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Her Life

L.M. Montgomery (1874–1942)

L.M. Montgomery is now widely recognized as a major twentieth-century author, one whose bestselling books remain hugely popular and influential all over the world more than three-quarters of a century after her death. Born in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island, in 1874, into a family whose ancestors had immigrated to Canada from Scotland and England, she was raised in nearby Cavendish by her maternal grandparents following the death of her mother and spent a year during her adolescence with her father and his new family in Saskatchewan. Raised in a household that distrusted novels but prized poetry and oral storytelling, she began to write during childhood, although few examples of her juvenilia survive. She received a teaching certificate from Prince of Wales College (Charlottetown) and, after one year of teaching school, took undergraduate courses in English literature for a year at Dalhousie University (Halifax), but she did not have the financial resources to complete her degree. During this time, she began publishing essays, short fiction, and poems in North American periodicals. In 1898, after two more years of teaching school, she returned to Cavendish to take care of her widowed grandmother and to write full-time, soon earning more from her pen than she had teaching school. With the exception of a nine-month stint on the staff of the Halifax Daily Echo, where her duties included writing a weekly column entitled “Around the Table,” Montgomery remained in Cavendish until 1911, when the death of her grandmother freed her to marry a Presbyterian minister. After a honeymoon in England and Scotland, she and her husband moved to southern Ontario, where she divided her time between writing, motherhood, and the responsibilities that came with her position as a minister’s wife.

Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), the benchmark against which her remaining body of work is measured, was followed by twenty-three additional books, including ten more featuring Anne Shirley: Anne of Avonlea (1909), Chronicles of Avonlea (1912), Anne of the Island (1915), Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), Rainbow Valley (1919), Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920), Rilla of Ingleside (1921), Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), Anne of Ingleside (1939), and The Blythes Are Quoted, completed shortly before her death but not published in its entirety until 2009. During her distinguished career, she was made a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts, was named one of the twelve greatest women in Canada by the Toronto Star, and became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. When she died in 1942, apparently by her own hand, her obituary in the Globe and Mail declared that her body of work “showed no lessening of that freshness and simplicity of style that characterized Anne of Green Gables.” Since her death, several volumes of collected periodical pieces have been published, as have over a dozen volumes of journals, letters, essays, and scrapbooks. Both Ontario and Prince Edward Island are home to numerous tourist sites and archival collections, and her books continue to be adapted for stage and screen.



Lucy Maud Montgomery is born on 30 November in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island, the only child of Hugh John Montgomery (1841–1900) and Clara (née Macneill) Montgomery (1853–1876).


Clara Montgomery dies of tuberculosis on 14 September, leaving her twenty-one-month-old daughter to be raised by her parents, Alexander Macneill and Lucy (née Woolner) Macneill, in the nearby village of Cavendish.


Before her fifteenth birthday, Montgomery destroys her childhood diaries (an act she will later regret) and begins a new journal that she will keep for the rest of her life.


In August, at the age of fifteen, Montgomery travels by rail with her paternal grandfather, Donald Montgomery, to Prince Albert, NWT (now Saskatchewan), to be reunited with her father, who has remarried, and to attend high school there. In November, days before her sixteenth birthday, she publishes her first poem, “On Cape Le Force,” in the Charlottetown Daily Patriot.


Unable to bear the friction between her and her stepmother and disappointed by her haphazard schooling, Montgomery returns to Prince Edward Island in August. She publishes three non-fiction pieces throughout the year: “The Wreck of the ‘Marco-Polo’” in the Montreal Daily Witness, “A Western Eden” in the Prince Albert Times and Saskatchewan Review and the Manitoba Free Press, and “From Prince Albert to P.E. Island” in the Charlottetown Daily Patriot.


After a year out of school, Montgomery resumes her studies in Cavendish in August, with the intention of studying for the entrance exams to train as a teacher at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown.


In July, Montgomery writes her entrance examination to PWC, achieving the fifth highest ranking out of 264 candidates. She begins her studies in September, intending to complete a two-year teaching course in one year. She would write about this year in her 1927 article “The Day Before Yesterday” in The College Times.


Montgomery publishes a playlet (“The Usual Way”), a sketch (“Extracts from the Diary of a Second-Class Mouse”), an essay (“High School Life in Saskatchewan”), and a poem (“The Last Prayer”) in The College Record, a short-lived periodical of Prince of Wales College. She completes her studies in June with the sixth highest ranking in her year, and her commencement speech on Shakespeare’s Portia is printed in four Charlottetown daily newspapers. She begins teaching in the rural settlement of Bideford, Prince Edward Island, in late July, the same month she publishes the poem “The Violet’s Spell” in the New York magazine The Ladies’ World.


Montgomery leaves Bideford and returns home to Cavendish at the end of June. In September, with savings from her teaching work and help from her grandmother, Montgomery begins a year at Dalhousie University in Halifax, taking a series of undergraduate courses in English literature. To The Ladies’ Journal of Toronto Montgomery contributes two poems as well as her first published short story, “A Baking of Gingersnaps” (under the pen name “Maud Cavendish”).


In February, Montgomery enters a writing contest sponsored by the Evening Mail of Halifax on the question “Which Has the Most Patience under the Ordinary Cares and Trials of Life – Man or Woman?” and wins both first prize for a poem signed “Belinda Bluegrass” and honourable mention for a sketch signed “Enid.” In April, coinciding with the appearance of her essay “A Girl’s Place at Dalhousie College” in the Halifax Herald, she leaves Halifax to return to Cavendish, regretful that she lacks the financial resources to carry on with her studies. Although she begins the year publishing several more pieces in The Prince of Wales College Observer (a follow-up to The College Record), by the end of the year she has started publishing short stories and poems in several prestigious American periodicals: Golden Days for Boys and Girls of Philadelphia, The Youth’s Companion of Boston, American Agriculturist of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Sunday Inter Ocean of Chicago. In October, she begins teaching in Belmont, Prince Edward Island, but finds the conditions poor and the workload unmanageable.


Montgomery leaves Belmont in July and returns to Cavendish; in October, she starts what will be her last teaching term, in Bedeque. Publishes eleven poems (two in The Ladies’ World and one in Munsey’s Magazine, both of New York).


Alexander Macneill, Montgomery’s maternal grandfather, dies suddenly in March; his will leaves his house and property to his son John Franklin Macneill but allows his wife to remain in the home for the rest of her life. Montgomery gives up teaching and returns home to Cavendish to stay with her grandmother. Publishes the first of three dozen poems in The New York Family Story Paper.


Hugh John Montgomery, Montgomery’s father (whom she has not seen for eight years), dies in Saskatchewan, leaving her bereft.


In October, Montgomery moves to Halifax to work on the editorial staff of the Halifax Daily Echo and the Morning Chronicle, where she writes a weekly column entitled “Around the Table” (under the pen name “Cynthia”) and provides editorial, production, and administrative support to both newspapers.


Montgomery leaves Halifax for Cavendish at the end of May out of a sense of duty toward her grandmother. Some time this year, Montgomery begins a correspondence with Ephraim Weber, which will last till the end of her life; an equally long-lasting correspondence begins the following year with G.B. MacMillan of Alloa, Scotland.


Montgomery continues to write while living in Cavendish but is silent in her surviving life writing about two major projects: a chapbook of poems that she printed privately probably in late 1903 and the manuscript for a first novel that she wrote probably starting in spring 1905. In late 1906, she accepts a marriage proposal from Ewen Macdonald (1870–1943), a Presbyterian minister who had once been pastor to her congregation, under the condition that they wait to marry until her grandmother is no longer living.


Montgomery’s first novel, Anne of Green Gables, is published to great acclaim by Boston publisher L.C. Page and Company in June. Although she has been a professional writer for almost two decades, the publication of the novel increases media attention exponentially, which she does not particularly enjoy.


Anne of Avonlea, the first sequel to Anne of Green Gables, appears in September.


Kilmeny of the Orchard, an expansion of the 1908 serial “Una of the Garden,” appears in March. In November, she travels to Boston to meet her publisher; coverage of her visit appears in a number of Boston periodicals, including the Boston Herald, the Boston Post, the Boston Traveler, and The Republic.


The Story Girl appears in spring. Montgomery publishes four nature essays, beginning with “Spring in the Woods,” in The Canadian Magazine. Following the death of her grandmother in March, Montgomery leaves Cavendish for the home of relatives in Park Corner. Her marriage there to Ewan Macdonald on 5 July receives coverage in a number of periodicals, including the Guardian, Manitoba Free Press, the Boston Herald, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Patriot. After a honeymoon in England and Scotland, she and Ewan move to Leaskdale, Ontario, where she begins a new life as the wife of a Presbyterian minister.


Chronicles of Avonlea appears in June, just before the birth of her first son, Chester Cameron Macdonald (1912–1963).


The Golden Road, a sequel to The Story Girl, appears in August.


Montgomery’s second son, Hugh Macdonald, is stillborn in August, a week after the start of the First World War.


Anne of the Island appears in July. Montgomery’s second surviving son, Ewan Stuart Macdonald (1915–1982), is born in October.


Montgomery leaves the Page Company and makes arrangements to publish her subsequent books with McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart (later McClelland and Stewart) in Canada and the Frederick A. Stokes Company in the USA. McClelland, Goodchild and Stewart publishes The Watchman and Other Poems in November (Stokes will reprint this in 1917).


In the midst of the publication of Anne’s House of Dreams in August, Montgomery publishes a six-part, 25,000-word serial memoir, “The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career,” in the Toronto periodical Everywoman’s World.


In winter, Montgomery begins transcribing the journal she has kept since adolescence in ten legal-sized ledgers that will provide the basis for several published volumes of her journals. Rainbow Valley, a novel featuring Anne’s children and their friends, appears in August. A silent movie adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, with Mary Miles Minter as Anne, premieres in November.


Rilla of Ingleside, a novel about Anne’s grown children during the Great War, appears in September in the USA and in October in Canada.


Emily of New Moon, the first book about budding writer Emily Byrd Starr, appears in September. Two sequels will follow: Emily Climbs in September 1925 and Emily’s Quest in August 1927.


Montgomery, her husband, and their sons leave Leaskdale and settle in Norval, northwest of Toronto. The Blue Castle, a novel set in Ontario focusing on a twenty-nine-year-old woman who decides to change her life after receiving an unexpected medical diagnosis, appears in August; this book remains today a favourite among Montgomery’s readers.


Magic for Marigold appears in September.


A Tangled Web appears in October, appearing under the title Aunt Becky Began It in the UK.


Pat of Silver Bush, about young girl growing up in post-war rural Prince Edward Island, appears in August. Its sequel, Mistress Pat: A Novel of Silver Bush, appears in September 1935.


Courageous Women, a book of biographical essays written collaboratively with Marian Keith and Mabel Burns McKinley, appears in the fall. A second, “talkie” film adaptation of Anne of Green Gables premieres in December.


Montgomery is appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Ewan Macdonald is forced into retirement due to ill health. The Macdonalds settle in Toronto in a home that Montgomery refers to as “Journey’s End.”


Anne of Windy Poplars, an unexpected sequel filling the gap between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams, appears in August. It appears in the UK and Australia with some textual differences as Anne of Windy Willows.


Jane of Lantern Hill, about a Toronto girl who sets out to reunite her estranged parents, appears in August.


Anne of Ingleside, her last book published during her lifetime, filling in the gap between Anne’s House of Dreams and Rainbow Valley, appears in July.


A film adaptation of Anne of Windy Poplars premieres in August.


L.M. Montgomery dies at her home in Toronto on 24 April, after she reportedly submits to her publishers the typescript to her final book, The Blythes Are Quoted. Members of her immediate family and her physician interpret her death as a suicide. Tributes to her appear in numerous periodicals, including the Charlottetown Guardian, the Ottawa Journal, the Peterborough Examiner, Saturday Night, The Maritime Advocate and Busy East, and The Presbyterian Record. Coinciding with her death is the publication of the first Canadian editions of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island by the Ryerson Press (Toronto). The Blythes Are Quoted will appear in its entirety only in 2009.

Published on 7 September 2013; last updated on 24 March 2024. Please contact the site owner with additions, corrections, questions, and suggestions.