“Under the Existing Rules”: Anne Lister and the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society

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Anne Lister’s membership in the Halifax Literary and Philosophical Society is considered here as an early example of a woman admitted to such a society. Lister’s membership in this Society, and the Society’s decision to admit her, illuminates much about women’s participation in civic and intellectual life in this period, and more particularly about Lister’s particular status in her hometown of Halifax. This essay investigates the extent to which Lister’s membership in the Society constituted true participation and how it intersected with, and compared to, other formal and informal kinds of intellectual and associational activities available to women in the period. It also explores the ways in which such institutions themselves imagined their role in society extending beyond their membership through largely patriarchal models of diffusion.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)462-485
Number of pages24
JournalNineteenth-Century Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Anne Lister
  • Women in Public Life
  • Literary and Philosophical Societies
  • Civic Improvement
  • Networks

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