July 16, 1999

Biography of L.M. Montgomery

Black and white photograph of L.M. Montgomery from the cover of her autobiography The Alpine Path

Lucy Maud (L.M.) Montgomery was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island, Canada on November 30, 1874. During her lifetime, she wrote 22 novels and short story collections, a volume of poetry, a book on courageous women (with Marian Keith and M.B. McKinley), an autobiography, a life's worth of journals (of 5,000 pages), 450 poems, and over 500 short stories. Of these literary contributions, she is best known for giving Canadians (and the world) a beloved literary heroine named Anne of Green Gables, an imaginative, short-tempered, loving, red-headed orphan in search of a home.

L.M. Montgomery's mother died in her early youth when she was just 21 months old, and her father left her in the care of her stern maternal grandparents. Montgomery's refuge from loneliness was in her imagination, much like many of the heroines she would later create. She was a storyteller from her early youth. In her autobiography, The Alpine Path, Montgomery writes:

"I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author. To write has always been my central purpose around which every effort and hope and ambition of my life has grouped itself."

In 1889, L.M. Montgomery lived for a short time with her father in Alberta, Canada. During her stay there, Montgomery published her first poem in a local newspaper at the age of 15. Montgomery soon returned to Prince Edward Island to finish her schooling. After completing college, she worked briefly as a journalist, and then she began to teach. In spite of having a tumultuous love life during this period, Montgomery's writing never quelled. She published many short stories and poems during this time.

After her grandfather's death in 1898, L.M. Montgomery returned home to live with her grandmother. In 1902, she began a lifelong correspondence with Ephraim Weber, a man with literary ambitions. In 1903, she began writing to a second pen-pal, George Boyd Macmillan of Scotland.

In 1906, L.M. Montgomery became engaged to Ewen MacDonald, who was studying to be a minister. Montgomery was unable to leave her grandmother, so their engagement was extended until her grandmother's death in 1911. During this period, Montgomery began work on Anne of Green Gables, which was published in 1908 to popular acclaim. A sequel was demanded immediately, and Montgomery wrote Anne of Avonlea.

In 1909, L.M. Montgomery began work on what she considered her favorite book, The Story Girl. It was published in 1911. That same year, Montgomery and MacDonald finally married. The couple honeymooned in England and Scotland, and when they returned to Canada, it was not to P.E.I., but to Leaskdale, Ontario. Ewen had accepted a position there as a minister. Although Montgomery now had new responsibilities as a minister's wife, she was determined to continue her writing.

L.M. Montgomery was strained by World War I and an increasingly bad relationship with her first publisher, which resulted in a lengthy legal battle. Both she and her husband faced depression. In spite of all this, Montgomery continued her daily writing, producing further stories on Anne as well as many others, including the Emily and Pat series and The Blue Castle. By the late 1930s, Montgomery's personal troubles, illness, and depression overwhelmed her. Even her journal writing failed to console her, and the advent of World War II was a further blow to her depressed spirits. She died on April 24, 1942, after months of not writing to her pen-friends or in her journals. L.M. Montgomery was buried in Cavendish, P.E.I.

During her lifetime, L.M. Montgomery received a number of international awards for her writing. She was honored as a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Arts (1923), a Companion of the Order of the British Empire, and a member of the Literary and Artistic Institute of France (1935). Today, Montgomery's legacy lives on in the expanding critical re-evaluations of her works, in the translations of her books to scores of languages, in the adaptations of her stories for film, television, and stage, and in the sustained appeal of her stories worldwide.

References for Biography:
Montgomery, L.M. The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career. Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1997.

Parry, Caroline. "L. M. Montgomery: A Biography." in Anne of the Island. Montgomery, L. M. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

Waterston, Elizabeth. "Lucy Maud Montgomery: 1874–1942." L. M. Montgomery: An Assessment. Ed. John Robert Sorfleet. Guelph: Canadian Children's Press, 1976. 9–28.

Image Credit:
Photograph of L.M. Montgomery from the cover of her autobiography The Alpine Path republished by Fitzhenry & Whiteside in 1997.

Created July 16, 1999. Last updated April 18, 2024.
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