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Ann Walker (Hardback)

The Life and Death of Gentleman Jack's Wife

P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > Social History Women of History World History > UK & Ireland > England > Yorkshire & Humberside

By Rebecca Batley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Pages: 240
Illustrations: 10 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399099288
Published: 2nd February 2023

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Lesbian. Lover. Lunatic.

These are just some of the words usually used to describe Ann Walker, the oft overlooked wife of Anne Lister, better known by some as Gentleman Jack. Ann was one half of England’s first same-sex marriage and yet the rainbow plaque that marks their historic union on the wall of the Holy Trinity Church, York, features Ann’s name in a font only half the size of her wife’s. Her story has been long forgotten.

Born into wealth and privilege Ann was one of the most eligible heiresses in 19th century Yorkshire and the question on everyone’s lips in 1830’s Halifax was why a respectable young heiress, with property, fortune and connection risked everything, even her freedom, to become entangled with the notorious Gentleman Jack?

The answer to this question reveals a woman of immense courage, faith, and determination, but her voice has remained silent….until now. Within the depths of Ann’s diary - discovered by Diane Halford in 2020 - the answers to some of the above questions can be found, as can insight into Ann as an independent woman.

The life of Ann is worthy of its own narrative and it is time for Ann to step out of the shadow of Gentleman Jack and tell her own story.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This biography is phenomenal! Whenever I picked up "Ann Walker", I was whisked back in time, and learned something about Ann Walker, and the life and times in which she lived.

I can only begin to imagine the amount of research Rebecca Batley must have done for this book, as I was completely immersed in the history throughout.

At times absolutely heartbreaking, at others heartwarming, and at others everything in between, this biography brings Ann Walker and her story to life right before the reader's eyes. An incredible and strong woman in her own right, she fought for her own happiness, both in her being able to marry the woman she loved, Anne Lister, as well as being able to control other aspects of her own life as well. Her story is incredibly moving, powerful, and poignant.

I look forward to doing more research on both Ann Walker and Anne Lister on my own time as well.

If you enjoy biographies, I recommend this book!

NetGalley, Ashley Maimes

Rebecca Batley's Ann Walker: The Life and Death of Gentleman Jack's Wife seeks to elevate the perception of Walker from the image of a retiring, somewhat unstable weakling to one of an accomplished manager of a large estate who held her own vis-a-vis Anne Lister.

...Batley makes a convincing case that there's much more to Anne Walker than suggested by the Gentleman Jack series.

The Gay and Lesbian Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've never watched the TV series Gentleman Jack but I am certainly aware of how popular it was.
That being said, I was privileged to read snippets of Ann Walker whilst it was being written and I grew interested in Ann’s story. I met Rebecca when we were had both recently signed contracts for our first books. I had no idea who Ann Walker was but the more I talked with Rebecca, the more I became intrigued about Ann’s story.

Although far out of my usual genre this was such a captivating and often sad read.
Using her own writings and the diary of Anne Lister, Rebecca has pieced together Ann's adult life, along with its good and bad times.

I found Ann's travelling to be really interesting. The places she visited and her experiences are inspiring.
>From reading this, it becomes apparent what Ann enjoyed, particularly her sketching and painting. I had to have a little look at her doodles and drawings which brought Ann such enjoyment.

Ann clearly faced many obstacles being a wealthy woman who married Anne Lister and who was declared insane. I found her story to be very sad indeed, if she lived today I can't help but think her life would be very different.

I'd like to thank Rebecca for bringing Ann to my attention and letting me read those snippets whilst you were writing which led me to wanting to read the whole book.
Anyone who usually reads my posts will know this is really out of my genre by a few hundred years but it was actually refreshing. Don't worry I am now back to the Tudors and Plantagenets.

Rebecca is a great writer and tells a story without being boring so I am looking forward to her next book. The next one is based on another Ann(e), this time one that is back in my preferred time era!

NetGalley, Amy McElroy

This book was an excellent read that would accompany the original TV series well

Read the Full Review Here

The History Fella

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ann, So much as been written about Anne Lister but Ann Walker is such a complex and clever character it was good to read more about her and her life. Ann was a very courageous lady. Very respectable and independent woman. She risked all of that to by getting involved with Anne Lister aka Gentleman Jack. Whilst most of the focus has been on Ann Lister it was really nice to read about Ann Walker and her life as a business woman, landowner and her work with the community.

NetGalley, Carol Clasper

It was an interesting and informative read. I watched Gentleman Jack and was happy to learn about the historical Ann Walker.
Recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is an in-depth, well-researched history of Ann Walker. It covers all elements of her life. The author tries to give a historical setting for the information where she can. Where there is no direct information, the author tries to give their best guess on what was happening.
I found this to be a very thorough book. The author includes plenty of sources to back up her claims.

NetGalley, Morgan Frazier

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a big fan of the Gentleman Jack TV series. I am from Yorkshire, so I know the story well. This book was an excellent read and, in my opinion, would make a fantastic follow on TV series. Here's hoping.

NetGalley, Wendy M Rhodes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What an enjoyable read this book was. Having watched the series of Gentleman Jack I was aware of Ann but this biography finally does her justice. The research undertaken by Rebecca Batley is astonishing and is to be commended. Despite the tragedy of Ann's early life, in later life she forged ahead in her businesses as well as her determination to make life better for those less fortunate.
She was a remarkable woman and quite rightly there is a memorial plaque commemorating her life in the church she worshipped in throughout her life .

NetGalley, T B

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Like most people i am well aware of Gentleman Jack from both the film and the television series so i already had a preconception of Ann Walker. To an extent they are accurate portrayals however this book takes it much much further and Walker is removed from the shadow of Lister. She is now seen as a much stronger character who sadly suffered with her mental health but between these episodes she is active, involved in life and society and business. She had far more involvement with Listers' business than is portrayed in the show. Also what is interesting to note and not really touched upon are all the times it was Lister who was ill and Walker had to look after her.
The book itself is well written and researched and a fascinating read of this trailblazing couple.

NetGalley, HELEN FRANKS

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this biography of Ann Walker bringing to life a character rarely known to history. Rebecca Batley’s biography, Ann Walker, is as thoroughly researched as historical evidence allows. It highlights Ann’s philanthropic enterprises and business acumen, not solely as the wife of Anne Lister, but in her own right. All this during an era when women were medically classed as ‘lunatic’ and therefore under legal guardianship simply for refusing to follow societal convention. An extraordinary read.

NetGalley, Leanne Neale

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I was ever so sad about the cancellation of BBC’s Gentleman Jack – it’s the lesbian, thinking person Downtown Abbey, in case you’re not familiar. And now, having read this biography of Jack’s wife, I’m thinking maybe they did end it at just the right time. It would have been terribly depressing going forward.
Why so?
Well, because it’s kind of a sad story. It’s a love story, for sure, and a passionate one at that, but ultimately, not a very happy one.
But then again, the main premise of this biography is that a woman mustn’t be defined by the actions of their spouse (however famous or infamous) alone. To that end, the author has done some admirably meticulous research and created this excellent portrait of a woman of her time. Fleshing out character traits and personality from glimpses, references, empirical evidence of the time and Ann’s own (albeit scant comparing to her wife) diaries, Batley brings Ann Walker’s life to…well, life. Exactly as intended.
Was it a good life? Well, not especially, but then again, Ann Walker did not live at a time that was particularly kind to women, especially women who dared to row against the current as it were.
Ann was very much a woman of her time in great many respects, a charitable wealthy religious woman deeply entangled within the web of her family. Not regarded as particularly strong mentally or physically, she had always been treated as such by people around her.
In fact, her life is punctuated by episodes of what now would have been described as anxiety, depression, etc. and back then was a locked-up-able offense.
And then, there was Jack. Who swept into her life comet-like, and changed it forever. All of Ann’s reluctance, all of Ann’s upbringing and ides couldn’t make her stay away.
The two of them begun a scandalous affair, disapproved by virtually all around them, and despite it all, ended up being married (after a fashion). And then, like so many married couples they proceeded to make each other desperately unhappy.
A tragic fate, really, for such an awesome historical first as a first lesbian marriage.
They were together for six years during which Jack cheated, lied, and went through Ann’s money like water.
And yet, Batley does a great valiant effort of teasing out the softer moments, the genuine signs of love and affection between the two.
The relationship didn’t last; death did them apart six years in. Ann ended up committed by her family and then quietly retired to fade away. Neither Jack nor his wife had lived long, and yet, Jack’s words have preserved them both, ensconced in diary pages as if in amber. And isn’t that awesome to contemplate?
Now Batley restores some of the imbalance of the relationship by presenting the other side, for there are always two. And does a great job of it. A very good biography and a very good read. Recommended.

NetGalley, Mia D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is an incredibly researched and detailed book about the life of Ann Walker, known to most as the wife of the formidable Anne Lister.
Their story had become popular since the BBC’s hit series Gentleman Jack where Ann was portrayed wonderfully by Sophie Rundle, while the character was well written and portrayed, the viewers were often left with more questions than answers about Ann’s health and state of mind.
This book goes into great detail, most of which is thanks to the journal entries of both women, but also family paperwork and letters.
These two incredibly brave women were the first women to marry, they have a plaque in York. I have visited it and flowers for them both, but this book details Ann’s seemingly constant struggle with her mental and physical health, only made worse by being surrounded by people wanting money from her. You feel an overwhelming desire to reach into the pages and hug her, to rescue her from people who sought to take away her rights with the appalling lunacy act, for their own material gains.

I love that the author has told Ann’s story. It’s a hugely important one, not only because of her marriage to Anne, but as an example of a young lady being manipulated and controlled by family and friends, who stood her ground about the way she felt about her wife and who history has unfortunately forgotten.

My daughter is a lesbian, she admires Anne and Ann hugely, she has made trips to Shibden and York to pay tribute to them both and she is SO happy that Ann has her own book, telling her story.

NetGalley, Cheryl Purnell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As a huge fan of the Gentleman Jack tv show I was thrilled to get a copy of this to review and consider stocking in the bookshop. This book really brings Ann Walker to life. It contained a huge amount of information I had no clue about - who knew such a thing as a Lunacy Commission existed or that Ann was quite so tough? She clearly was Anne Lister’s equal in every way.
The writer was sympathetic but not sentimental and I really enjoyed her sharp, sassy, smart writing style.
This biography of a forgotten woman is quite brilliant and the information it contains remarkable.
I loved this book and will be recommending that we buy stock copies.

NetGalley, Elizabeth Major (Bookseller)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I had enjoyed watching the Gentleman Jack show, so I was invested in what was happening to Gentleman Jack's wife. This was really well done and I was invested in what was happening. It does a great job in telling the story and I was never bored when reading this. Rebecca Batley does a great job in telling the story and I look forward to more from the author.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

About Rebecca Batley

Rebecca Batley is an archaeologist and historian, with a particular interest in women's history. Her work can be found in numerous publications including New Scientist, Gay and Lesbian Review and AHM. She regularly writes for Ancient Origins and has worked for, amongst others, MOLA and Wessex Archaeology.

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