Happy Birthday

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, L.M. Montgomery

Happy Birthday, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Author of “Anne of Green Gables”

November 30, 2009
by Shannon Firth
Set in bucolic Prince Edward Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s stories have been translated into a dozen languages and developed for both stage and screen. Although Montgomery struggled with depression, it seems she drew comfort from embracing life’s lighter side in her stories, captivating readers with the character of feisty, irresistibly loveable Anne Shirley.

Lucy Maud Montgomery's Early Days

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born November 30, 1874. Her mother died of tuberculosis before her second birthday; soon afterward, her father left her to be raised by her maternal grandparents on their farm in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. He later remarried and started a new family.

The only child on her grandparents’ farm, Montgomery kept herself busy reading, writing, and daydreaming. She spent a year (1890–1891) living with her father and her stepmother in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; homesick, she then returned to her grandparents’ farm.

During the 1890s, Montgomery was secretly engaged to a distant cousin, Edwin Simpson, and was also involved in a romance with Herman Leard, the son of the family she boarded with while she taught in Lower Bedeque. But when her grandfather died, she returned home to Cavendish to care for her grandmother and help run the family’s post office. She never married either man.

L.M. Montgomery's Notable Accomplishments

After receiving her teacher’s license and a graduate degree in literature, Montgomery taught in several schools and published poems and short stories. In 1905, she completed her first novel, “Anne of Green Gables,” about a spirited but kind-hearted orphan, Anne Shirley, who is taken in by an elderly couple. The character is partially based on Montgomery herself, as well as the illegitimate great-niece of her great-uncle David Macneill, who jointly raised the girl with his sister. The book was finally published in 2008, to immediate financial and critical success.

Montgomery went on to publish 20 novels, eight of which followed Anne Shirley’s adventures. She also released a collection of short stories, “Further Chronicles of Avonlea” and one volume of poetry, “The Watchman and Other Poems.”

The Rest of the Story

Montgomery became engaged to Ewan MacDonald, a Presbyterian minister, in 1903; the couple were eventually married in 1911, after her grandmother’s death. They had three sons; the second, Hugh Alexander, was stillborn.

Biographers have long known that both Montgomery and her husband struggled with depression. Montgomery died on April 24, 1942; in September 2008, her granddaughter, Kate MacDonald Butler, revealed that Montgomery had committed suicide.

Montgomery’s books continued to gather fans after her death. They were distributed among soldiers of the Polish resistance during World War II, and after the war, “Anne of Green Gables” was introduced to the Japanese curriculum as an example of “uplifting Western literature.”

Her works have been adapted several times for the stage, film and television. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists come to Prince Edward Island to live in the world of Anne of Green Gables, if only for a little while.

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