International Women's Day Spotlight: Classic Author L. M. Montgomery

Since today it is International Women's Day (and March is Women's History Month), I thought this would be a good time to get cozy with a celebrated lady author of the past and one that is sure to be read and reread well into the future. There is such a plethora of fantastic, admirable women writers, and instead of getting stuck in the weeds sharing an exhaustive list of ladies you should be reading, I thought we'd dive deep on one in particular - L. M. Montgomery.

Lucy Maud Montgomery was a Canadian author born on November 30, 1874, in Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island. She is best known as the author and creator of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series which continues to captivate readers around the world over a century after its first publication (c. 1908). Montgomery's works are known and loved for their vivid depictions of nature, mesmerizing characters, and engaging stories of love, friendship, and the pursuit of what makes her heroines happy.

Grab a cuppa your favorite sippable and sit a moment with me as we chat about celebrated author L. M. Montgomery, learning a little about what made the author and gives her literary legacy such staying power in the process.

Childhood Snapshot

Montgomery's childhood was marked by the death of her mother when she was very young, and she was raised by her strict maternal grandparents. Despite the challenges she faced, Montgomery found solace in books and writing, developing a fertile imagination that would later shape her writing.

Montgomery had a rich imagination from a young age, often creating elaborate stories and fantasies to entertain herself.

A Few Facts

1. Before settling on L. M. Montgomery, the author initially considered using the pen names "Maud Cavendish" and "Belinda Bluegrass" for her writing.

2. In addition to her novels, Montgomery published several collections of poetry throughout her career. Her poetry often explored themes of nature, love, and the human experience, much like her works of fiction.

3. The landscapes of Prince Edward Island, where Montgomery grew up, served as inspiration for the picturesque settings in many of her novels.

4. Montgomery's first attempts at novel-writing were rejected by publishers, but she persevered and eventually found success with Anne of Green Gables.

5. Despite her literary success, Montgomery struggled with depression throughout her life, which is reflected in some of her darker and more introspective works.

6. Montgomery had a secret engagement with Edwin Simpson, a friend of her cousin's, which ended abruptly when she discovered he had a drinking problem.

7. Montgomery married Ewan Macdonald in 1911, and they had two sons together. Despite her happy family life, Montgomery often felt conflicted between her roles as a wife and mother and her desire for independence and creative expression.

8. Despite her literary success, Montgomery's marriage to Ewan Macdonald was marked by financial struggles and periods of depression.

9. Montgomery was an avid journal keeper, documenting her thoughts, experiences, and creative ideas throughout her life. Her journals provide valuable insights into her personal life and writing process.

10. Montgomery had specific writing rituals, such as facing a certain direction and using a certain pen, which she believed helped her focus and channel her creativity.

11. Montgomery received posthumous recognition for her contributions to literature, including induction into the Canadian Women's Hall of Fame.

Writing as a Reflection

L.M. Montgomery often mirrored her own experiences, emotions, and observations in her characters, drawing inspiration from her own life to create relatable and authentic portrayals. Some ways in which Montgomery's life was reflected in her characters are:

Imagination and Creativity

Like many of her characters, Montgomery had a vivid imagination and a deep appreciation for nature. Characters such as Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables and Emily Starr from the Emily series share Montgomery's love for storytelling and her keen observation of the world they see around them.

Struggles with Depression

Montgomery struggled with periods of depression throughout her life, and this theme is often reflected in her characters' emotional journeys. Characters like Emily Starr and Valancy Stirling from The Blue Castle grapple with feelings of loneliness, insecurity, and the search for purpose, mirroring Montgomery's own private struggles.

Romantic Relationships

Montgomery's own experiences with romantic relationships, including her secret engagement and her marriage to Ewan MacDonald, influenced the romantic storylines in her novels. Characters such as Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, as well as Emily Starr and Teddy Kent, navigate the complexities of love and courtship in ways that reflect Montgomery's own romantic ideals and challenges.

Sense of Place

Montgomery's deep connection to Prince Edward Island, where she spent much of her life, is evident in her novels, where the island serves as a symbolic and idyllic setting. Characters like Anne Shirley and Emily Starr find solace and inspiration in the natural beauty of their surroundings, echoing Montgomery's own affection for the island's landscapes and communities.

Her Writing

It may surprise you to learn that Montgomery enjoyed writing a variety of novels (twenty!), short stories, and even collections of poetry, though Anne of Green Gables (c.1908) remains her most-famous.

If you've already enjoyed Anne Shirley's tale, here are a few lesser-known novels to check out:

1. The Blue Castle

This standalone novel tells the story of Valancy Stirling, a woman who decides to live life on her own terms after receiving life-altering news. It's a tale of self-discovery, love, and embracing the unexpected.

2. Emily of New Moon (a trilogy)

While not as famous as the "Anne" series, the "Emily" trilogy follows the life of Emily Starr, an imaginative and aspiring writer growing up in Prince Edward Island. The series explores themes of creativity, friendship, and the struggles of adolescence.

3. Kilmeny of the Orchard

This novel tells the story of Eric Marshall, a young man who moves to a remote village and falls in love with Kilmeny Gordon, a mute girl who communicates through sign language. It's a poignant tale of love, communication, and acceptance.

4. The Story Girl and The Golden Road

These two novels are part of Montgomery's Story Girl series, which follows a group of cousins as they spend summers together on Prince Edward Island. The books are filled with charming anecdotes, vivid characters, and nostalgic reflections on childhood.

5. Jane of Lantern Hill

This novel follows the journey of Jane Stuart, a young girl who discovers a newfound sense of belonging and purpose when she spends a summer with her estranged father on Prince Edward Island. It's a heartwarming story of family, reconciliation, and personal growth.

These lesser-known novels showcase Montgomery's talent for crafting compelling characters, evocative settings, and heartfelt stories that transcend the familiar Green Gables.

Reasons to Read

Montgomery's novels often feature strong and resilient female protagonists who navigate various challenges and obstacles with courage and determination. Her relatable characters provide representation and serve as role models for women, showing us that we can pursue our dreams and overcome the adversities that come our way.

Her writing promotes female empowerment and independence, encouraging women to assert themselves and pursue their passions. Through her characters' journeys, the author inspires us as women to embrace our strengths and cherish what makes us each a unique individual.

Montgomery's novels sift through the complexities of the female experience, and explores them with depth and nuance. By doing so, the author offers insight into the multifaceted lives women lead, providing us as readers with a greater understanding of our own experiences.

The author's writing, like many of the great voices of the past, validates the emotions and struggles faced by women, acknowledging the range of feelings we experience, from joy and love to loneliness and insecurity. 

As a female author in the early 20th century, Montgomery's literary legacy has paved the way for subsequent generations of women writers. By reading Montgomery's works, women can begin to fully appreciate her contributions to literature and be inspired by her literary legacy in the process.

Where to Begin (if You've Already Read Anne)

The Blue Castle is a standalone novel by L. M. Montgomery published in 1926. The story follows the life of Valancy Stirling, a 29-year-old spinster living with her overbearing and critical family in the small Canadian town of Deerwood. Valancy is considered an old maid by society's standards and is constantly belittled by her family. However, her life takes a drastic turn when she receives news of a serious heart condition, leading her to reevaluate her priorities. With newfound courage and determination, Valancy decides to live life on her own terms and to pursue her dreams.

As Valancy navigates the complexities of love, friendship, and self-discovery, she learns to let go of her fears and insecurities, embracing the beauty and joy of the world around her. The Blue Castle is a heartwarming tale of transformation, resilience, and the power of love to heal and inspire. Through Valancy's journey, Montgomery explores themes of societal expectations, female independence, and the importance of living authentically.

Experience The Blue Castle in a creative way here.

And if you'd like to incorporate more classic female authors into your reading rotation, I invite you to join us in the Classics Community, Pretty Literate's monthly subscription box for book lovers just like you. Learn more here.

 

1 comment

  • What a wonderful article! The Blue Castle is my first by the author- but I saw a rec above that interested me greatly: Kilmenny of the Orchard. Thank you for the info!

    Lynda A.

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