Female codebreakers transcribe the diaries of the first modern lesbian

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More than a hundred mostly female codebreakers have joined forces to transcribe the diaries of the famous Halifax landowner. She started her diary when she was 15 and kept writing it until she died. Lister’s journals amount to an estimated five million words across at least 20 volumes, all written in a secret ‘crypthand’ she devised herself, based on a combination of algebra and the Greek alphabet. Fifty years after her death a descendant was finally able to crack it, but kept the diaries a secret because he was gay himself and was afraid it would draw suspicions to him, as homosexuality still was not legal. Thanks to a rediscovery by another descendant in the 1980s, Lister’s story is now better known than ever before. However, much of her diaries remain untranscribed – which is where The Anne Lister Diary Transcription Project comes in. involving 104 volunteers (mostly women) who are now trying to make the diaries readable. Some volunteers are academics, many are women, some are lesbians. Tweeting under the hashtag #AnneListerCodeBreaker, the cryptic codebreakers regularly share snippets of the steamy stories they’re uncovering.

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