This Week in History


"The Alpine Path"

This story was initially published in 1999

On November 30, 1874, one of Canada's most distinguished and world-renowned writers, Lucy Maud Montgomery, was born in Clifton, now New London, Prince Edward Island.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery
© Library and Archives Canada / C-11299

Almost two when her mother died, Montgomery was raised by her grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Woolner Macneill, in nearby Cavendish. For much of the next 35 years, she lived at her grandparents' farm. She earned a teaching certificate at Prince of Wales College in Charlottetown (1893-94), studied English literature for a term at Dalhousie University when she was 20, and taught at various schools around the Island. After her grandfather died in 1898, Montgomery stayed almost permanently in Cavendish to care for her aging grandmother. She developed her skills as a writer here and based many of her fictional settings on communities and specific places in the area.

Her first book, Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, brought Montgomery instant international recognition. The famous writer Mark Twain sent Montgomery a personal letter saying that she had created "the dearest and most lovable child since the immortal Alice." Montgomery's way of capturing the experience of childhood and creating characters who became instant role models, especially for young women, appealed to audiences young and old. Her writings demonstrated her appreciation for the natural beauty of the Island and her belief that the home was the sacred centre of the family.

Green Gables House

Green Gables House
© Parks Canada / J. Butterhill / 1995

In 1911, Montgomery married the Reverend Ewan Macdonald and moved to Leaskdale, Ontario. While at the Leaskdale Manse, Montgomery wrote close to a dozen books before moving to Norval, Ontario. Montgomery lived the remainder of her life in Ontario, making occasional visits to PEI. She died in Toronto on April 24, 1942 and was buried at Cavendish, which she considered her "spiritual home." Montgomery described her life as "The Alpine Path," from a verse which inspired her when success as a writer seemed remote. She published more than 20 books, and hundreds of poems and short stories. Her writings lend inspiration around the world, and hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to PEI every year to experience some of the magical world she described.

The historical significance of Lucy Maud Montgomery is recognized by a plaque in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Leaskdale Manse has also been designated a national historic site. Green Gables House in Cavendish, on which Montgomery based Anne's home, is administered by Parks Canada and provides interpretive tours. For more information on Lucy Maud Montgomery and on Green Gables, see Green Gables Heritage Place.

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