Prince Edward Island has been made famous all over the world due to the Anne of Green Gables books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. L.M. Montgomery was born on November 30, 1874 in Clifton P.E.I., now New London. Her parents were Hugh John Montgomery and Clara Woolner Macneill. In 1876, Clara died of tuberculosis. With the death of his wife, and the failure of his business, Hugh John left his baby daughter on the Island and moved to Saskatchewan where he settled and remarried. Maud was raised primarily by her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill. With her grandparents being in their 50s and no other children in the house, nature, books, her imagination and writing became her playmates.
She began school at the age of six in Cavendish. At 15 she left PEI to live with her father in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. However she only remained a year due to homesickness and a poor relationship with her step-mother, Mary Ann McRae. Upon her return to Prince Edward Island she continued her education, completing, with honours, a two-year course in one year for her teacher’s license at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown.
L.M. Montgomery taught in Bideford, 70 km west of Cavendish, in 1894, for a year. From 1895-96 she was at Dalhousie University in Halifax. It was there that she received her first payments for some of her writings. She returned to PEI in the spring of 1896 and acquired a teaching position in Belmont where once again she only stayed the year. Her final teaching post was in Lower Bedeque just east of Summerside. She held this post until 1898 at which time she returned to Cavendish to look after her grandmother as her grandfather had died in March of that same year.
Lucy Maud Montgomery stayed primarily in Cavendish for the next 13 years. During that time she became the assistant post-mistress and wrote a great deal. She sent poems, short stories and serials to various Canadian, American and British magazines. In 1904 she uncovered what was to become the seed of Anne of Green Gables in one of her notebooks from some years before: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent to them.” Although Maud had only intended for the Anne story to be a little serial in the Sunday school paper, she quickly realized that she had enough material for a full-length novel. Anne of Green Gables was completed in October of 1905. Five different publishers looked at the manuscript and turned it down. Finally in 1908 L.C. Page and Company of Boston accepted the novel and it became an immediate success. Three more novels followed with equal success: Anne of Avonlea (1909), Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910), and The Story Girl (1911).
In July of 1911, after the death of her grandmother, L.M. Montgomery married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald to whom she had been secretly engaged since 1906. They moved to Leaskdale Ontario where they raised their two boys, Chester Cameron (b. 1912) and Stuart (b.1915). From 1919 onward she discovered that Ewan suffered from what was termed religious melancholia. Maud spent most of the rest of her life helping Ewan through his episodes of depression and insomnia but kept his mental illness a secret from the rest of the world. In 1926 they moved to Norval, Ontario where they stayed until the Reverend retired in 1935. At that time they moved to Toronto, it was here that Lucy Maud Montgomery Macdonald remained until her death on April 24, 1942.
Although L.M. Montgomery is best remembered for her first two “Anne” novels; Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea, there are four more books to the series; Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside. Another lesser known series also by the same author is Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. Although most of L.M. Montgomery’s fictional works are for young readers, she did publish two adult novels The Blue Castle and A Tangled Web. She wrote some 500 short stories most of which were published in various collections after her death. There are also several collections of her 500 poems and she wrote nine other novels all taking place on Prince Edward Island except for one.
Key Tourist Attractions that are inspired by Anne of Green Gables are:
Avonlea – Village of Anne of Green Gables
Cavendish, Rte. 6, across from Rainbow Valley
Anne of Green Gables Museum
Silver Bush, Park Corner, on Rte. 20
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Birthplace
New London, at Rtes. 6 and 20
Lucy Maud Montgomery Heritage Museum
Rte. 20 at Park Corner
Site of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Cavendish Home
Cavendish, on Rte. 6