grateful to have this record of fun times on the road after a rough year. I hope Ann’s record of her own adventures abroad gave her something cheering to look back on too.

Jess, Australia

Like Ann, I initially struggled with accepting myself as a lesbian and worried what others would think when I met my own “Anne”. Ultimately I had courage as Ann did. Seeing her story gave me such a sense of pride in myself via my pride in her choosing her own happiness. I have a renewed joy in my relationship (25 years strong) and in being gay thanks to Ann Walker.

Monti, USA, Twitter: @glamcookie1

Knowing that she liked hiking too (and making use of her surname!) I and another fan have set up a walking group in the Shibden After Dark fan group. It’s called ‘Walker Wednesdays.’ It was set up in January to encourage us to get out walking during Covid times and enjoy the benefits walking can give to one’s mental health. We’re a bunch of 70 fans from all over the globe and we post photos daily of what we see, but every Wednesday we share photos around a theme e.g. look for something small; look up etc. When Wednesday starts in New Zealand the photos start, then spread westward across the world. All the while, during the week, the group is chatting and supporting each other….along with some great banter!

Lesley Brown, England

While I admit that I only learnt of Ann Walker through Gentleman Jack and the wonderful actress Sophie Rundle, I was inspired to make a contribution to the real Ann Walker’s birthday celebration as she has shown that through her determination she was able to make a difference in the world. Do appreciate that if it was not for Anne Lister, Ann Walker would not be known, however she is. Ann has inspired me by making me understand that you should spend the majority of your time doing what makes you happy. Thank you to the wonderful researchers who have discovered how much Ann Walker did for herself. I have a younger sister and my mother has always encouraged us to not rely on a husband. In a similar fashion, Ann Walker (albeit through circumstance) she was able to not be reliant on a ‘husband’ to take care of her. Happy Birthday Ann Walker and finally you may receive the recognition that you deserve in your own right and not in the shadow of your spouse.

Anonymous

I was already interested in the history of the area, Halifax, also the wider West Riding. My interest is mainly ‘peoples history’, the early trade union and radical reform movements, for example, the Luddites, Chartists, industrialisation and child labour reform. Ann Walker has inspired me to look into this in more detail.

Anonymous

Recognition that lesbian relationships existed and were recognized even if nor sanctioned in the 19th century.

KC, USA

She’s shown me what true bravery and courage looks like, to follow your own heart, love who you love and to do so so unapologetically is so inspirational. It takes real strength to go against your families wishes and against societal expectations and she ultimately took it all in her stride. For such a kind, soft, quiet soul she was truly fearless and that should inspire everyone.

Bella Owen, UK – Twitter: @garfieldskins

Ann Walker has inspired me since I discovered her story through Gentleman Jack (2019). I feel so connected with her curious personality, how she kept being courageous even in a time that women were erased by men and the society was totally sexist. Walker opened her heart to embrace her love, her sexuality and to spread kindness and solidarity through the time. Also, her artistic side inspired me to create more in my own artwork, it’s always magic to imagine and recreate Ann Walker’s image in my pieces. Certainly a great inspiration for me.

Christine Santos, Brazil – Twitter: @alligatortearsq Instagram: alligatortearsquin

After hearing Ann Walker’s story, she has inspired me to care less about how others feel I should live my life, but rather be brave and forge my own path.

Stephanie Jackson, USA

Despite formidable, almost insurmountable odds, she stood up and grabbed her chance at happiness. She stopped letting others define her (even Anne) and remained as strong as she could for as long as she could. Her courage was astounding – even by today’s standards. I like to think that despite all that happened — especially after Anne’s death – that she always stayed true to herself.

Trish, USA

I first watched Gentleman Jack 10 months ago and since then there’s nothing else in my life more important than this beautiful series. Ann Walker played by Sophie Rundle helped me fight my inner homophobia. She is a marvellous, complex character who battled loneliness and mental health issues almost throughout her life. Watching her character made me take steps regarding my own mental health issues. I started writing a diary that converted all my inner conflicts into words which served me as a form of therapy. Ann Walker showed me how to be strong, brave & courageous.

Anonymous

She was a very brave woman who defied the norms of the time she lived in.

Bicapop, Serbia

Ann Walker is among one of my favorite historical figures. Despite her battle with depression and anxiety, she still lived unconventionally in a time when only the conventional was fathomable. I relate so much to Ann Walker’s story as a gay woman figuring out how to present myself to the world. We also share a birthday – how fitting!

Hannah, USA

Ann Walker inspired me to “go on, fearlessly” after a loss and helped me see it’s OK to be brave enough to seek happiness

Anonymous

Ann Walker has inspired me to defy the odds, as an artist, a lesbian, a traveler, and a number of other unique traits that makes her an inspiration to me and countless others. All things big or small are possible to face through any given moment. Ann will always have a special place with me as a reminder that defeat is not an option. I struggle with severe anxiety, I was not someone that accepted change very often or took risks, but to keep things in it’s simplest form. When Ann Walker came into my life it gave a perspective of her world that the things I deal with are nothing compared to what she faced daily and put forth herself to live her best life as often as she could. I will always have Ann Walker’s bravery, tenacity, and strength to live my own life, and to go on fearlessly as a gay woman without regrets.

Ari George, USA – Twitter: @LikeRather

I’m inspired by Ann daily, and not a single day passes when I don’t think of her. Her peaceful burial place in Lightcliffe is one of my favorite places in the world. Honestly, I can’t believe all the researchers studying Anne Lister’s diaries in the past got it so wrong about Ann! I dare to say love 200 years ago was the same as today. A pinch of salt, a pinch of common sense, 2 pure brave souls …and a large dose of repellent against nosy neighbours and annoying family members! How wonderful it is to keep on discovering all of the details on Ann and Anne.

Ivana Nika, Croatian living in the UK, Twitter: @Ivana_Nika

I empathize with Ann’s struggles upon meeting Anne. Like her, I brawled with my own demons and just didn’t know what to do to the point of thinking to just end my own life for everything to be over. She inspired me to listen to my inner voice and follow my instincts; to just be who I am and accept what I’ve become despite the culture I grew up in and have the courage to stand up with the one I love most.

Heda Seaweeds, Phillipines, Instagram – Hedaseaweeds

The most important takeaway from Ann Walker’s story for me? That we are not defined by our mental health issues. Ann enjoyed multiple interests; she was creative; was physically active and rode regularly; and was a traveller and adventurer along with Anne. Despite the challenges of her battle with poor mental health Ann showed great mental courage. Picture this. In 1840, after 8 years together, she lost the woman to whom she had committed her life and from whom she had drawn strength; 1000s of miles from home; alone. Alone. Yet she arranged for Anne Lister’s body to be brought home to Anne’s beloved Halifax. How absolutely desperate must those weeks and months have been for her? What mental fortitude must have been required?And then, on returning to Halifax, the life she had led with Anne, gone. Yet she kept going. As long as she was able. One day at a time. Step by step. Hour by hour. Fearlessly. Or otherwise. 💜

Mandy, Twitter: @Mellor824

Even with her own frailties and anxiety, Ann was so brave to go ahead and marry Anne. She was the only one who ‘got’ Anne, and never criticised her on her appearance or her ‘ways’. ❤️

Lesley

Ann Walker is, for me, the strongest one of the couple. Although Anne has had to go through a lot in her life, and did get hurt many, many times, at least she had people who actually loved her exactly the way she was (her aunt and uncle), and she was accepted by her family. So of course she had a very healthy ego (well… how healthy… it’s debatable). Ann Walker, on the other hand, was always the “invalid”, always the weak one, always the pushover. Her family didn’t see her for what she really was. All they saw was someone weak, whom they could treat any way they pleased. She was sweet, and kind, and good-natured, and all she got in return was people taking advantage of her, and judging her. She didn’t really feel loved and accepted by her family (which is something I can relate to). And yet… she had the strength to go against everything her family believed in, everything they wanted for her, and she made up her own mind about what she really wanted in her life, and somewhere, somehow, she found the courage to fight for the one she loved. She decided to take the risk, take a chance on love, and she dared to hope that she’d finally find the happiness she deserved. And that is very inspiring. More than anything I want to believe that Ann was happy in the life she shared with Anne (and I do think she mostly was, even if they did have their problems along the way), mostly because, through the show and the diaries, I fell in love with Ann (really… I did), but also because I want to believe that some day I will find that special someone, and I want to believe I will have the same strength Ann showed, and won’t let anything, or anyone, get in the way of my happiness. If Ann could do it… so can I! So thank you, Ann Walker, for daring to love and be happy. And I hope you are happy, and at peace, wherever you are (and I really hope Anne is right there with you, cause with all her faults… she’s the one for you, and you’re the one for her). Oh… and Happy Birthday!

Anonymous

Ann and I do have some interests in common, but more than that, over the last year she has given me the gift of a revived interest in history; an opportunity to explore a period in history that had pretty much passed me by through GCSE, A’Level and a degree in history (!); a new interest in my own genealogy and family history, and – perhaps most importantly – a whole new group of friends, which has been brilliant, when it’s so hard to stay connected to people right now. So the things I have in common, in no particular order. – I studied French, to A’ Level, and I was pretty good at it once upon a time. I love other languages too, I also studied German at school, Spanish as an adult, and I’ve “fooled around” with Danish and Latin, and I can use a few words of Arabic, Chinese, and Yiddish. – I’m a teacher; but of adults and university-age students, not children. – I love to ride horses; as a child, I used to ride every week (our next-door neighbour owned a riding school). – I love to travel, and to explore the history and architecture of new places. I’m an architecture nerd. – I love animals; we have three cats, and coincidentally, one of them has the nickname, Tiny (given because she is tiny compared to her giant oaf brothers, and before I even knew about AW’s dog!!) – My friends and I used to play backgammon during rainy days at school, when we couldn’t go outside at break times. – I love baking, and I’ve really found my bread groove over the past year. In fact, I actually have a loaf in the oven right now. – I too am a May baby. AW’s birthday is the day after mine, easy to remember. – I’m obsessed with my family tree – I have always been a bookworm, always. Love to read ’em, talk about ’em. However, I have NEVER merged my bookshelves with a partner. Just can NOT do it. I am extremely precious about my books, and how they are organised. – I can throw shade with the best of them. – Oh yeah, I married a woman. She’s called Anne. And her initials are AL. So, I have some things in common with Ann, but I can’t even begin to imagine what her life was like. To be so rich, and so sad, so vulnerable, but also so potentially powerful. To live with servants and every material thing you could want, but not be strong enough sometimes to deal with your own family. However, over the last year or so, I’ve learnt a lot about Ann’s world, and the people in it. I’ve enjoyed exploring the C19th and delving into Halifax at that time, as well as the wider world that she explored with Anne. I have met a fantastic group of people also on this journey of discovery, and I’m having a great time learning with them, and from them. Last year was a really hard year. I lost my job, which meant I lost my work visa, I had to make an impossible decision – to stay in the USA with my partner and our cats, in the home we just bought together, and embark on a whole labyrinthine immigration journey, or to go home to the UK, not knowing if or when I would be able to come back to the USA. I chose to stay. But that has been a hard road, officially out of visa status, I couldn’t work or travel, renew a driving licence or even change a bank account. I became a non-person overnight, and that’s not fun at all. But I happened to be noodling about on Twitter (a rare thing a year ago) and read a tweet from In Search of Ann Walker, calling for people to help out with a potential project, recording mentions of AW in AL’s diary. So I got in touch with Diane and Alexa, and threw my hat in the ring to help out in any way I could, and the rest is history. It’s been the best thing for my mental health, so I would say that is another thing I have in common with Ann. Same as for many people, my circumstances last year really did lead to a lot of uncertainty, stress, anxiety, depression, etc. This project has given me focus, structure, something new and fabulous to explore, and comes with a whole new network of friends, who are nothing short of brilliant in their dedication to AW. So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Ann, and thank you! I’ll be baking a cake tomorrow for both of us 🙂

LG, UK

Ann has been a real inspiration to me since I learned about her 2 years ago. The desire to pursue love despite the personal cost to her. The way she lived her life with Anne, took real courage. She certainly helps me daily to go on, fearlessly.

Anonymous

What inspires me most about Ann Walker is, strangely enough, the profound loneliness she experienced throughout her life. The loneliness that comes from losing so many people one loves—or from combatting the persistent “melancholy” that so few understood at the time—would overwhelm even the strongest, most well-supported person. And yet Ann still mustered the courage to love and be loved, stand up to her family, manage a complicated estate, study drawing, start a school, and ultimately summon the strength to survive her dearest by almost 14 years. Ann’s example inspires me to weather the challenges that aging has started to lob my way, and to conquer the fears that can sometimes paralyze me. Despite the many hardships Ann faced, I like to think that her innate resilience, her faith—and maybe even some faithful friends—helped sustain her during those later years. I hope that, wherever she may be, Ann is lonely no more…and that she’s aware of how much she means to so many, all these years later.

Caroline

Isolated, tiny, uneducated, thrust into a world she was never prepared for, while also dealing with organized religion, wealth, judgmental family expectations, possible emotional and psychological issues no one had words for…and to top it all off, she was a lesbian. In spite of everything, she DID become an auto-didact: she learned social graces enough to be striking and well-thought of; she took from her religious cocoon what made sense to her and became a humanist, a loyal, gentle, generous human with a compassionate heart; she hung on when others with similar conditions let go–she was a fighter in her own right; she lived her art, pursuing it all of her life, seriously enough that even her dearest Anne Lister (wife and Love: first and last) mentions it throughout the Lister diaries; she was an accomplished horsewoman–enough to ride up a steep mountain where others of her gender had never tried; she became adept enough at business that she never lost her estate and contributed to making Shibden Hall the historic place it is, today; she was a non-judgmental lover, friend and the most loyal wife, even while dealing with her own angst about what others, and God, may feel about loving the fairer sex; she never abandoned Anne Lister, once she said “Yes.” Even unto death. So, what doesn’t inspire me about Ann Walker? She gives me absolute hope that such a Love does exist, can exist, and I may yet find it.

Karen Minns, USA

I was so moved reading the extracts from Ann Walker’s letters to Anne Lister. She knew her letters could be read by someone, so she had to be very careful what she wrote. Probably there was self-censorship there. And yet Ann’s letters are alive with affection, warmth and longing – it’s so clear she was in love with Anne – and her writing style was lyrical and sweet. I always enjoyed writing, but it took me years to get up the confidence to submit anything to publishers. And now I’m about to publish my second lesbian novel! So grateful to all the women like Ann who came before me and helped to make that possible.

Jess Lea, Australia – Facebook jess.lea.9655

Ann Walker inspires me everyday, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. Knowing that there was a woman in the 1800’s who struggled with her mental health and sexuality, but still found the courage to commit to the woman she loved is so incredible and gives me strength on hard days. I’m so proud to be a part of the In Search of Ann Walker group, discovering more about Ann and learning about her wonderful life! Ann Walker is simply my hero.

Sophie, UK – Twitter: @Rundle_Walker

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