PEI

What L.M. Montgomery's scrapbooks can tell us about Anne of Green Gables

An L.M. Montgomery scholar has put together an exhibit showing the results of a massive scavenger hunt, as she traced the source of items in two decades worth of Montgomery’s scrapbooks.

Ladies’ Home Journal, London Illustrated News on Montgomery’s regular reading list

The exhibit shows the scrapbook page alongside a copy of the source publication. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

An L.M. Montgomery scholar has put together an exhibit in Charlottetown showing the results of a massive scavenger hunt, as she traced the source of items in two decades worth of Montgomery's scrapbooks.

The two scrapbooks cover the period 1893 to 1911, mostly before the 1908 publication of Anne of Green Gables. Carolyn Strom Collins wanted to know what Montgomery was reading during her formative years as a writer.

"It was so thrilling when I found something," said Strom Collins.

"When you're flipping through pages and you see, 'Oh! That's in the scrapbooks,' and then you have to thumb through all the pages of the scrapbooks and figure out where it is. But it's just such a thrill to see it in context to know that's what she was reading during those years."

Carolyn Strom Collins is launching the exhibit Thursday at UPEI's Robertson Library. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Her friend Christy Woster had started the project, and Strom Collins picked it up when Woster died in 2016. Between the two of them, they have identified about 125 items.

Strom Collins discovered Montgomery probably had a subscription to Ladies' Home Journal, and that she regularly read Youth's Companion, Munsey's Magazine and the London Illustrated News.

"She was very widely read, and it turns out she was actually published in those same magazines later," said Strom Collins.

Dresses and flowers

She also found a few threads connecting the scrapbooks to Anne herself — pictures of young women seem to match up with some of the characters described in the novel. Descriptions of plants and flowers can be connected to clippings from John Lewis Childs seed catalogues.

And then there are the puffed sleeves.

Strom Collins believes Montgomery had a subscription to Ladies' Home Journal. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"She talks a lot, in Anne of Green Gables for instance, about how much Anne wanted to have a white dress, and puff sleeves," said Strom Collins.

"Well, there are many pictures of girls in white dresses with puff sleeves. She obviously was flipping through the scrapbook as she was writing some of her material."

The exhibit launches at UPEI's Robertson Library at 5 p.m. Thursday and will remain up through July.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Island Morning

now