“It’s it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive – it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything.”Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on November 30th, 1874, on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her mother died of tuberculosis just before she turned two, and young Montgomery was sent to be raised by her maternal grandparents. Although not technically an orphan, her father late moved away, and Montgomery felt very abandoned. She had a lonely childhood, which she credited with developing her creativity.
At the age of thirteen, she submitted a poem for publication. It was rejected, and although crushingly disappointed, she still had faith that she would make it as a famous writer one day. In 1890 her first poem, “On Cape LeForce,” was published in a newspaper.
Montgomery attended Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown to obtain her teacher’s license, completing the two-year program in just a year. She then attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to study literature in 1895 and 1896. Afterward, she returned to Prince Edward Island to teach and continue writing, although her ambitions were met with resistance from friends and relatives. Working for a time as the assistant postmistress, which allowed her to submit work secretly, she published over a hundred stories between 1897 and 1907. She had many suitors, turning down multiple proposals and breaking off an engagement with her cousins. Two of her beloved beaus, including Herman Leard, whom she never fell out of love with, died of the flu.
In 1898 she moved in with her widowed grandmother to help with her care until she died in 1911.
In 1908 her first book, Anne of Green Gables, was published after being rejected by multiple publishers. It was an immediate success. The tale of the spirited orphan girl was in its sixth printing by November 1909. Montgomery was thirty-four years old, and living alone supporting herself was not typical for a woman at that time.
Shortly after her grandmother’s death in 1911, Montgomery married Ewen Macdonald, a Presbyterian minister. Montgomery knew from the beginning she would not be happy in the marriage, but at 36 had wanted to start a family. Her husband had no interest in literature and had a depressive disorder cited as ‘religious melancholia,’ feeling that he was predestined for hell. That, coupled with Lucy’s own depression, made their marriage miserable. They had three sons, one which was stillborn.
In 1917 Montgomery published a short memoir, The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, that documents the struggles of her early years becoming a writer.
She nearly died of the Spanish flu in 1918, and her husband was reportedly indifferent to her near-death. Afterward, she thought of divorcing him but decided it was her duty to stay married.
Under contract with her publisher to produce more in the Anne of Green Gables series, Montgomery wrote a total of six books and was completely tired of it. She later revisted the series adding three more titels. In 1923 she started a new series, Emily of New Moon, which consisted of three books.
In 1935 she was named to the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
On April 24th, 1942, Lucy was found dead in her bedroom. Her cause of death was noted as a blood clot, but her granddaughter in 2008 revealed it may have been a deliberate drug overdose. During her lifetime, she published twenty novels, over 500 short stories, an autobiography, and a book of poetry.
Many places in Canada associated with Montgomery, especially on Prince Edward Island, are now historical sites.
Lesson from Montgomery
From a young age, Montgomery found solace in her imagination and her writing. It not only sustained her for most of her life through depression and difficulty, but it also brought joy and hope to generations of readers.