2024 is L.M. Montgomery’s 150th birthday! The L.M. Montgomery Institute (LMMI) at the University of Prince Edward Island is celebrating with 150 tributes – celebratory statements or greetings – that reflect upon personal connections to Montgomery or on an aspect of her life, work, or legacy.


Pride flag with Canadian maple leaf
Credit: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/4192-pride-canada


In Canada, June is Pride Month. Canadian author C.E. Gatchalian writes that as a "little brown Filipinx boy who had just started feeling the first vague stirrings of queer desire," with no representation in art or literature for role models, he found in Montgomery's Anne an outsider who succeeds through her "transgressive" resistance and striving "towards unadulterated poetry, beauty, transcendence." This week's tributes from Gemma Marr, Josephine (JoJo) Lee, and Katharine Slater all speak to what Montgomery and Pride mean to them.


Gemma Marr celebrates Montgomery’s queer communities

Anne of Green Gables gave me pride of place as a child. I grew up in rural New Brunswick and, although I read the novel one hundred years later in a different landscape, Anne’s reverence for nature, interest in the intricacies of smalltown life, and desire to be part of her community resonated with me. It was only later, when reading responses to Anne of Green Gables for my dissertation, that I started to unpack another layer of pride offered to me, a queer kid, by Montgomery’s heroine: Anne’s desire to be loved by the people of Avonlea despite, or even because of, her difference.

Since then, I’ve had conversations with members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community about how Montgomery’s writing resonates with us; I’ve also felt kinship with those who, like C.E. Gatchalian, write about their connections to Anne. Montgomery’s writing creates and celebrates queer community, a beautiful legacy to honour for Pride.

Gemma Marr is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton campus) and an instructor in the Department of Humanities and Languages at UNB Saint John.


Josephine (JoJo) Lee celebrates Montgomery’s queer icons

The beautiful thing about literature is that while authorial intent can factor into your reading, the work speaks to you, the reader, directly. I doubt Maud wrote Anne to be a queer icon, but that’s what she so clearly appears to me to be, and I thank Maud for creating a character who is so herself, whose earnest and wholehearted joy in the world is so incredibly infectious, and who encourages and celebrates the individuality of everyone she meets. It’s fitting that the prickly Miss Josephine Barry, whom Anne characteristically wins over after starting off on the wrong foot, reflects towards the end of the first Anne book, “Anne has as many shades as a rainbow and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts.” I’d like to think if she were here today, Anne, with her multifaceted “rainbow” nature which defies labelling, would wish everyone a happy Pride!

Josephine Rafe “JoJo” Lee is a recent graduate of Tufts University, where she studied English and philosophy. This June, she will be presenting a paper at the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s 16th Biennial Conference entitled “Queering the Home: The Queer Domesticity of Green Gables.”


Katharine Slater celebrates Montgomery’s queer representation

Like so many of us, my introduction to L.M. Montgomery came in childhood, at a time when I read voraciously, so hungry for departure. Back then, I had no clear sense of myself as a lesbian, but I knew intuitively that something about me was strange and “different” – or, as Montgomery herself might have put it, “queer.”

Because, at the time, there were so few novels for young readers with LGBTQ+ characters, I learned to find myself in other, less overt mirrors. It was in Montgomery’s books that I saw the clearest echoes of my own unarticulated desires. Emily Byrd Starr’s world is populated by older, unmarried female characters who show no interest in finding male partners. Valancy Stirling casts off the constraints of her disapproving family to pursue the existence she wants for herself. And Montgomery gave me Katherine Brooke in Anne of Windy Poplars, arguably her most overtly queer character. Katherine, a lonely spinster with “a deep throaty voice … almost a man's voice,” uses sarcasm and cutting remarks to maintain her isolation. She’s not what we’d call “positive representation” these days, but I recognized and loved Katherine from the beginning, understood her when she told Anne that she’d “developed the wrong way.” Importantly, Katherine doesn’t thaw through the love of a good man; instead, she thaws through her growing emotional intimacy with Anne. Her happy ending, a position as a secretary to a “globe-trotting M.P,” eschews heterosexuality entirely.

I know, of course, that Montgomery wasn’t writing for readers who were gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender – and I know her opinions on lesbianism, expressed with such vehemence in her diaries – but she was writing for those of us who were “queer,” in the broader sense of the term. I’d like to think that she’d be able to understand my deep gratitude for the ways her work has always made me feel seen.

Katharine Slater is an associate professor of children’s and young adult literature at Rowan University. She’s published two articles on Montgomery’s work, including a recent essay on queer hauntings in Emily of New Moon.


As we begin to make our way to the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s 16th biennial conference (19-23 June), next week’s tributes extend a welcome to Prince Edward Island. Register here to attend the conference either in person or virtually!