go to Book Covers section
go to Scrapbooks section
go to Collecting and Creating Images section
go to Fun Learning section
go to Research/Readers section
go to Cultural Tourists section
The Changing Role of Women in Montgomery's Times (con't.)

Montgomery's financial independence and her enlightened attitudes concerning education are reflected in her relationship with Frederica Campbell, her first cousin and best friend. When Maud wanted to help Frede develop beyond being a poorly-paid country school marm, she paid for Frede to take a two-year course of study at Macdonald College in Montreal. Frede became one of those educated, articulate women who benefitted from the Home Economics movement and the work of Adelaide Hoodless. Valedictorian of her class, she took up a position at the new Alberta Ladies' College at Red Deer and later returned to Macdonald College as Demonstrator to the Home-Makers' Clubs of Quebec. When she made a mid-life hasty marriage to a young soldier on his last leave, she worried about having to give up the career she had worked so hard to earn. Independence and career were much prized by the two cousins.

In the 1920's and 1930's, Montgomery--who had not fought for women's rights as a young woman--comfortably shared platforms with such radical women as Nellie McClung, Judge Emily Murphy, and even the British suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst. Montgomery was a respected and vocal advocate for Canadian publishing, and before the Modernist movement and some jazz age sensibilities pushed regional portraits and landscapes to the margins of serious discussions, she was a leader in promoting Canadian Literature.

Montgomery's novels themselves may sometimes seem contradictory in their messages about young girls and women: In Anne of Green Gables (1908) Anne Shirley can tie Gilbert Blythe for lead in the provincial examinations and she can win the Avery scholarship, but she gives up the scholarship to stay home at Green Gables to take care of Marilla. Yet even this staying at home is not the conventional capitulation it would seem, for she and Gilbert agree to set a private course of study for themselves. Anne may never be a militant suffragette even when she is older, but Anne with a B.A. coolly becomes principal of Summerside High School at the end of Anne of the Island (1915).

The novel about women's place in the war effort, Rilla of Ingleside (1920), shows contradictions at work again: though Rilla is capable and smart, she has no ambition beyond the domestic, and she spends the war taking care of a baby and learning to do all the things that would equip her for motherhood and marriage. Yet Rilla's elder sisters, like her mother, take B.A. degrees, and one of her sister's girl friends goes overseas as a nurse. Perhaps in her writing, as in her life, Montgomery wanted women to have real choices about home and career.

Independent women readers have never been in doubt about the freedom they see in Montgomery's characters and thus in Montgomery herself. Montgomery's strongest heroines remain popular because they reflect on the very issues that face women in Canadian culture, and other cultures, today: what does independence mean in relation to child bearing and rearing and career? What is a good partnership between a man and a woman? How does one value the domestic in a culture that values productivity and technology?


Changing Role of Women in L.M. Montgomery's Times | List of Works | List of Libraries and Archives | Chronology | Making This Virtual Exhibition
see also Collecting and Creating Images Images section

go to LM Montgomery Institute at UPEI Website go to University of Guelph Website go to Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace Website go to Virtual Museum of Canada Website go to Confederation Centre of the Arts Website go to National Library of Canada Website go to English Home Page go to French Homepage