L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables, is one of the most beloved writers of all time. Her story humbly began in picturesque Prince Edward Island, though few people know that Montgomery battled through a lonely and troubled childhood, sexism, a difficult marriage, and mental illness. Pick up your quill and pass the tissues: Here are some surprising facts about L.M. Montgomery.
1. The Birth of L.M. Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on November 30, 1874, in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada to parents Clara Woolner Macneil Montgomery and Hugh John Montgomery.
2. A Tragic Childhood Trauma
Tragedy struck L.M. Montgomery at an early age. When she was only 21 months old, her mother succumbed to tuberculosis. In her memoirs, Montgomery claimed that her earliest memory was seeing her mother lying in repose. She wrote, “Why was Mother so still? And why was Father crying? I reached down and laid my baby hand against Mother's cheek. Even yet I can feel the coldness of that touch".
3. Not a Fan of Her Name
L.M. Montgomery was not fond of her given first name of Lucy. She preferred to be published as L.M. Montgomery (which also helped conceal her gender to readers) and as she explained in her journal, “I never liked Lucy as a name. I always liked Maud—spelled not ‘with an e’ if you please". Cute callback, L.M.
4. Father of the Year
A few years after the harrowing demise of her mother, Montgomery's father dealt his daughter a cold-hearted betrayal. He moved to what is now Saskatchewan and abandoned Montgomery. Little Lucy Maud was raised in PEI by her maternal grandparents.
5. Early Rejection
Montgomery’s forays into writing at a young age inspired her to share her work with a wider audience. Unfortunately, the first poem she ever submitted at the age of 13 was rejected. It would not be the first time her work met with disapproval. However, Montgomery knew that one day she would realize her dream. She revealed in her journal, "deep down under all the discouragement and rebuff, I knew I would ‘arrive’ some day".
6. Her Inspirations
Montgomery's inspirations for Anne of Green Gables included the classic novels Alice in Wonderland and Little Women.
7. A Troubled Marriage
L.M. Montgomery had an absolutely brutal time when it came to marriage. Her husband Macdonald wasn’t particularly bright and did not share his wife's interest. Even worse, Macdonald also suffered from depressive episodes, with the burden of caring for her young children and her husband exacerbating Montgomery’s own mental health issues. It was a perfect storm.
8. Seeking Greater Recognition
In time, Montgomery's books were immensely popular with readers, though critics never quite came around to her work. This snub broke Montgomery's heart. She believed that her work was unfairly dismissed just because it was young adult fiction. She was also unhappy with how her poetry was overlooked. To Lucy Maud, her poems were even stronger than her novels, but they never got much attention.
9. Montgomery’s Education
After completing grade school in Cavendish, L.M. Montgomery obtained her teacher’s license at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown. She would go onto study literature at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but in a tragic twist, her studies would not continue. Montgomery struggled to pay her bills, eventually leaving school because she was too poor to afford it.
10. Based on a True Story
L.M. Montgomery was inspired to write Anne of Green Gables after stumbling upon one of her nearly 10-year-old journal entries. She wrote in her journal, “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them". That brief, two-sentence note sparked Montgomery’s creativity and put into motion her most famous work.
11. Even More Rejection
L.M. Montgomery finished her the manuscript of Anne of Green Gables in 1905. However, every publisher responded in cold-hearted fashion. They all rejected it. For a couple of years, Montgomery’s manuscript was tucked away in a hatbox. She decided to send it out to publishers again in 1908, when Boston-based publisher L.C. Page finally accepted it.
12. Smash Hit
Anne of Green Gables was finally published in June 1908 and was an instant success. In its first five months of release, the book sold over 19,000 copies and was reprinted 10 times within its first year. The now-famous book recounts the story of orphan Anne Shirley, who is adopted by an elderly brother and sister pair and brought to the fictional town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island.
13. Working for the Newspaper
L.M. Montgomery worked as a teacher in local schools in Prince Edward Island. For nine months in 1901, Montgomery also served as a proofreader and a lifestyle columnist for a Halifax newspaper. These jobs gave her time to hone her craft as a writer. Between 1897 and 1907, Montgomery’s pieces were published in newspapers and magazines over 100 times.
14. Battling a Serious Illness
In 1918, L.M. Montgomery suffered from the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. The illness caused Montgomery to be confined to her bed for 10 days. While Montgomery would make a full recovery, her best friend Frederica Campbell MacFarlane would succumb to the disease in early 1919. Montgomery was utterly devastated.
15. Get That Paper
In 2010, a rare first edition of Anne of Green Gables sold at a New York City auction for a truly staggering amount: $37,500. It even outsold other high-value first editions of Montgomery’s debut novel. In 2015, a copy sold at a San Francisco auction for $14,000, exceeding the initial estimated value by thousands more dollars.
16. A Convenient Job
While working on getting Anne of Green Gables published, L.M. Montgomery held a job at the local post office. It sounds dull, but Montgomery knew what she was doing. Her place of employment allowed her to freely submit her manuscript to publishers. She could also receive their responses without facing any judgment or discouragement from nosy townsfolk.
17. Lonely Childhood Leads to Wild Imagination
L.M. Montgomery did not receive the affection from her grandparents that she sought. This led to a childhood marked by isolation and loneliness. Young Montgomery coped with these feelings by retreating to her imagination and had a collection of imaginary friends. Her imagination helped fuel her ability to craft and write stories and poems.
18. Lack of Support from Family
It's sad but true: Montgomery's family did not support her dreams of becoming a writer. In a cruel twist, they thought writing was a big waste of time and even forced her to write in secret. Montgomery explained in her autobiography, “I struggled on alone, in secrecy and silence. I never told my ambitions and efforts and failures to any one".
19. Montgomery’s Demise
L.M. Montgomery passed away on April 24, 1942, in her Toronto home, with the death certificate blaming coronary thrombosis. Her body was transported to Prince Edward Island, where a wake was held at the beloved Green Gables house. In a tender final gesture, Montgomery was buried in PEI. But sadly, this isn't the full story of her dark end.
20. The Supposed Real Cause of Death
In 2008, Montgomery’s granddaughter revealed the horrible truth. She said that her family believes that Montgomery’s demise was not brought upon by a heart ailment, but rather an intentional drug overdose. Butler explained that her grandmother left behind a note on her bedside table. In it, she asked for forgiveness and revealed her troubled mental state.
The family initially kept the note a secret, but felt compelled to share it in order to start a much-needed dialogue regarding mental health.
21. A Blatant Misfire of an Adaptation
The first film adaptation of Anne of Green Gables was a silent movie released in 1919. You'd think that this would be a fond memory for Montgomery, but you'd be wrong. She absolutely hated the adaptation. She felt that the actress in the titular role, Mary Miles Minter, was completely miscast. Minter's “sweet, sugary heroine [was] utterly unlike my gingerly Anne".
In a, er, creative move, the movie also set Anne's story in New England instead of Prince Edward Island. An irritated Montgomery wrote, “A skunk and an American flag were introduced – both equally unknown in PE Island. I could have shrieked with rage over the latter. Such crass, blatant Yankeeism!”
22. Her Marriage to Ewen
In 1911, Montgomery married Ewen Macdonald, a Presbyterian minister. The couple were secretly engaged for over five years before tying the knot. The newlywed couple honeymooned in England and Scotland, the latter being the ancestral homeland of both Montgomery and Macdonald. Even though they had a solid relationship before the wedding, the couple was doomed to a heartbreaking fate.
23. First and Worst
Montgomery and Macdonald had three sons: Chester, born in 1912, Hugh, who was still born in 1914, and Stuart, born in 1915. Though Chester was her firstborn, he was an absolute terror. He couldn't hold onto a job, became a thief, and was detained for embezzlement. But that's not even the worst part: Chester also often flashed his junk at people. In short, he broke his mother's heart.
24. Her Early Relationships
L.M. Montgomery had many suitors before getting married to Ewen Macdonald. Her teacher John A. Mustard proposed to the young writer, and she also received an offer from Will Pritchard, the brother of a friend. She rejected both men. In 1897, Montgomery received a proposal from Edwin Simpson. She initially accepted, but would come to detest him, as she felt that he was too self-centered. The engagement ended in 1898.
25. Move to Ontario
Shortly after their marriage and honeymoon, Macdonald accepted a ministerial position at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church, in Leaksdale, Ontario. Montgomery wrote 11 of her novels from her Leaksdale home. Sadly, these days weren't as pleasant as they sound. Montgomery hated the house because it didn't have proper bathrooms or toilets. Fair enough, L.M.
In time, Montgomery's husband Macdonald checked himself into a mental health facility. After his release, it looked like things were finally going to improve, but instead everything went terribly wrong. Montgomery gave Macdonald a wrongly prescribed medication and he nearly lost his life. This incident made him extremely paranoid about his wife’s care and occasionally caused him to be catatonic. He often stared at the walls for hours on end.
27. A Famous Admirer
One of Montgomery’s big admirers was fellow writer Mark Twain. The Huck Finn author was a big fan of Anne Shirley and felt that she was “the dearest, most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice".
28. Getting Shortchanged by Her Publisher
Montgomery was embroiled in a decade-long legal battle with her publisher Louis Coues Page. Montgomery accused Page of cheating her out of the correct amount of royalties that they originally agreed upon. After a lengthy court battle, the court would finally side with Montgomery. She received a settlement of $15,000 and unsurprisingly, never worked with Page again.
29. Lucy Maud Of The Many Boyfriends
During Montgomery's engagement to an ex-boyfriend named Simpson, she started a passionate affair with a man named Herman Leard. Montgomery spoke of her love for Leard, but the relationship had to end for a heartbreaking reason. Montgomery’s family felt that he wasn’t good enough for her. When Leard passed on in 1899, Montgomery described her pain.
She wrote, “It is easier to think him as dead, mine, all mine in death, as he could never be in life, mine when no other women could ever lie on his heart or kiss his lips". It seems like she never get over her love for him.
30. Next Stop: PEI Land at Universal Studios
Many sites associated with both L.M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables are now major tourist attractions. The author's homes in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island and Leaksdale, Ontario are both official National Historic Sites. Soon Anne fans will have another place to visit: Montgomery's home in Norval, Ontario is currently being converted into a museum.
31. A “Lit” Honeymoon
During her honeymoon to Great Britain, Montgomery used the opportunity the way any book nerd would. She decided to make pilgrimages to sites associated with some of her favorite writers. She visited the house of William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Haworth House where Charlotte Brontë lived, and the Lake District made popular by William Wordsworth.
32. A Heritage Minute
In 2018, Montgomery received the ultimate Canadian honor. The popular Heritage Minutes series, which uses brief TV ads to highlight an integral Canadian individual or event, featured L.M. Montgomery. Her Heritage Minute depicted both Montgomery and Anne Shirley navigating the stunning Prince Edward Island landscape. In a sweet gesture, Montgomery’s own journal entries also form the episode's narration.
33. Later Adaptations of Anne
People just can't resist bringing Anne of Green Gables to the screen. In 1985, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation released a well-received four-part miniseries based on the original novel. It starred Megan Follows in the role of Anne. In 2017, the CBC, this time teaming up with Netflix, released a new television series based on Anne Shirley, entitled Anne With an E, with Amybeth McNulty in the lead role.
34. Her First Published Poem
While spending a year out west with her father and new stepmother, Montgomery submitted a poem to a newspaper in her native Prince Edward Island. To her joy, The Daily Patriot, a newspaper based in PEI’s biggest city Charlottetown, accepted the piece and published “On Cape LeForce". Before Montgomery returned to PEI, the paper would publish a second piece penned by Montgomery, a short essay about her time at an Indigenous camp.
35. Good Company
In 1943, the Government of Canada declared Montgomery as a Person of National Historical Significance. Other Persons of National Historical Significance include Indigenous leader Tecumseh, humanitarian and athlete Terry Fox, and painter Emily Carr.
36. Popularity in Japan
Everyone knows that Montgomery and her books have a huge following in Japan, but do you know the strange story about why? In 1939, a missionary from New Brunswick left her copy with her friend, translator Hanako Muraoka. Muraoka read the book and fell in love. She decided to secretly translate the novel, retitling it Akage No Anne (Anne of the Red Hair). These days, thousands of Japanese tourists travel to Prince Edward Island and visit sites referred to in the Anne of Green Gables books.
37. Her Beloved PEI
Montgomery was a big fan of her home province of Prince Edward Island. As a child, she loved exploring the outdoors and particularly enjoyed fishing, strolling the red sandy beaches, and picking fresh berries. The quaint little island, full of natural beauty, inspired her in a big way and served as the setting for nearly all of her major works.
38. Secrets Revealed
When L.M. Montgomery's family decided to release the author's journals, they hoped to start a dialogue on mental health. It turns out that the beloved author struggled intensely in her final years. She could not write (a failure that made everything worse), would pace through her house or up and down the street for hours on end, and spent her time dreaming of death.
She even destroyed some of her papers because she knew they would probably be read someday. We may never know the true extent of her suffering.
39. Granted Royal Honors
In June 1935, the King himself gave L.M. Montgomery a jaw-dropping honor. George V named her to the Order of the British Empire. Canada’s Governor General Lord Bessborough presided over the official investiture ceremony, which took place on September 8, 1935, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario. Montgomery also became the first Canadian woman to become a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
40. An Incredible Output
In her lifetime, Montgomery published 20 novels, including eight in the Anne of Green Gables series and three in the Emily of New Moon series. She also published numerous short stories, poems, and essays. The Toronto magazine Everywoman’s World published a series of Montgomery's autobiographical essays, which eventually formed an official autobiography entitled The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career.
41. The Final Chapter of Anne
101 years after the original publication of Anne of Green Gables, the world finally got to read the final entry in Anne Shirley saga. The original manuscript for The Blythes are Quoted was submitted to Montgomery's Canadian publisher on the day of Montgomery’s passing, but suppressed. When it finally came out in 2009, readers understood the chilling reason why.
The experimental book took a dark turn, discussing the horrors of war.
42. Unhappy End
After coping with her husband's mental health issues, L.M. Montgomery succumbed to extreme mental health issues herself, with her troubles worsening as she aged. Once a prolific journal writer, in the years 1940 and 1941, she barely wrote anything at all. The only entry in 1941 is utterly chilling. It reads, "Oh God, such an end to life. Such suffering and wretchedness".