Anne Lister diary transcriptions Anne Lister's diary 1828 Anne Lister's diary June 1828

Thursday 19 June 1828

10 10/60
12½

Dawdling over 1 thing or another. Having worn one napkin with papers since Tuesday morning, that is two days and as many nights, sent it to the wash determined to wear nothing. This is the first time in my life of trying this plan. I shall be ready for Miss MacL as soon as she will be so for me. Sat telling her this morning stories of Charles’s gaieties, Mariana’s being unhappy since we parted at Boulogne etc etc. I told her at Killin on Tuesday how nearl[y] she had left C just after my uncle’s death. I forget whether I had named it before or not. Breakfast at 12¼to 1¾. Had been much rain in the night & just before I got up. Rain again about 12½, heavy shower with 3 or 4 peals loud thunder & [civ…ed?] lightening. Perpetual showers afterwards. So determined to stay quietly at home today & be off betimes in the morning. From 1¾ to 6¼ wrote the journals of Tuesday, yesterday & so far of today, & sat talking at intervals. Miss McL- & I sauntered out along the road above the house for ½ hour. Fine view towards Comrie & southward & eastward along the fine plain towards Perth & Stirling. Dinner at 7. Sat talking. She still seems to have some scruples whether it is right to indulge me. Will go on now while we are together then give it up. She would rather I was more steady, would not say she should love me better for it, but should respect me more. Then sat with her on my knee toying and dallying, she evidently rather excited and not disliking it. Had told her this morning Doctor Belcombe her father had written Charles that Mariana required dalliance. When the clothes came from wash would get hold of them slyly. Got them and withdrew the one napkin I sent, telling Miss MacL I suspected her shamming Abraham [1] not to have me at night so would see it came out. She bought a yard of flannel at Glasgow (I asked at the time wh[a]t for and she said it was for the poor people at home) and cut it into four having no napkins with her. Good idea. [2] Came to my room at 11. Vid. line 7 of this page for the weather, more rain after 7 p.m. Settled my accounts & wrote the last 11 line which took me till 11¾.

[1] The idiom ‘shamming Abraham’ refers to Abraham-men, beggars in Tudor and Stuart times who pretended to be lunatics discharged from the Abraham ward at Bedlam hospital. ‘Shamming Abraham’ therefore means to pretend to be ill in order to get out of doing work.

[2] Dr Helen King, a historian with an interest in medicine and the body in history had the following to say about this journal entry:

‘This is such a fascinating piece of evidence for women’s management of menstruation! I read it alongside some other sections of the transcripts which refer to menstrual bleeding and management, which were using the euphemism ‘cousin’, as in ‘My cousin had come an hour or two before reaching Edinburgh’ (19 May 1828) or ‘Awoke finding my cousin coming gently so got up’ (17 June 1828).

So, here we have Anne sending her sanitary napkin to be washed after a longer than usual time wearing it (I’m not sure what the ‘papers’ refer to here) and then the same day getting the clean clothes back and discreetly taking out her napkin from the pile. Why? I take it that her decision to stop wearing any protection at the start of this entry (‘the first time in my life of trying this plan’) and to conceal from Miss MacLeod that she has her period by sneaking out her clean napkin is in order to make sure that they sleep together that night, to be ‘ready for Miss MacL’. The ‘shamming Abraham’ reference sounds like Miss MacLeod was claiming she had *her* period which would be why she’d bought the flannel in Glasgow?

There’s so much here! Flannel was the fabric of choice for menstrual pads so I’m interested that Miss MacLeod felt she had to make an excuse about the ‘poor people’ when buying some to use in this way. It’s also interesting that she ‘had no napkins with her’ and therefore needed to buy flannel – suggesting women didn’t routinely pack their sanitary protection when travelling?

I’m also interested in the question of whether sex between women was considered OK while menstruatig. On 13 August 1823 a towel is ‘put under us to keep the bed clean on account of her cousin’ and they have already ‘beg[u]n on the erotics’. On 16 June 1828 ‘It seemed her cousin was come so kissed and went away’, and here the two women stay in their own beds while one has her period. Does this depend on which woman Anne is with; is it a matter of personal preference?

There’s a fun coincidence in that when commercial disposable sanitary towels first became available at the end of the 19th century, one of the brands was ‘Lister’s’! http://www.mum.org/listers.htm.’

You can read Dr King’s fascinating blog here: https://mistakinghistories.wordpress.com/home/ or follow her on Twitter (@fluff35).

You can read the original diary entry here: https://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/CalmView/GetImage.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=b6%5cb6e79c-5832-4d59-aa80-2fa04fbb3a49.jpg

10 thoughts on “Thursday 19 June 1828

  1. This is such a fascinating piece of evidence for women’s management of menstruation! I read it alongside some other sections of the transcripts which refer to menstrual bleeding and management, which were using the euphemism ‘cousin’, as in ‘My cousin had come an hour or two before reaching Edinburgh’ (19 May 1828) or ‘Awoke finding my cousin coming gently so got up’ (17 June 1828).

    So, here we have Anne sending her sanitary napkin to be washed after a longer than usual time wearing it (I’m not sure what the ‘papers’ refer to here) and then the same day getting the clean clothes back and discreetly taking out her napkin from the pile. Why? I take it that her decision to stop wearing any protection at the start of this entry (‘the first time in my life of trying this plan’) and to conceal from Miss MacLeod that she has her period by sneaking out her clean napkin is in order to make sure that they sleep together that night, to be ‘ready for Miss MacL’. The ‘shamming Abraham’ reference sounds like Miss MacLeod was claiming she had *her* period which would be why she’d bought the flannel in Glasgow?

    There’s so much here! Flannel was the fabric of choice for menstrual pads so I’m interested that Miss MacLeod felt she had to make an excuse about the ‘poor people’ when buying some to use in this way. It’s also interesting that she ‘had no napkins with her’ and therefore needed to buy flannel – suggesting women didn’t routinely pack their sanitary protection when travelling?
    I’m also interested in the question of whether sex between women was considered OK while menstruating. On 13 August 1823 a towel is ‘put under us to keep the bed clean on account of her cousin’ and they have already ‘beg[u]n on the erotics’. On 16 June 1828 ‘It seemed her cousin was come so kissed and went away’, and here the two women stay in their own beds while one has her period. Does this depend on which woman Anne is with; is it a matter of personal preference?

    There’s a fun coincidence in that when commercial disposable sanitary towels first became available at the end of the 19th century, one of the brands was ‘Lister’s’! http://www.mum.org/listers.htm

    Thanks so much for making all this available to us online!

    1. Thank you so much for giving this so much thought and providing such a detailed comment. Would you mind if I posted your comment within the main body of my post on this subject (obviously attributing it to you) so that people don’t miss this useful piece of background information?
      In the 13 August 1823 journal entry Anne Lister was with her long-term lover/wife Mariana Lawton (nee Belcombe) who she had been ‘together’ with since 1812, so I guess that the two women were much more comfortable with each other’s bodies that Anne Lister and Sibella MacLean (the woman she is with in the 1828 journal entries). Interestingly, Anne Lister confides in her diary in 1824 that one of the reasons she’s so comfortable with Mariana is that she does not ‘womanize’ her too much and essentially averts her attention when Anne is menstruating. There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Anne Lister was transgender, but my personal view (which is just speculation) is that she didn’t want to be womanized because of the association at that time with lack of power or agency.

    2. In No Priest but Love, Anne says (about Marianna) “It was the second night of her ‘cousin’. Pretended it would do her harm to have a kiss yet, at last, as if unable to resist, she not discouraging it, had one & fell asleep perhaps about four in the morning” (31/08)
      “Affectionate to Marianna last night yet felt restrained. Glad to make the excuse of her having her cousin & pretended to sleep, then to awake excited , she nothing loth & we had a short kiss…

      as for “papers” – I took it to mean she added paper (newspaper maybe, or silk paper ) under the protection

      Which to me means Anne was happy to make love to a menstruating woman – maybe not so much when she had her own periods.

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