Lucy Maud Montgomery, the beloved author of Anne of Green Gables, was born 141 years ago today. She spent the first few months of her life on Prince Edward Island, a small province off Canada’s East Coast. Montgomery’s mother died when she was just 21 months old, and Montgomery was sent to live with her grandparents in Saskatchewan. With an elderly couple as her sole household companions, Montgomery’s childhood was somewhat isolated; to combat the loneliness, she began writing poems and keeping a journal.
In 1905, Montgomery wrote a novel about a plucky, red-headed orphan named Anne, who lived with an elderly couple on Prince Edward Island. The manuscript was initially rejected by every publishing house Montgomery approached. A few years later, she shopped the book around again, and Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. It became an instant hit, and remains one of Canada’s most popular literary outputs. Today’s Google Doodle, in fact, pays tribute to Montgomery’s legacy.
In the wake of Anne of Green Gables’ success, Montgomery herself became something of a literary star. She was the first Canadian woman to be named a member of the British Royal Society of Arts, and was also appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. She went on to publish several sequels to Anne of Green Gables, and also wrote short stories, hundreds of poems, and other successful novels — including Pat of Silver Bush and the Emily of New Moon.
Montgomery died in April of 1942, reportedly of a coronary thrombosis. In 2008, however, her granddaughter wrote an essay in The Globe and Mail claiming that Montgomery had suffered from acute depression, and took her life through a drug overdose. What may have been a suicide note was in fact found by Montgomery’s bed after her death. It read: “I have lost my mind by spells and I do not dare think what I may do in those spells. May God forgive me and I hope everyone else will forgive me even if they cannot understand. My position is too awful to endure and nobody realizes it. What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best.”
Read more at Time.