title bar Picturing a Canadina Life: L.M. Montgomery's Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers
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Capturing Rural/Urban Life in Ontario
photo of Chester and Stuart

For fifteen years (1911-1926) Montgomery and her husband, the Rev. Ewan Macdonald, lived in the Ontario farming village of Leaskdale with their two sons, Chester and Stuart. Life in Leaskdale was similar to life in Cavendish except that there was no sea and no clan life to which Montgomery herself belonged. Here Montgomery was wife, mother, minister's helper, and community organizer.

The rhythm if not the gossip of village life and the doings and saying of her own small children are woven into the novels she wrote in Ontario though they are set on Prince Edward Island. For example, Rainbow Valley may be set on PEI, but Leaskdale inhabitants claim there is a spot on the old school road that inspired the descriptions of Rainbow Valley itself. When the soldiers of the 116th Battalion marched through Leaskdale in 1916, Montgomery snapped pictures of them and pasted them into her scrapbook. When she wrote her First World War novel, Rilla of Ingleside, three years later, she transformed the 116th into a band of fathers, sons, and neighbors who marched in wartime Prince Edward Island. Like Anne Shirley Blythe, Montgomery ran a Red Cross unit. Montgomery read The Globe every day of the war, and the scrapbooks show an increase in clippings.

Life in Norval (1926-1935) was faster-paced than it had been in Leaskdale, with many automobiles and a radial car that shot into Toronto within an hour. Montgomery was soothed by the Credit River running past her back door and by the view from her bedroom of Russell's Hill of Pines with their lights and shadows. With the demands on the minister's wife and famous author and the deterioration of her husband's health, Montgomery collected fewer personal items for her scrapbook. Instead, the life of Norval and Montgomery's increasing involvement with Toronto are reflected in pages of newspaper clippings.

In Toronto she gave readings, participating in dinners and panels connected with the Canadian Women's Press Club and the Toronto Women's Press Club. She read at the University of Toronto and at schools. She judged contests, met heads of state, and recorded in her scrapbook and journals the overwhelming number of society engagements she kept.

Headlines and long columns of text suggest how far Montgomery's life--perhaps urban Canadian life--had moved away from Cavendish and the time for cyanotypes, souvenirs, swatches of fabric, and pressed flowers.

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