Welcome to Friday, and to the inaugural Women’s History Month post on PEI History Guy! As I mentioned last time, I’ve decided to alter the content for Fridays throughout the month of October, and instead of vintage film, we’ll be honouring trailblazing women from the pages of Island history. And speaking of “pages”, what better way to kick things off than with our very own literary muse? Three guesses, if you need them…
But I’m betting you don’t.
Name: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Birth: 30 November 1874 in Clifton, Prince Edward Island
Death: 24 April 1942 in Toronto, Ontario
Accomplishments: World-renowned authoress; Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1935); National Historic Person (1943); Creator of The Island Hymn (1908).
Alright, alright, a wildly obvious choice. No doubt you know the name – many people do, the world over. Lucy Maud Montgomery put Prince Edward Island on the map, thanks in large part to the adventures of her most famous literary creation, Anne Shirley, which propelled her to immediate success in 1908. Her story is so well known that I really don’t think there’s much that needs to be written here. But I will say this: I hold Montgomery, and her accomplishments, in very high regard, despite the fact that I’ve never read any of her literary works.
Not a single one. Not even Anne of Green Gables.
I can tell you’re all thinking I’m sort of traitorous, Anne-hating monster, but I’m not. I swear. I don’t know why I’ve been so delinquent in that regard. I do tend to favour non-fiction over fiction, so maybe that’s it. Or perhaps it has something to do with the time I acted in a scaled-down version of Anne for a sixth grade play which I won’t discuss any further, except to say that it resulted in me tripping and falling flat on my face during a song and dance routine, much to the delight of the many second grade students in attendance.
Anyway, I still look to Montgomery as an inspiring figure, not just because she was and continues to be the most famous author in the history of Prince Edward Island, by a biblical landslide (a highly laudable accomplishment), and one of the greatest in Canada; but more so because to me, she has long been a paragon of just what can be achieved when you have the courage to follow your heart and stay the course, no matter what life throws in your path. Not that I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but there were a number of moments in Montgomery’s life that could have caused her to put down the pen, chief among them being the years she spent supporting her husband during his severe bouts of depression, which many believe might have led to her own; however, as her story teaches us, there is no obstacle in life that drive and determination cannot overcome.
More daunting, I think, is the fact that Montgomery dared go up against a time period which dictated that a woman’s role in society ought to revolve solely around the household. Women were expected to marry, settle down, and raise children, all of which Montgomery would do; and yet, at the same time she subverted societal expectations by continuing to operate as a writer, producing a prolific amount of literature (over 20 novels, and by some estimates as many as 500 short stories in the end) and wrote, quite literally, until the day she died.
I’m not sure how well I conveyed any of that, but I think you catch my drift. We all have our dreams, but what sets some people apart is that they believe in themselves enough to go after them. As much as we on the Island like to plug Anne of Green Gables for all its monetary worth (and boy, do we ever), in my humble opinion that is the big takeaway in all of this, a point that often gets overshadowed by a precocious redhead with a winning personality.
At least I think she’s precocious. But then again, I’ve never read the books.
PEI History Guy
P.S. – If you’ve come to this post as someone not familiar with Montgomery, or need a refresher, help yourself to this concise biography: Lucy Maud Montgomery
P.P.S. – The above image is a portrait of Montgomery, aged 10, captured circa 1884.